It’s springtime, which means it’s also prime time to give your green thumb a workout! If visions of bountiful blossoms dance in your head as you imagine your indoor garden taking shape during the season, it’s important to be mindful of one of the most important steps of all: fertilization. It’s what every eye-catching green in your home needs to survive and thrive, and learning how to do it properly can make all the difference to your living space.
The secret? It’s all about timing. Spring is one of the busiest periods of the year for your plants, and this active moment is the best time to fertilize them. While it may seem daunting at first, or maybe more complex than necessary, it’s actually quite straightforward. It’s also really important, largely because indoor plants never see any rainfall and they can’t develop root systems to seek out sources for nourishment like they would outside.
They desperately need elements like hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and iron to enjoy a long and vibrant life. It’s all up to you, its loving owner, to create a healthy environment where it can perform its best. Once you develop a knack for helping your indoor garden grow, you’ll never look back!
How to Fertilize Indoor Plants
1. Examine the Plant Closely
First things first. Take an honest look at the plant. Are there some areas that look a little worse for wear? Now is the time to trim away the decaying leaves and browned areas. Doing that will allow the plant to deliver vital energy and nutrients to its healthiest parts. If any leaves fell on the soil, be sure to dispose of them before you apply fertilizer.
2. Water the Soil Carefully
You never want to “shock” your plants by applying fertilizer to dry soil. Water it first so the plant receives the moisture it needs, and so it won’t mistake the fertilizer for moisture and overdo it on the uptake. What if the soil is too dry? Try the soak-watering method instead. Just fill a basin with a couple of inches of water, and then rest the plant in the liquid without its saucer so it can quickly absorb the moisture from the bottom up. The soil should feel moist to the touch in under an hour. Drain the water when you’re done and let the plant rest briefly. Then return it to the saucer.
3. Apply a Diluted Solution
Liquid fertilizers are convenient for houseplant owners because they’re easy to control during application. They also soak into the soil evenly throughout, ensuring the plant isn’t underfed or lacking in nutrients as it grows. You can dilute this solution to half-strength or even quarter-strength to start; in general, less is more where houseplants are concerned, and this will help you avoid adding too much and potentially risking the plant’s health. Apply it directly to the top of the soil. You’ll know you’re done when water starts dripping through the drainage hole.
4. Watch Your Application Process
As you apply, be mindful of the process. Fertilizer should never touch the foliage, as it could cause irreversible damage. Issues like discoloration and burns could both occur as a result. For greater ease and precision, aim a watering can with a slender spout directly at the soil and apply the fertilizer that way. This will help you avoid contact with the leaves and safeguard the plant throughout the year.
What You Need to Know
1. Start at the Right Time
Is your plant new and the potting soil fresh? You don’t need to worry about fertilizing right at this moment. Many potting soils are already enriched with fertilizers, which provides your plant in its earliest stages with all that it needs.
Once a couple of months have elapsed, however, you’ll need to feed your plant more vital nutrients to help it grow. For your old-school plants, apply fertilizer for the first time during the middle of March. This is when conditions begin to change, days get longer, and the sun stays out longer. It’s your plants’ time to shine!
2. Watch for Signs of Drama
You don’t want your beautiful houseplants to undergo any stress, but when life gets in the way, it can be tough to keep up with your routine. That’s why you should be aware of the little issues plants may develop if they’re undernourished.
Unfortunately, those issues truly are little — they don’t always make themselves known in the most obvious way. Wilting leaves? That’s usually a sign your plant needs some water. Rotting leaves? That’s a clear sign of excess humidity. But if your plant hasn’t shown any growth in months, that’s an indication it’s lacking those important nutrients.
3. Stick to Your Fertilizing Routine
Instead of letting it reach that point, make it a habit to fertilize your plants regularly. You don’t necessarily need to deeply study every single species; many houseplants share common fertilizing needs, which makes it easy for the average homeowner to feed them consistently. Still, the ones that grow especially fast need more fertilizer throughout the season. Succulents, by comparison, will do just fine if fertilized once early in the spring and again after summer. If you have any fruit-bearing plants inside, prioritize its fertilizer needs, too. The more you pluck fruit away, the more it requires nutrients to survive.
Although fertilizing regularly is key, there is such a thing as going overboard! Always follow the guidelines on the label to protect your plants from possible damage. Adding too much may cause leaf burn, affect its growth, and leave it susceptible to developing diseases. When there’s too much fertilizer in the pot, salt can build up on top of the soil and suffocate it, thereby preventing the plant from receiving the water it needs. All of this can have a detrimental impact on its long-term health.
Committing to your indoor plants’ fertilization needs will help them look their best as they grow. It’s just as essential as sunlight and water!