Yes, You Should Fertilize Your Houseplants—Here's How
Houseplants add so much to your space—especially if you don't have access to a bigger yard or outdoor area. Not only do plants add tons of color and life to a room, but they also offer a beautiful decor moment in the way of stylish planters (yay!). But there's something important to remember: since houseplants are confined to smaller pots or planters, these indoor plants don't have a constant stream of nutrients coming in from the soil. Over time, the nutrients in the potting soil get depleted and your plants can suffer. To help your houseplants thrive, learn how to fertilize houseplants and keep them looking happy.
What Kind of Fertilizer Should You Use?
Not all fertilizers are created equal—in fact, it's common for people to use the wrong type or too much fertilizer and kill their houseplant. "Sometimes, a certain type or the wrong delivery method can be too much for the plant," says Patrick Hillman, plant enthusiast and owner of Buzz and Thrive Gardens. "I tell my customers to use a water-soluble fertilizer, specifically a rich fish emulsion fertilizer. Anything organic is going to feed longer than a chemical fertilizer."
How to Apply Fertilizer
It's easier than you think, but whatever you do, don't just tip fertilizer into your potted plants. Hillman recommends diluting the fertilizer in a ratio of ¼ to ½ teaspoon fertilizer per gallon of water. "I tell people to dilute it a little more than the package says to be on the safe side," he says.
Another great tip is to water your plant before you fertilize it. It keeps the fertilizer from burning the roots, and the moist soil helps the fertilizer absorb better. Now you might be thinking, a fish emulsion fertilizer? Isn't that going to smell? Hillman says that it can be a little smelly, but it goes away in a day or two. If there's a water runoff dish underneath your pot or planter, be sure to empty it to clear out any of the excess fertilizer water.
When to Apply Fertilizer
Give your plants a feeding every two to three weeks from the end of March to the middle of September and then don't fertilize after that. "It's good to give the plants a little bit of rest," says Hillman. "The days get shorter and the plants won't be producing a lot of new growth, so the plant won't take up as much water and nutrients."
New Growth, Now What?
Keep an eye on your plants and check to see if their roots are outgrowing their pots or planters. Springtime is a great season to take stock and see what might need to be replanted in slightly larger pots, Hillman explains. Do a quick assessment, and if they need to be repotted, add in a little compost too.
Plants You Should Not Fertilize Often
Succulents and cacti don't like too much a of a nitrogen-based fertilizer, says Hillman. So, limit it to once every month and a half to be on the safe side. Setting your plants up with a good quality soil and compost always gives them a fighting chance, too.