Warning: science talk ahead
I’ll make this part quick. Here’s the schpeel on the soil that is neither dirt nor crystals. Actually, it’s a polymer— a sodium salt of polyacrylic acid. Polymers are very large molecules. Recognize the acrylic part of that poly? We’re talking acrylic nails, nail polish, paint . Yes, and sofas and sinks.
This make-believe soil is a super-absorbing polymer— you couldn’t make a sink out of this. It’s been used in industry for years. The astronauts are probably using it. Sodium polyacrylate, the super polymer, absorbs as much as 300 times its own weight in water. Those of you who have young kids: ever wonder what that stuff is in disposable diapers that make them so absorbent?
There are lots of different manufacturers of the crystals, a.k.a., crystal soil, water crystals, water gel, magic soil, water pearls, water beads, crystal mud Some manufacturers make cubes as well as crystals. According to the websites crystal soil has many uses: flower arrangements, hydroponics; decorative uses in glass, and something called smelly-jelly air freshener.
Manufacturers’ websites are very informative and the scripts are very identical to each other so one site fits all. The magic soil is not expensive and is somewhat reusable— just add water when they start to shrivel. Distilled water is recommended. It’s indicated that you could add liquid plant food to the water. The crystal mud I bought came in rainbow colors. A tiny package added to a liter of bottled water made enough pearls for four lucky bamboo plants. Incidentally, I started out with four plants. They began rotting after a week. I managed to salvage a few canes from each of the plants , approximately equivalent to two plants.
Disclaimer: Please don’t let my bamboo casualties spoil any plans you may have for trying out the incredible shrinking water balls. I may have neglected to check the water crystals, and they sort of dried up. The manufacturer exaggerated a bit, claiming the pearls would last several months before needing to be refreshed with additional distilled water. However, the beads had only been sustaining my plants for a week.
Wrapping up: the survivors are back in their containers with rocks and bottled water. However, I am trying crystal whatevers, one more time, with some — aloe vera. I will keep you posted.
Did you know? Lucky bamboo is not a bamboo. It is Dracaena braunii, a species of the genus Dracaena. Also known as the ribbon plant, D. braunii is a shrub that grows in the understory of tropical rainforests. It is native to Cameroon in tropical West Africa. It grows to 1.5 m tall (5 ft).