You are aware that indoor plants require water and sunlight, but what about fertilizer? Fertilizing houseplants during the growing season can provide them with essential nutrients they need to thrive: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Similar to learning how to repot a plant, fertilizing your houseplants can seem intimidating at first. However, once you master the fundamentals, you’ll wonder how your plants ever survived without it. The numerous types of fertilizer available, what fertilizer is (hint: it’s not plant food), and how and when to fertilize houseplants are all covered in the sections below.
What is fertilizer?
First and foremost, plants do not eat fertilizer. Photosynthesis is the process through which plants produce their sustenance while utilizing sunlight. Fertilizer promotes fresh, healthy growth in a similar manner to a multivitamin. Additionally, it can be utilized to replenish the vital minerals that our plants’ potting soil loses as they mature. The main ingredients, or macronutrients, in fertilizers are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which we will discuss in more detail later. Fertilizers can also contain a variety of other nutrients.
When should I fertilize my houseplants?
like excessive amounts of light or water Your plants may suffer if you use too much fertilizer. During the growing season, which runs from early spring to late summer, we advise fertilizing indoor plants moderately. Plants will gain the most from new nutrients at this period, while they are actively growing. Depending on the fertilizer you’re using, you can typically fertilize your plants monthly or every other week. Read the label carefully because each brand may have a different suggestion for dilution and timing.
Fertilizer will not help newly potted or repotted plants. They haven’t even begun to use all the nutrients in their fresh potting mix! Wait 23 months after a fresh repotting before fertilizing actively growing plants during the growing season to prevent potentially harming recently replanted plants. You can postpone fertilizing until the following growing season if you potted during the autumn and winter.
Because of their decreased metabolic activity, plants in low-light conditions don’t require fertilizer. They don’t consume nutrients as efficiently as individuals who are in brighter light.
What do the numbers on fertilizer mean?
Three of the approximately 17 necessary plant nutrients are prominently featured on the front of the majority of fertilizers. The N-P-K ratio is represented by the three numbers you see: N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium. The main macronutrients that your plant requires are these.
A fertilizer label can include an N-P-K ratio that looks like 10-5-8. Higher ratio fertilizers are more concentrated than lower ratio fertilizers. Do not assume that a fertilizer with greater numbers is superior than one with fewer numbers just because it has higher numbers. It just needs more water to be diluted with because it is more concentrated.
Micronutrients could be included in your fertilizer, making it a complete fertilizer. These can contain things like chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron, and molybdenum. Each micronutrient plays a part in the cellular, enzymatic, and developmental processes of plants, but they are not as essential as the NPK macronutrients. Your fertilizer’s micronutrient content will probably be listed on the back of the container.
For your indoor plants, you can use any all-balanced fertilizer (for instance, 5-5-5) or one with a ratio that fits the goal you want to achieve. In order to stimulate leaf production, for instance, a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen to phosphorous ratio is best, whereas a higher phosphorous to nitrogen ratio aids in promoting fruiting and blooming.
Is solid or liquid fertilizer better?
There are various types of fertilizers. It is mainly a matter of preference when selecting the type of fertilizer to use. Both give the vital nutrients that plants require, yet they each have advantages and disadvantages.
The two types of fertilizers used most frequently for indoor plants are liquid and powder. They may also be the most economical depending on how concentrated they are, or how high their N-P-K ratio is. Fertilizers in liquid and powder form are also simple to use and diluted in water. You can also immediately add a variety of powder fertilizers to the potting soil.
Perhaps less frequently used for houseplants are solid fertilizers, sometimes known as dry or granular fertilizers. Because some granular fertilizers (fertilizer pellets) release nutrients over time, you run the risk of overfertilizing a plant or fertilizing it when it is dormant or growing slowly because of poor light.
Is chemical or organic fertilizer better?
Another option is selecting between synthetic fertilizers, commonly known as chemical fertilizers, and organic fertilizers. The macro and micro nutrients in synthetic fertilizers are typically more precisely balanced and concentrated. They might be more affordable, particularly if you buy them in liquid form to dilute. With less, you can obtain the same amount of nutrients.
Organic fertilizers are typically less concentrated because they are created from all-natural components, such as reprocessed food waste. However, mild is a benefit, not a drawback, of houseplant fertilizer. Although it can be slightly more expensive than other forms, organic fertilizer is a safe, chemical-free choice. Choosing an organic fertilizer may be the finest option if you have pets who share your space.
Chemical and organic fertilizers both supply nitrates, potassium ions, and phosphates to plants, but in different ways. It strikes a balance between your personal preferences and those of your plants.
