How to Feed Houseplants
Unlike outdoor plants, houseplants are unable to absorb essential nutrients naturally found in the soil, so we have to help them out with regular application of fertilizer. With so many products on the market, choosing (and using) the best plant food can get complicated, but the following information will help.
Types of Fertilizer for Houseplants
Liquid fertilizers, also known as flower and bloom plant foods, are generally mixed with water and applied with a watering can. Liquid products are favored by most indoor gardeners because they’re reasonably priced and easy to use. Ready-to-use liquid fertilizers are also available, but they usually cost a bit more.
Depending on the plant (and your preferences), you can apply liquid fertilizer monthly, every two weeks, or every time you water. Refer to the label for guidelines, then mix and apply accordingly.
Dry fertilizers, usually in the form of powder, pellets or granules, are mixed directly into the soil. They are easy to use and are the most common garden food available.
You can also purchase water-soluble dry fertilizers, which are mixed with water and applied with a watering can, much like liquid fertilizers. Because they make nutrients available to the plants more quickly, they must be applied more frequently.
Slow release fertilizers, also known as continuous release or timed release, provide a slow, even release of fertilizer that lasts for several weeks or even months, depending on the product.
Slow release fertilizers tend to be more expensive, but the convenience may be worthwhile, especially for plant lovers who tend to be busy or forgetful.
Specialized fertilizers are formulated for plants that have specific needs, such as orchids, African violets or cacti and succulents. However, many indoor plant enthusiasts find that a good quality, general-purpose fertilizer works just as well.
How to Feed Houseplants: Helpful Tips
- Feed indoor plants when they’re actively growing, generally in spring and summer. Most houseplants need no fertilizer (or very little), during fall and winter.
- Most new houseplants don’t need fertilizer for the first few weeks because plant food is pre-mixed into fresh potting soil.
- When it comes to feeding houseplants, less is always better; too much fertilizer can weaken or even kill a plant. The amount recommended on the produce label may be too strong for many plants. If you aren’t sure, start with a weaker solution and see how your plant responds.
- Don’t feed a houseplant if it’s dry or wilted. Water well, then feed the plant in a couple of days, when it looks healthy and well-hydrated.