Unlike outdoor plants, houseplants do not get the proper amounts of natural elements for growth. So, it is entirely your responsibility to fertilize your houseplants to keep them happily growing.
Fertilizing is essential as plants feed on the nutrients in the soil in order to grow and flower. When fertilizing houseplants, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous are added using a liquid, slow-release or granular fertilizer.
It can be difficult to know exactly when and how you should fertilize your houseplants. Even, many people overlook the importance of fertilizing completely. Within this post, we will explain exactly how you should go about fertilizing your indoor plants.
Why is Fertilizing Houseplants Essential?
Before getting into the full guide of houseplant fertilizing, you need to understand why houseplants need to be fertilized properly. If you have houseplants, it’s a must to fertilize them to make them grow at best and to make look their best as well.
Fertilizing is essential as plants need nutrients from the soil due to their growth. Mainly as houseplants are kept inside the house, they remain in a closed system and do not get exposure to the external nutrients.
So, like the outdoor plants, indoor or houseplants also need proper nutrients that you have to add in the soil pot by adding fertilizers.
Proper fertilization will not only make your houseplants grow faster even it will make them healthy and thrive.
Necessary Nutrition’s for houseplants
When getting to know about fertilizing houseplants, it’s essential to know about the crucial elements that your houseplants need in order to thrive and eventually flower.
These fundamental elements include hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, Sulphur, magnesium, zinc, iron, boron, molybdenum, copper, chlorine, and manganese.
Among all these elements, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen are considered as the most three essential elements.
Types of Houseplant Fertilizers
Before fertilizing, it is very important to know about the kinds of fertilizers and what fertilizers will be helpful for your plant’s growth.
Fertilizers are available in many different varieties such as sticks, liquids, granular, tablets, and slow-release forms. For all of these types, slow-release and liquid fertilizers suit best for houseplants.
Though pills and sticks fertilizers are also convenient, still they can’t distribute the nutrients properly through the soil. Moreover, once you insert a fertilize stick in your houseplant pot, you can’t control its release.
Now let's look at the two types of easy to use fertilizers that are best for houseplant fertilization.
Liquid Houseplant Fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers are very convenient for houseplant fertilization that include anhydrous liquid ammonia, nitrogenous fertilizers, ammoniates, aqueous ammonia, etc.
You can add liquid fertilizers in your watering can. Before applying, it goes through the label instructions. Some plants that have large blooms may need a frequent application of liquid fertilization So study the plants to know about their specific nutrition need.
This kind of fertilizer provides a constant supply of nutrients that can be appropriately controlled. Moreover, it is easy to stop feeding when your houseplant gets dormant during winter, and also can step up the feeding when the plants are prepared for new growth.
Slow Release Fertilizers
Slow-release fertilizers are a type of fertilizer that releases a small and steady amount of nutrients over the course of time.
These types of fertilizers are natural and organic that add nutrients to the soil through natural break down and decomposing. Slow-release fertilizers are favorite for professional growers and gardeners, including me.
These fertilizers can be used in both indoor and outdoor plants. These types of fertilizers are coated in time-release shells, that release nutrients slowly into the soil. A single application of slow-release fertilizer lasts for a long time, approximately four to nine months with a single feeding.
Granular Houseplant Fertilizer
Granular houseplant fertilizers are found in two formulations one as in compressed fertilizer spikes, and the other comes in as loose and granular pellets.
If you choose pelletized granular fertilizer for indoor plants like Be-1 and Organic Plant Magic, you have to sprinkle it on the surface of the soil. If you go for compressed fertilizer spikes such as EarthPods, and Jobes Organic, you have to push it down into the soil to come close contact with the roots of the houseplants.
The best compressed and pelletized granular fertilizers are composed of naturally derived components. These components include bone meal, worm castings, blood meal, limestone, sulfate of potash, rock phosphate, plant-based ingredients, and mineral and animal-based ingredients.
Synthetic chemical-based granular fertilizers are also available for houseplants; still, you should avoid them. If you do not see any ingredients of granular fertilizer, then be sure that it’s a synthetic fertilizer.
Be Careful Fertilizing Your Houseplants
Before buying any type of fertilizer, always go through the label instructions carefully. Too much fertilization can scorch the leaves of a plant or even can kill it.
Too much fertilization will cause the leaves and roots of your plants to burn. Applying too much fertilizer to plants is also one of the most common mistakes made by indoor gardeners. So, we like to mention it's better to feed slightly less than too much.
When Should you Fertilize Houseplants?
You often notice that houseplants wilt when they need water. The leaves grow lanky and pale when the leaves don’t get enough sunlight. When the humidity gets too low, the leaves turn crispy, and when the humidity is too high, the toots of the plants get developed.
Among all these situations, it’s a bit trickier to know when exactly you need to feed your houseplants. Moreover, unlike human babies, houseplants can’t shout by saying, “I am hungry; it’s time to feed me!” So instead of waiting to get any signal from your houseplant, you will have to take the responsibility on your own and apply houseplant fertilizer as per the growing cycle of your houseplant.
Every single houseplant has different needs. So, when it is about the application amount of fertilizer and the application frequency, there is no necessity to excess the procedure.
