Roses forum: Epsom Salts

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Name: Rosemary
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
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reh0622
Oct 15, 2020 1:28 PM CST
Is anyone here a fan of NOT using Epsom salts sprinkled at the base of roses? I've heard of people doing it four times a year, twice a year in spring and fall, and just once a year in spring. Is there a soil pH it should not be used at? Here, it's widely done, but I watched a YouTube video that advised against it as something automatically done. Thank You!
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
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Mike
Oct 15, 2020 1:59 PM CST
Some folks use Epsom salts to feed plants that crave magnesium, such as rose bushes, with the belief that it will produce bigger flowers or basal breaks. If your soil is deficient of magnesium or sulfur, then Epsom salts will add these nutrients to the soil. But neither of these nutrients are deficient in most well-tended garden soils. The thing is, unless you do a soil test, you'll never know if your soil lacks magnesium and sulfur. If you are already adding any kind of organic material or organic mulch to the soil, it will likely have enough of both magnesium and sulfur already. Alternatively, if a soil test finds that you only need sulfur but not magnesium, then horticultural sulfur is a better product to use. Provided that your soil already has enough magnesium and sulfur, I don't think you can count on Epsom salts to make plants grow better.
[Last edited by Mike - Oct 15, 2020 2:07 PM (+)]
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Coastal Southern California (Zone 13a)
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jerijen
Oct 15, 2020 2:19 PM CST
Mike said: " If your soil is deficient of magnesium or sulfur, then Epsom salts will add these nutrients to the soil. But neither of these nutrients are deficient in most well-tended garden soils. The thing is, unless you do a soil test, you'll never know if your soil lacks magnesium and sulfur . . . "

He's so right!

Years ago, all of the Rose Experts here pushed the use of Epsom Salts . . . so we dutifully did that. Until we tested our soil and water . . . And learned that our crappy water had a natural high level of magnesium and sulfur.

(I should have guessed. A man from the water co. once asked me: "You don't DRINK this water, do you, lady?")

Obviously, we no longer use Epsom Salts!
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
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seilMI
Oct 15, 2020 4:42 PM CST
I used to use it every spring because it supposedly encouraged basal shoots. Year after year I used it. Never saw ANY difference in the amount of basal shoots after I stopped doing it. There are a lot of old wives tales in gardening!
Coastal Southern California (Zone 13a)
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jerijen
Oct 15, 2020 4:49 PM CST
Not only that, but there are many practices that were greatly helpful -- where ever they originated.

That doesn't mean they are helpful in any way in EVERY environment.
Name: Rosemary
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
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reh0622
Oct 15, 2020 5:04 PM CST
Hmm, I've used it for years on my own roses, and I think it makes the blooms brighter, although not necessarily more beautiful. I used it in the Garden where I volunteer at last fall, and this spring, as well as using an organic fertilizer rather than inorganic like normal (for this garden anyways), and the bushes look healthier than they did last year, that is, greener leaves, more blooms. In fact, I would say the Garden looks twice as healthy as last year. And there have been more basal breaks. But I don't know if the Epsom salts helped, or the organic fertilizer which I applied twice, once in liquid form, and once just sprinkling it around the base, or because they have been watered most of this summer with a drip system, and probably got more water than before when I hand watered 1-2 times a week.. The water is hard, and the soil perfect as far as not being clayey or having hard pan some of us have in this area.
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
Garden Photography I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Roses Seed Starter Container Gardener Bulbs
Peonies Clematis Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds
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Mike
Oct 15, 2020 7:24 PM CST
Regarding the other part of your original post, Epsom salt is neutral in pH value and has no effect on soil pH levels, whether applied as a dry application or as a drench.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
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seilMI
Oct 15, 2020 7:25 PM CST
Rosemary, my money is on the water! I found the year I couldn't do anything BUT water, the rose looked really good anyway. If I can do nothing else I always try to keep my roses watered.
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member Dog Lover Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry Keeps Horses I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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porkpal
Oct 15, 2020 9:21 PM CST
I agree with Seil.
Porkpal
Italy (Foothills of the Alps)
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ElPolloDiablo
Oct 16, 2020 5:10 AM CST
Ah, yes Epsom salts! nodding

Does anyone remember when every self-respecting family had a crystal or glass container full of Epsom salts to make a nice foot bath to cure sore feet? Both my grandmothers used pounds and pounds of them. Of course a very magnesium-rich watery solution is no cure for sore feet, but it will quickly remove any wrinkling and reddening associated with wearing sweaty socks and non-traspiring footwear, so it looks like it works. Placebo effect and all of that.

The use in agriculture and gardening is debatable. Yes, there are magnesium-hungry plants of which roses (especially Thea hybrids) are formidable representitives, but magnesium deficiency is rare even in untended soils and these days 80% of commercially available NPK fertilizers contain "microelements", chief among which are magnesium sulfates.

I am not exactly saying it's snake oil because Epsom salts have their uses, but they are not the miracle cure they have been pushed for decades.The fact Epsom salts these days are cheap, much cheaper than when my grandmothers kept the industry going, may tempt folks into trying them: there's generally no harm done, but neither benefits.
I am just another white boy who thinks he can play the Blues.

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