Quick Tips for Fertilizing Houseplants
First tip: Since plants begin to actively grow in the spring, it is the optimal time to begin fertilizing them. Fast-growing plants should get fertilizer more frequently than slower-growing or dormant plants, such as cacti (i.e., most plants in winter.)
Second tip: Dilute your fertilizer. Less fertilization is preferable to more fertilization. If the potting mix is deficient in nutrients and you haven’t fertilized in about a year, you can improve the efficacy of the fertilizer by diluting it with less water.
3. Plants that produce fruits or flowers over their lifetimes will need extra fertilizer. Picking off fruits or flowers depletes them of their nutrients, which we should replenish.
Know your N, P, and K values. The ratio of macronutrients that should be present in your fertilizer is the one that your plant requires. It resembles the numbers 10-8-10. Find another fertilizer if this isn’t stated on the package.
5. Plants only require a smaller amount of micronutrients than they do of macronutrients, notwithstanding their importance. Micronutrients are typically present in fertilizers, however they aren’t usually highlighted on the front of the fertilizer container.
Should indoor plants be fertilized in the fall?
During the fall and winter, indoor plants won’t require any fertilizer, but they might enjoy one last treat. Plant Mom advises doing this right away, while the earth is still damp, right after a shower. Plant Mom advises using a liquid all-purpose fertilizer at half the recommended dosage, not making it a full meal.
Should the fall and winter months be fertilized for indoor plants?
Do indoor plants need fertilizer throughout the winter? Because most indoor plants are not growing throughout the winter, fertilization is typically not required. In the spring and summer, when plants are actively growing, indoor gardeners should fertilize their houseplants on a regular basis.
When and how frequently should indoor plants be fertilized?
When indoor plants are actively growing in the spring and summer, fertilize them. Use a fertilizer that is complete and contains potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Fertilizers for indoor plants can be found in liquid, crystal, granular, spike, and tablet form. Depending on the product, application frequency might range from once every two weeks to once every three to four months. Read the directions on the label attentively.
During the winter, avoid fertilizing indoor plants. Winter is when most indoor plants do not grow vigorously and do not require fertilization.
Adjust Your Watering Routine
Although it may seem contradictory, the majority of indoor plants require less water in the winter. Despite the fact that winter air is dryer, plants develop more slowly and some even fall into complete dormancy during the colder months. As a result, plants require less water to maintain their hydration, and overwatering can cause root rot. Remember that different plants require varied amounts of water. Drought-tolerant cacti and other succulents may not require any watering, whilst certain tropical plants may still need more frequent watering.
Winter months can cause surface soil to dry up more quickly, but it isn’t necessarily a sign that the plant needs water. When the soil is dry an inch or two below the surface, test it with your finger; if it is, it’s time to get the watering can out.
Do not water your houseplants with cold water. To prevent shocking the roots of the plant, use water that is close to room temperature. In some winter climates, tap water can become very chilly; thus, wait several hours before using it to water your plants. This kind of gradual warming also enables dissolved gases, such chlorine, to evaportate from the water.
Alter Humidity Levels
The largest challenge that indoor plants face throughout the winter months is often low humidity levels. Plants like a humidity level that is closer to 50%, which might drop to 10 to 20% in heated homes during the winter. If your home has a humidifier, move your plants there so they can benefit from it. If you don’t have a humidifier, find another way to increase the humidity.
Organize your plants first into groupings. Plants naturally release water through their leaves through transpiration, thus combining them will make good use of that moisture. Because they absorb moisture from showers and cooking, bathrooms and kitchens are the greatest places to keep plants.
The age-old method of putting your plants on or close to a tray of water is another excellent choice. But avoid letting the plants submerge themselves in the water. Put stones or pebbles in the tray to elevate the pots’ bottoms above the water line, then set the pots on top of the stones. By doing this, humidity levels will rise without encouraging root rot.
Instead than helping the plants, misting usually works better at making the gardener feel good about themselves. You might believe that spraying your plants will provide them with some comfort, however misting just provides a brief burst of moisture. Because indoor temperatures allow moisture to evaporate quickly, misting is necessary several times a day to be effective. Try misting if you only have a few plants and believe you will be really diligent about it. An indoor plant may rarely be over-mist. Misting plants in humid summers can result in fungal issues, but this shouldn’t be a concern in the winter.
Pay Attention to Temperature
Like most people, most plants thrive in temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Keep your plants away from heat sources like radiators, ovens, fireplaces, and electronics in order to give them that, as well as from chilly drafts. Houseplants can die from temperature changes just as quickly as from extended exposure to heat or cold.