You could study every single houseplant that you care for and can note its specific nutritional requirements. But the fact is that commonly most of the houseplants have fertilizer needs that are similar to the treating way for satisfying their nutritional needs.
Some houseplants are also heavier feeders than others. If you stick to our simple houseplant fertilizer schedule, you will be able to successfully grow most of the common houseplants. This schedule is based on the growing cycle of houseplants in all seasons and weathers.
The Perfect Houseplant Fertilizer Schedule
Now it’s time to know when to fertilize your houseplants. As every season is different, changes in fertilizing your plants should be made throughout the year. Here is the ideal fertilizer schedule that will help you to know when to fertilize your indoor houseplants.
Houseplant Fertilization Schedule for Spring
In the spring season, start to fertilize your houseplants about eight weeks before the last expected spring frost. It means start fertilizing your indoor plants from the middle of March. In this time, the day begins to lengthen, and you will notice that the houseplants will shift from a semi-dormant state to an active growth period.
If you choose a granular fertilizer, then apply half of the amount as per the suggestion on the label. For liquid fertilizer, mix it to half strength.
These fertilizers feed indoor plants at a time when the plants gear up for active growth, and they don’t require a massive amount of nutrients to enhance prolific growth. Follow this fertilization schedule for your houseplants in the spring season.
Houseplant Fertilization Schedule for Summer
In the summer season, houseplants are in a state of active growth as they get enough amount of sunlight. When the Summer arrives, it is necessary to switch to a more frequent houseplant fertilization routine.
First, you have to focus on the type of fertilizer that you are using on your houseplants. For example, if you go for liquid fertilizer, then you can apply it more frequently like on a weekly or monthly basis. If you choose granular fertilizer, then use it once every one to two months.
For slow-release fertilizer, you have to keep in mind that this type of fertilizer slowly breaks down and releases the nutrients in a small amount for a more extended period.
So, you don’t need to apply it frequently as a single application of a slow-release fertilizer lasts for three to four months. Follow this fertilization schedule for your houseplants in summer.
Houseplant Fertilization Schedule for Autumn
About 8 weeks before the first expected fall frost, gradually stop the application of houseplant fertilizer and also tapper off the application frequency.
From the middle of August, you have to reduce the amount of fertilizer by half and start to extend the time between every fertilization for about three to four applications. Follow this fertilization schedule in autumn for your houseplant fertilization.
Houseplant Fertilization Schedule for Winter
In the winter season, you should not fertilize your indoor plants. In winter houseplants do not remain in the state of active growth, so they don’t need any fertilization, generally speaking, houseplants will go dormant in winter.
When you will fertilize your indoor plants in winter, the fertilizer will cause your plants to burn and make their leaf tips brown.
Exceptions of These Houseplant Fertilization Rules
There are two exceptions to the above fertilization rules of your indoor plants. If you live in weather that doesn’t get regular winter frosts, continue fertilization all through the winter but apply half the strength and frequency of the summer fertilization. Keep in mind that light levels are more important than the temperature.
The other exception is if you live in a tropical climate area, where the temperature is warm throughout the year, apply fertilizer as per the summer fertilization schedule throughout the year.
What Will you get in a Houseplant Fertilizer?
Most of the houseplant fertilizer contains a mixture of both micronutrients and macronutrients. The primary three macronutrients that are found in a container of houseplant fertilizer are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
You will find the ratio of these three macronutrients on the front label of the houseplant fertilizer bottle. This ratio is called the N-P-K ratio, and the numbers show the percentage of each of the nutrients, present inside the container of the fertilizer.
The macronutrient ratio of lawn fertilizer or tomato fertilizer is different from the ratio of houseplant fertilizer. As each group of plants has different nutritional needs, the manufacturer makes the fertilizers as per the plant requirement.
It means that it is very important to use a formulated fertilizer for your houseplants. This is the first thing that you should notice while buying a houseplant fertilizer. You would see the writing for houseplants’ on the package of the houseplant fertilizer.
Phosphorous is another component used in houseplant fertilizer, and it is very important, particularly for flowering. Who keeps green houseplants that don’t produce flowers should choose fertilizer, that contains a high amount of Nitrogen in it.
You also can select a fertilizer that contains a balanced amount of nutrients. You should choose different houseplant fertilizers for flowering and non-flowering houseplants. Still, it is not mandatory unless you are growing some flowering houseplants like begonias, gloxinia, or African violets.
Not every fertilizer contains secondary macronutrients such as magnesium, and calcium and some micronutrients like zinc, iron, and boron. These secondary nutrients are used in a smaller amount that the primary macronutrients, still they are essential for the metabolic pathway of every plant.
Houseplant Fertilizer Ingredients
An ideal houseplant fertilizer is made from the naturally derived sources of the micronutrients and macronutrients. The perfect houseplant fertilizer manufacturers do not use chemicals in the fertilizer that are synthesized in a laboratory.
Though the blue colored, water-soluble fertilizers are recommended they don’t provide eco-friendly nutrition to your houseplants, even they don’t contain any micronutrients.
Instead, go for a granular or liquid houseplant fertilizer that is made from natural ingredients to provide the proper nutrients to your houseplants.