Greetings!! Last time we spoke, we focused in on watering our plants, today I want to build on this, and talk about fertilizing our plants. Equally important, often confusing. So let’s break it down –
Fertilizers are needed to restore the nutrients in our plants soil. In nature this happens organically, quite literally. Biological activity is constantly taking place above and under the soil. Things are decomposing; the soil is shifting.. its pretty exciting down there.
Unfortunately our houseplants miss out on the fun. There is no such activity in that cute ceramic pot, shaped like a giraffe, and after so long, nutrients are used up by the plant, and lost from watering. If it’s been awhile since your plant has grown some new leafs or you’ve noticed the ones it does have are looking a little lackluster, it may be time to fertilize.
It is important that you are fertilizing ONLY during the growing season. For us here in So-Cal, this is year round. Because we are in a subtropical zone, temperatures do not get cold enough to send our plants into dormancy, however, you may notice less growth during winter, we’ll touch on this shortly. To determine what your growing season is, you can do a quick google search to find out.
Do we want our plants to grow all year? Yes! But even in the subtropical region I found my houseplants slowing down for a month in the winter. Why shouldn’t you fertilize your way through it? Because your plant won’t use those nutrients! They will end up burning the roots… worse off the foliage.
I find the most success fertilizing once or twice monthly with a mild and all organic fertilizer.
The three digit ratio on the front of the bottle indicates the weight of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and potassium in your container. Each of these serves a valuable role in the health and growth of your plants.
Nitrogen is used for leaf growth and health, phosphorous is used in the formation of new roots as well as the production of seeds, fruit, and flowers. Potassium helps make strong stems and growth.
Both synthetic and organic fertilizers are on the market, but how can you tell the difference? Which should you use?
Synthetic fertilizers have will have a high ratio on their bottle such as 16-16-16. This is indicative of a high concentration of NPK – Such high values can only be achieved in a lab.
Organic fertilizers have a smaller ratio, such as 4-3-1 – making them gentler, and the NPK values are obtained from natural sources rather than being synthesized in a lab. Natural sources can include those from animal waste, such as guano or worm castings. Another popular option is guano, (bat excrements).
Here’s the difference – Synthetic fertilizers will give you immediate results, but they are only feeding the plant with a mass amount of nutrients, rather than improving the overall health and longevity of the soil. What I mean by this, is that you may have green leafs right away, and that push of growth is thrilling, but it is not beneficial in the Long run. Organic fertilizers work slowly by sustaining the plant and doing work below the soil. This concept is best explained through biodynamic gardening- aimed to enhance the overall health of the soil, offering a sustainable environment for your plants, long term, rather than sporadic bursts of nutrients.
In conclusion, what fertilizer you use, Organic, synthetic, slow release, this hobby is all about you learning your plants, growing with them… and growing with us! Stop by our house plant nursery to pick up all of your amendments, fertilizers & more! Until next time.