Why do houseplants always look so much brighter when we buy them from the greenhouse? The answer is one word – fertilizer.
When houseplants are harvested, they are grown in a controlled environment and provided ample nourishment with fertilizers on a consistent basis. While most people remember springtime means fertilizing lawns and outdoor greenery, the indoor plants tend to be overlooked. Fertilizing is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to ensure your houseplants stay vibrant, shiny, and thriving in your home. Before you get going on your plants’ power foods, it’s important to know what fertilizers are and how they can differ.
What Is A Fertilizer?
Fertilizer is a multivitamin for plants. It primarily consists of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; each of these elements contributes to accelerating a different aspect of the plant’s growth. Just like humans receive most of their nutrients from food, some elements are naturally lacking and require supplementation. Plants are no different.
Fertilizer is a potent, highly concentrated substance that provides essentials to your houseplants, particularly when the nutrients from the original potting soil have been depleted (usually a few times per annum).
Instructions on the fertilizer should always be followed closely, but generally, it takes about two months for a standard houseplant to absorb the entire dose. Many people only fertilize once or twice a year. Over-fertilization can be harmful to your plant, killing off leaves and stunting growth. Fertilizer is a supplement, not a primary nutrient source for your houseplant, and it won’t replace that good old TLC (and of course, light and water).
What Categories Are There?
Fertilizer comes in a variety of forms and it can be tricky to figure out what works best for your home.
The most common type is liquid fertilizer. This is either a solution or a concentrate you mix at home. Popular, organic brands like Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Plant Food are widely available and easy to use.
Also prevalent are fertilizer sticks. These are small soil inserts that are absorbed by the soil over time, sort of like a slow-release medication. As you water the plant week after week, the sticks will dissolve. Sticks or sometimes called, spikes, are popular and inexpensive. For larger plants, multiple sticks may be required.
The third most common is granular fertilizer. These are small (usually white) round balls you may see in potted plants at greenhouses or when you bring a plant home from the store. Overtime they will yellow. Sometimes, they look almost like tiny eggs, so their appearance tends to dissuade most houseplant owners. While it is inexpensive, it is not slow-release, so over-fertilizing is a real possibility long term. Nelson Plant Food For All is a popular and widely available brand.
What Works Best?
We’ve tried the full gambit of fertilizers, and while each offers pros and cons, liquid fertilizer comes out on top.
Pros: Easily attainable, can be bought online or at most hardware stores; average pricing; allows even distribution across the soil; easy to use.
Cons: It is not a slow-release fertilizer, so you will have to re-fertilize every few months; may involve mixing a solvent (remember: these compounds are toxic to humans and animals, usually).
How To Fertilize Using Liquid Fertilizer:
Remember to always consult the instructions on the bottle, but generally speaking the liquid or powder is added to your watering can once every few months. You simply water normally. If you are using a pre-mixed solution, you will add it to the soil directly.
It’s worth noting some people opt for adding household compost to their soil which can also yield great results. Items like banana peels and eggshells can be used, but will have to be crushed up. You may need to add other nutrients as well for a little boost! You can check out how to best compost here on Garden and Health. Happy Fertilizing!