Fertilizing Your House Plants

Just like other living things, plants need some form of nutrients to grow and be healthy. Fortunately, potted houseplants do not need a lot of fertilizer to be kept happy!

When it comes to fertilizer, more is not always better; over-fertilizing can cause very dark, lush leaves with browning or curling of the leaf edges which can ultimately damage the plant. Blooming houseplants may refuse to produce buds if they receive too much fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. On the flip side, if houseplants receive too little fertilizer, then new growth may appear small and pale, and the vein color in the leaves can vary from the leaf color.

Feed your houseplants regularly in their active growing season when light levels are high between spring and fall. Or year-round if you houseplants are kept under grow lights. During this time period, fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks and cut back to half this amount in the winter (this may vary by variety). To decide what fertilizer to purchase, determine if you have a blooming or foliage houseplant. If you have a foliage houseplant, choose a balance fertilizer or one that is slightly higher in nitrogen.

For a blooming houseplant, choose a fertilizer higher in phosphorous, or one labeled for African Violets. You’ll know when you are fertilizing correctly when new and old leaves have good color, and new leaves steadily appearing, and gradually attaining the same size as the older leaves. For newly purchased houseplants, avoid using any fertilizer until the plant has adjusted to its new home. This also goes for plants that are moved to new locations, only use plain water until it has fully adjusted.

If you have little time to fertilize or if it’s not convenient, try re-potting your houseplants using a soil that already contains fertilizer. These soils usually supply the plant with 2-3 months of fertilizer before any additional fertilizer is needed. Another alternative is a granular slow release fertilizer, which can be applied to the top of the soil and each time water is applied a small amount of fertilizer is released.

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