You’ve likely heard all about silica for plants. But unless you’ve taken a deep dive into the science behind this nutrient, you may be unaware of its importance.
While it isn’t considered an essential nutrient, that can be a bit misleading. This is a crucial aspect of any successful feeding regimen.
We’ll cover what exactly silica does for plants, and how you should apply it to your own garden.
Then, we'll dive into the best source of silica for plants, as this nutrient can get pretty tricky, and not all forms are created equally.
What is silica?
Silica is a form of silicon dioxide, which forms when silicon comes into contact with oxygen.
It’s actually the second most abundant nutrient found in the Earth’s crust, and thus its highly concentrated in many soils, which in turn makes it a major component of plant tissues.
There are all kinds of forms of silica being used on the market today, but the most common are:
- Potassium silicate
- Calcium silicate
- Silicic Acid
We’ll cover which form is best for your plants in a moment, but we should first explain why you should be using a silica supplement in the first place.
What does Silica do for plants?
Increased growth rates lead to a quicker harvest
One of the biggest reasons growers feed their plants a silica supplement is because they see an increased growth rate.
This nutrient helps improve cell development by speeding up the production of cell walls, helping serve as a framework.
It also acts a cement for the cells, which allows them to work more efficiently and be more effective at their job. All of this adds up to a plant that can grow tissue faster, and thus grow faster.
Increased nutrient uptake (other sources)
Another reason silica contributes to a healthier, better plant is because it increases your plants ability to uptake other nutrients.
Macronutrients and micronutrients alike are able to taken up by the roots more effectively, creating a more balanced, even nutrient profile.
Silica Increases Plant Strength & Vigor
Another thing silica does is increases the strength of cell walls in your plant.
This is huge for growers hoping to cultivate huge, dense flowers.
You can have the biggest flowers in the world, but if your branches can’t support them, they’ll snap and never full develop.
This is also an important benefit for those growing outdoors.
Heavy winds and storms can easily damage the foliage and branches on your plant.
A secondary benefit of thicker stems is that nutrients have an easier time moving through the plant, and getting to the areas that need them most.
Again, this indirectly leads to a more plentiful harvest, as your plant has greater nutrient uptake abilities.
Increased resistant to pests and diseases
If you use a silica supplement, however, this likelihood decreases. The reason being that silica increases plant tissue.
This means pests will have a harder time penetrating the tissue and doing real damage.
Some studies have shown plants grown with silica being infested, and the pests actually end up leaving to seek out easier prey!
Silica also helps your plant create an antifungal property. This lowers the chances of mold and mildew from taking hold on your plants.
All of these reasons we’ve listed above add up to a plant with higher potential for heavy yields.
But, we’ve mentioned that finding the right silica supplement is even more important than using one at all. So what is the best source of silica for plants?
What is the best source of silica for plants?
As we’ve already briefly mentioned, not all forms of silica are created equal. There are all kinds of different formulations which have varying degrees of solubility and plant availability.
As a grower, your goal should be to only give your plants a source with high solubility and bioavailability.
Like most things in chemistry, molecular size and structure depict function. These factors play a key role in how easily our plants can uptake certain compounds.
We’ll dive into the most common forms you’ll find on a plant nutrient ingredient label. Then we'll explain why we believe silicic acid is the best form out there.
Potassium silicate is one of the most common forms of silica you’ll see in this industry.
This is a problem because this form of silica is actually not completely bioavailable. This means your plants won’t be able to utilize it to the extent they’d like.
This means it is not predictable as far as when it is broken down and then made available to the plant. You will never know exactly what your plant is getting.
This makes it not very effective because while you may think you are providing a 5mL dose, you won’t truly know what your plants are absorbing.
There are even more insoluble forms of silica, such as rock rust, which are even more unpredicatable, and thus harder to manage.
On top of this, potassium silicates can destabilize over time as they sit on the shelf. This will lead to a decrease in efficacy, along with a change in consistency in color that is much more difficult to work with.
The other issue with potassium silicates is that they tend to be very basic, and thus you have to spend a good amount of time lowering pH down to the ideal conditions.
Mono Silicic Acid
The best form of silicon is mono sicilic acid, also known as ortho silicic acid. Unlike potassium silicate, its 100% available immediately upon feeding, which allows you to accurately and reliably dose your supplement.
Because silicon is an immobile nutrient, it cannot be moved to other parts of the plants once taken up by the roots.
This means you need a steady flow of silicic acid to take full advantage of the benefits silica has to offer.
When using silicic acid, you can rest assured your plants are getting this vital nutrient throughout their entire mass. You won't need to wonder whether it is working or not!
Plus, silicic acid maintains it's properties much better over time, and won't degrade nearly as much. Its also easier to pH and mix, and works great with autodosers!
The best silica supplements for plants
Now that you know you should use a silica supplement that contains silicic acid, how do you find one?
We won't make you read through the ingredient labels of every supplement out there. One supplement stands out to us as the best, and that's Stout MSA.
Alchemist Stout MSA
The best silica for plants is Alchemist Stout MSA. It is derived from a complex process which delivers the most readily available form of silicon possible.
The process starts with digested quartz, which then goes through a proprietary digestion process leading to a more stable product. This leads to the most pure product possible, with no added potassium.
This gives you, the grower, more control over what you are actually feeding your plant. It also adds less conductivity (lower EC) to your nutrient solution.
You may assume that Alchemist Stout MSA is too pricey considering how pure it is. But, because the product is so bioavailable, you can feed a lower application rate (Around 5mL/gallon).
This actually makes it cheaper than any other silicic acid on the market, and much closer to the cost of potassium silicates.
Final Thoughts On Silica For Plants
By now, you should have a good understanding of why you should feed your plants a silica supplement.
You're also aware of why form matters, and why we consider Stout MSA to be the best.
If you have any questions about bringing this nutrient into your feeding schedule, or any other growing questions, reach out to our experts here.
If you want to learn more about plant nutrients & pH, check out our complete guide!