Monday, June 25, 2012

Bleach, Fountains, and Plants Do Not Mix Well

During the recent garden tour in Montgomery County I thought it would be nice to turn on my circulating fountain for ambiance in the garden as visitors strolled around. In preparation for circulating the water I added a bit of bleach to the water to clean it and clarify it a bit. The water circulated all day and splished and splashed like water fountains do and it was nice. It was nice until about one week later  when I noticed damage to the nearby plants.
It seems these peonies were very sensitive to the bleach in the water even though the bleach was very diluted. I had no idea this problem could happen but have learned a valuable lesson-no bleach in the fountain when splashing is possible (it's almost always possible with fountains).
Fortunately these peonies will survive and live to grow and bloom another year. For now I have left the situation alone other than to cut out dead parts of the plant....

in the garden.....

Similar experiences? 

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. We learned the hard way just like you. At work our water source for the plants is from a pond and it turns green quickly if you let it sit around. So one year we put bleach in the fountains and had the same results you did on the annuals displayed in the splash zone. We have not done that again.

  2. I'm glad the plants will recover. My encounters with bleach usually involve ruining a favorite shirt:)

  3. No similar experiences, fortunately.

    But I am curious about the fountain -- is it purely for aesthetic purposes or does it also attract birds and insects to its water? Also, is it battery-powered or is it connected to the home's electrical supply?

    Sorry if these are noob questions, but I'm thinking I'd like to have one or more fountains in the garden someday and I'm not sure where to begin!

    1. Aaron, the birds do not drink from here but the running water probably does attract them. The cats DO drink from this particular one. It is electric so plugged into a cord. This one is resin but a cheap one. Resin or fiberglass fountains or anything made for outdoors made of this stuff will not last in the garden. I think if I was contemplating a fountain it would be metal. Oftentimes you can find good ones at flea markets. Any little pump will work to circulate the water. There are even little pumps for bird baths and they work great.

  4. I was always surprised that your plants did so well around your pool and what comes outta a pool is not clear bleach. Peggy's pool over several years killed most of her highbush blueberries and I had planted lady's mantle and lupine at 1 end of our pool and they all died but what is in the garden is fine. But then again, I already knew about Peggy's killoff and what did I do? Very stupid and planted mine on the skimmer side!!

  5. I did the same dumb thing, but differently. I forgot I added bleach and dumped the water to clean the fountain and the damage was pretty bad. Poor plants were kaput. I usually don't add bleach and scrub the fountain often, mostly because the birds use if for drinking and bathing. When I went to NC I added bleach because my husband would never clean it. Then I stupidly forgot I did that.

  6. I would think that bleach would kill your pump too! I never leave bleach sitting alone in the birdbaths for fear of a bird getting into the water. I have the bleach diluted in water and pour into the bath. Wait a few minutes then rinse with clean water. I dont plant anything too close to the birdbaths due to this process. We also use the pressure washer when we have it out. That works best with no chemicals. I cannot tell you how many shirts, shorts and socks I have messed up when using bleach…

  7. I haven't had any bad experience with bleach as I know it will kill some things. My bird bath needs cleaning something awful. Wire brush is the way to go I guess.
    I'm so sorry that you have damage to your plants. I do hope they recover.
    A few yrs ago my neighbor emptied her pool & where it ran it killed everything. Thankfully my yard is higher than most here. The neighbor behind me lost her whole backyard of grass. So no more lawn for her.

  8. Tina I killed a perfectly shaped 15 year old boxwood in my front bed doing basically the same thing. I was bleaching the mildew from siding on the eves of the house and I guess if fell in concentrated amounts on the shrub and it looked like someone poured gasoline all over it. The enter thing eventually died over the course of a year. At first I was fit to be tied that I lost it, but now I’ve decided a pencil boxwood would look better there anyway. LOL

  9. Oh no, poor little peony! I don't know what I would have used instead, maybe vinegar?

  10. I have heard vinegar works just as well to clean the water and keep the green out. I don't believe that will hurt the plants either. Never tried it though.

  11. vinegar is such a wonder. I use it instead of fabric softener, use it to clean my windows, spray on weeds, clean my dishwasher with every now and then. It certainly can't help to try, but I would still be cautious around the plants.

  12. I recall throwing out bleach water growing up and damaging grass, so I have been careful not to throw any water with chemicals onto an area with plants....I have used a bit of vinegar with a scrub brush but I take it indoors and scrub or make sure it is near a weedy patchy I don't want. Hard to do if you can't move it. But vinegar may be the way to go

  13. Glad they will recover. I guess good old scrubbing by hand is the best in the garden.