a bottle of white vinegar beside an apple cider vinegar

Common Gardening FAQs: Will White Vinegar Kill Plants?

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Will white vinegar kill plants? Find out when to use it and for what so that you don’t accidentally kill your plants.

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Will white vinegar kill plants? If you don’t already know, vinegar is widely touted as a miracle product. It’s food, it’s an all-around cleaner, it’s a fertilizer and it’s also a weed killer. What else do you need when you can do all of that with one product?

If you’ve ever wondered whether white vinegar will harm or protect your plants, then this is the post for you. Especially because it hurts to raise that beautiful plant in your garden only to find out that despite all your research and your commitment (money and time), you’ve somehow managed to kill it.

At first glance, it seems simple: use white vinegar in your garden instead of your usual weed killers and get the job done without using nasty chemicals.

Ditto for fertilizers.

But did you know that white vinegar acts as a contact weed killer? Which means it actually kills whatever it comes in contact with once you spray it on. Which means that instead of simply killing your weeds or fertilizing your soil, it actually just kills everything.

It’s like taking antibiotics: it gets the good bacteria along with the bad.

So, if you take nothing else from this post, I hope you remember this: use white vinegar with caution.

Benefits of using white vinegar in your garden

The most common use of white vinegar is as an organic, all-natural and economic herbicide to protect plants. It’s certainly a lot safer than most commercial herbicides, which are often toxic.

White vinegar is also quite cheap and more readily available. You can buy a bottle in all supermarkets and because it’s so versatile (you can use white vinegar for cooking, baking and cleaning), it’s often considered a pantry staple.

On top of all these, gardening experts also tout the benefit of white vinegar as a great way to manage plant disease or fertilizer, though these claims aren’t currently scientifically proven.

White vinegar, when poured directly onto your soil around 24 hours before you plant your seedlings, can also give life to certain fruits, vegetables and flowers by providing them with the nutrients they need and by keeping the soil acidity within the right range. 

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Plants that will thrive with white vinegar in the soil

Some plants, like the ones below, thrive in a slightly more acidic environment and white vinegar will certainly help with that:

  1. Begonias
  2. Rhododendrons
  3. Holly
  4. Azaleas
  5. Gardenias

Plants that will NOT thrive with white vinegar in the soil

Avoid applying white vinegar in the soil if you are planning to grow these plants:

  1. Bearded iris
  2. Black-eyed Susan
  3. Columbine
  4. Daylilies
  5. Easter lilies

The list is obviously not exhaustive so my advice, as usual, is this: find out what your plant needs before you do anything.

Is white vinegar an effective weed killer?

As I mentioned, white vinegar is often used to control weeds. But does it really work?

Surprisingly, yes! Vinegar is acidic and often softens the cell membranes of plants, resulting in the shriveling of tissues and eventual plant death. This sounds excellent if you’re actively trying to kill a plant. Absolutely terrible if you end up killing the wrong plant.

It’s a double-edged sword.

It can do what you want and get rid of the weeds in your garden. Or it could kill both weed and plant. [Remember, weeds are just plants that you don’t want in your garden so whatever can kill them would very likely kill other plants too.]

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How to use white vinegar as a weed killer

The one thing you need to remember before you use white vinegar on your garden is that if you pour it directly onto the weeds and it gets into direct contact with your beautiful plants, it will absolutely damage the leafy part of your plant. And within a short period or a day long the leaves turn brown and you have plant death.

You don’t want that.

So, when using or spraying white vinegar as a weed killer, you should apply it with caution.

The best way to do that is by adding the concentrate directly to the soil instead of spraying it on the plant foliage. This will lower the acid level of the soil to a point that will make it difficult for the weeds to thrive without damaging your plants. At the same time, this would also help release nitrogen and other important nutrients.

In fact, you can start pouring white vinegar on the soil about 24 hours before you plant your first seedling. That way, the vinegar will have had evaporated, leaving only the nutrients behind. It won’t harm your plants at this point.

Side Note: Remember to use white vinegar on weeds that are quite young. The low acidic concentrate of white vinegar may not be enough to kill stubborn mature weeds.

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So, should you use white vinegar in your garden?

Here comes the big question. Should you use white vinegar in your garden or not?

Answer: It really depends on why, how and when you use it.

Despite the fact that white vinegar is considered a sensational miracle product that kills weeds, fertilizes the soil and even fights plant diseases, white vinegar is still an acid that can harm plants if not applied correctly.

As with everything in gardening, you need to make sure that you know what your plant needs and what you’re doing before you actually act.

White vinegar can help you have the thriving garden you’ve always wanted. Or it can kill every single plant you have.

It all depends on what you use it for, how you use and when you use it.

Shop for Citrus Trees at NatureHills.com

Will white vinegar kill plants?

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