Follow the Sun
In addition to having fewer daylight hours, wintertime sunlight also comes in at a lower angle. Your houseplants might need to be moved to a brighter location or even given more light. An all-day sunny window with a south or west orientation is an ideal location. Moving plants next to a chilly window, however, should be avoided since they might experience a draft.
Every time you water your plants, rotate the pots by roughly a quarter of a turn. This prevents some branches from reaching for the light, allowing the plant to grow evenly and receive some sun on all sides.
The amount of light that reaches plant leaves can also be diminished by layers of dust. This dust can be removed from leaves with a moist cloth, giving plants more access to light during the winter.
Plants will need to be exposed to the grow lights for extended periods of time in regions where the winter sun is essentially nonexistent and where the majority of their light comes from supplemental lighting. If a plant needs six hours of direct sunshine, it can also require an additional 12 or 14 hours of light to provide the same amount of energy. Grow lights are far less strong than sunlight, thus plants require more time under them to absorb enough energy.
Put Your Houseplants on a Diet
Because they are not growing as quickly in the winter, the majority of houseplants don’t require any fertilizer. Stop feeding them until early spring as continuing to do so would only disrupt their natural cycle. Resuming fertilization will give them a boost for the growing season if you start to notice new growth or the present leaves seem to be turning greener.
Some tropical plants grow rather actively all winter long, especially vining climbers or trailers, and they may still need some feeding, but often at decreased rates.
Can indoor plants be fertilized in the winter?
The change in temperature, humidity, and general circumstances can have a bad effect on your frondy buddies even though your indoor plants are kept safe and sound inside the four walls of your cozy house during the winter. Follow our recommendations if you want to keep your indoor plants content during winter.
Let there be light
Although it can be challenging to locate sunshine in the winter, it is essential to the health of your indoor plants. Make sure all of your plants are either in a brilliantly lit room or in front of a window that receives sufficient of sunshine by checking the sunlight requirements for each of your plants.
Watch the temperature
Since most indoor plants often come from tropical or subtropical regions, they prefer a little warmth. It might be too warm if you have the heating on, though! The solution is to keep your plants free of chilly drafts in windows and doorways while also not placing them immediately in front of or on top of heaters. The cyclamen is an exception to this rule because it prefers to stay outside on frigid nights, so place one there before you go to bed.
Don’t let plants dry out
Wintertime humidity levels drop quickly, and home heating, which dries the air, exacerbates this effect. For example, some plants—such as ferns, painted leaf begonias, prayer plants, and zebra plants—need high humidity to thrive. If the dryness of the air bothers you, combine your plants together and spritz them, or place them on a bed of stones in a tray of water that will evaporate all around them. You can also relocate the plants to rooms with higher relative humidity, such the kitchen or bathroom, or add moisture to the air by setting a bowl of water close to your heater.
The most common mistake with indoor plants in winter is over-watering. Even while they don’t need as much water as they do during the summer, they still require some, especially if they are in a warm, dry environment. Lift a pot if it appears to be dry on the outside and feel its weight. In comparison to a damp plant, a really dry one will feel considerably lighter. If the soil is entirely dry, stick your finger in it for about 5 cm, and then water! Give them a full soak (African violets absorb water from the bottom up), let them completely drain, and then put them back on their saucers. Never let them stand in too much water, and let them almost totally dry up before watering them again. Succulents and cacti may not require any watering at all during the winter.
Pests and general care
Keep an eye out for spider mite or scale insects since warm, dry air can promote them. If they start to cause problems, contact your garden center. Winter is not the time to fertilize indoor plants, but those with smooth leaves would appreciate a weekly wipe-down with a moist cloth to keep them looking fresh and shiny.
Victoria and Tasmania
It is recommended to keep your indoor plants in locations that receive a lot of warm afternoon sunlight, such as windowsills, in states where morning frosts are frequent and the temperature frequently falls below zero, such as in the southern states of the nation.
NSW and Queensland
Sydney and Queensland residents may not experience winters as chilly as those in Tasmania, but these cities nevertheless use air conditioning, making the absence of humidity a problem. Remember to spritz your plants frequently to maintain a high level of humidity if you have indoor plants and are frequently operating the heater.
Australian Capital Territory
It’s crucial to check that your indoor plants aren’t placed near a heater or in a dry area because the days are long and cold where Canberrans live. Put them in an area with a constant temperature.
Winter won’t likely feel all that cold to you if you reside in the Perth area, and neither will your plants. Maintain normal care for them and deal with any problems as they appear, such as brown tips.