How to Make Your Plants Do a Happy Dance
Updated: May 11, 2019
Spring is definitely here and in full swing! I think of Spring as the punchline of Winter’s joke – every year we complain about how cold it is, and then BAM! - Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths, Redbuds, Peonies and endless multitudes of little green shoots peeking their heads out the ground. The transformation always takes me by surprise in the best possible way. With the warmer weather here to stay there is an undeniable magnetism to get outside, soak up some Vitamin D, and poke around the garden to see what’s happening.
Your landscape plants aren’t the only ones working overtime during this season – your indoor tropicals just got a wake-up call as well thanks to warmer temps and longer daylight hours (yes, they can sense that even indoors!). As a doting plant parent, what can you do to nurture your green babies while they wake up from their long winter’s nap? Fertilize! Fertilizing your indoor plants provides them with vital nutrients to support new growth, encourage blooming, stimulate root development, help cope with environmental stressors, and is just beneficial for overall plant health. Fertilizing can even aid in pest resistance, as a healthy plant isn’t as appetizing as a weak, sickly plant.
So, what’s stopping you?! All of these benefits and you still haven’t fertilized? I know before going to school for horticulture, the thought of fertilizing my indoor plants was daunting; What do I buy? What the heck do those numbers mean on the front of the bottle? What if I mess it up? Fear not! I’m going to provide you with a few simple procedures you can follow to aid you when you’re inevitably standing in front of a plethora of options in your local nursery and help avoid a fertilizing mistake when it comes to applying.
Let’s start off with what to buy. There’s a lot of different formulations (granules, liquids, pellets, stakes, etc.) – the easiest way to choose is based upon how often you want to fertilize and what results you expect to see. Liquid formulas are usually available immediately to your plant, whereas granules and pellets are often slow-release – meaning they take longer to break down but you don’t have to apply them as often. During the growing season of March-September, if you get a liquid fertilizer I recommend applying once a month. If you get a slow-release, you may only have to apply once or twice per season.
Secondly, ever notice those numbers on the bottles and boxes? The numbers are indicators of your nutrient ratios: N=nitrogen, P=phosphorous, K=potassium. In most houseplant cases, the first number (the nitrogen) is the most important. Nitrogen is essential for leafy growth. No need to buy special formulas (like a specific houseplant fertilizer) unless that’s something you’re after. A fertilizer we recommend and sell at Calvert’s is fish emulsion – it’s non-burning, high nitrogen ratio, organic, and plants love it.
A final word of caution: LESS IS BEST. No matter what your label indicates, always err on the minimal side. While you may think you’re giving your plant a boost, it’s super easy to burn plants with fertilizers by adding too much. A good rule of thumb is to cut your dosage in half; if the label states adding a tablespoon per gallon, I would do half a tablespoon per gallon instead. As far as fixing goes, it’s much easier to increase your fertilizer if you’ve been too light, but much more difficult to remedy if you’ve fertilized too much.
Calvert’s sells fertilizer tailored to our plant stock, especially in the spring and summer seasons. Our greenhouse staff is very knowledgeable about fertilizer needs and can answer any questions that might come up. If you are a maintenance customer of Calvert’s, no need to worry about fertilizing your plants; your horticulture technician will take care of this for you! We would love to hear any fertilizing techniques or tricks that have worked for you – please share in the comments section! Happy fertilizing!