Tips on When and How to Feed Houseplants
When to feed your houseplants
Houseplants spend their whole lives in pots and such a small area of soil contains limited nutrients that are quickly used up. They need regular feeding in order to remain healthy and look their best.
Most composts contain enoughto feed a plant for a few months, so after first potting up a plant or after potting on or top-dressing, you will not need to feed for a while. After a few months these nutrients will be depleted and this is the time to start feeding.
Houseplants do not need feeding all year round. They will benefit most if you start feeding at the same time as watering is increased in spring. Feed regularly during summer and decrease towards autumn as growth slows. It is extremely important to stop feeding altogether when the plant goes into its winter resting phase.
What to use
There are several options available for feeding houseplants. The most important distinction to make when choosing a fertilizer is between those designed for flowering plants and those for. All contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Nitrogen is for strong, leafy growth, phosphate keeps roots healthy and potash encourages flowering.
For leafy plants choose a fertilizer with a good balance of these three or with a higher percentage of nitrogen. For flowering plants, choose one with extra potash.
Using liquid fertilizer is one of the best ways to feed indoor plants, as it allows complete control over the timing of the feed. A small amount of liquid fertilizer is added to a set amount of water when required, and the plant is watered as usual.
Slow-release fertilizer pellets can be useful, as they are just added to the soil at re-potting stage or sprinkled on the surface of the compost in spring, and they will feed the plant all season. They are less versatile than, as the strength of the feed cannot be altered. If the pellets are added late in the season there is a danger that the feed could continue into autumn and winter, when feeding should have stopped.
Feed sticks are another way of cutting down on feeding. These are small sticks or pellets of concentrated feed that are pushed into the soil and gradually release nutrients. They have similar drawbacks to slow-release fertilizers in that there is less control over timing and concentration of feeds than with liquids. They also concentrate feed in one area of the pot, which may lead to uneven growth.
How often to feed houseplants
If using a liquid fertilizer, feed most plants once every two weeks during the growing season. Cacti will only need feeding at four-weekly intervals. Orchids do not need high amounts of feed so choose a balanced fertilizer and water it down to half the recommended strength and feed once every three weeks in spring and summer.