How to Fertilize House Plants
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Generally speaking, house plants should be fertilized regularly when they are receiving optimum environmental conditions (water, light, temperature, humidity), and in an active growth state. Most house plants will benefit from frequent applications of soluble fertilizers in spring and summer. Many indoor gardeners have excellent results with diluting their fertilizer to half-strength and applying it every other watering. Plants should receive little or no fertilizer during the winter months when growth is almost at a standstill.
Many people have a distorted idea of the role fertilizer plays in house plant growth. People often say they are feeding their plants with plant food rather than fertilizing. One does not feed a plant when you fertilize. Plants make their own food in the process of photosynthesis. Fertilizer allows house plants to make and utilize this food. Fertilizer does not cause growth but merely allows it to occur if other cultural practices are favorable.
Never deliberately over-fertilize your plants. Strong concentrations of fertilizer salts can severely “burn” (dehydrate) the roots of plants. If you accidentally apply too much fertilizer, remove it by leaching. That is, water the medium thoroughly and allow it to drain several times.
Here are 5 basic rules for fertilizing your house plants:
- Know the fertilization requirements of your plants (high, medium, low).
- Always apply fertilizers at the recommended rates or less. Never use more than the manufacturer suggests.
- Do not apply fertilizer to dry potting mix. Your plant should be watered first if the medium is not already moist.
- Never fertilize a diseased, injured, or damaged plant. Fertilizer is not medicine. Wait for the plant to recover before encouraging it to put its energy reserve into new growth.
- Recently purchased plants usually will have sufficient fertilizer incorporated into their medium to eliminate the need for additional fertilizer for two to three months. Minimize fertilizer to maximize growth as long as the plant has good color.