Plants need sufficient nutrients regardless of where you grow them. Many homeowners prefer growing them on the ground while others prefer using containers or pots. In the case of the latter, certain things should be taken into consideration. Here’s our guide on how to apply fertilizer to potted plants this spring.
Use Potting Media at the Start
The three primary elements that any plant needs to grow well are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. What’s special about potted plants compared to those grown on the ground is that they require more soil nutrients. Likewise, these container plants do not have a huge source of soil to utilize in the first place.
We highly recommend a commercial potting media as a start. This product typically contains sufficient fertilizer to feed the newly grown plant with the three nutrients for nearly a month. After this time, you have to rely on either liquid or dry fertilizer products.
Using a Liquid Fertilizer
Regardless of type, you can assess the nutrient ratio of a fertilizer by looking at the three numbers indicated on the package label. These three numbers refer to the respective percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fertilizer.
First, the liquid fertilizer comes in either powder form or as liquid concentrates. If it’s in powder form, you’d have to dissolve it using water before you apply it to the soil in the pot. Since it’s in liquid form just like water, a commercial liquid fertilizer will have a dye for quick recognition.
If you intend to grow herbaceous perennials such as the fragrant dianthus and the heuchera plant in pots, you should use a 20-20-20 commercial liquid fertilizer specifically made for houseplants. A 10-8-8 nutrient ratio or any similar amount is also good for these herbaceous plants.
Here is a video of using a liquid fertilizer:
Choosing a Dry Fertilizer
On the other hand, a dry fertilizer comes in two forms: as a granular fertilizer or as a slow-release fertilizer. Furthermore, the slow-release variant can be made up of either pellets or beads. As its name implies, a slow-release dry fertilizer can feed the soil with nutrients to last up to nine months.
In order to use slow-release beads or pellets, you must scatter one teaspoon of the product for every gallon of soil. However, slow-release fertilizer alone won’t lead to robust plant growth. You should still use liquid fertilizer or granular fertilizer every two or three weeks. Treat the slow-release fertilizer as a backup solution in case you forget to feed your potted plants for some time.
Consequently, a granular fertilizer is the popular choice for growing potted plants. It reaches the part of the soil where the root systems are with the help of water. Basically, you have to use half a teaspoon of the fertilizer for every gallon of potting mix. Water the potted plants as soon as you apply fertilizer.
Preventing Salt Accumulation
Compared to a liquid fertilizer, a dry granular fertilizer won’t be immediately leached from the soil. The problem here is that salt from the fertilizer can accumulate. A white crust can appear on the surface of your potting soil. Eventually, your potted plants could have wilting foliage or burnt roots due to the excessive amount of fertilizer but this can be prevented by watering plants deeply so that water runs out the bottom of the containers.
Try using a 10-10-10 granular fertilizing during the seasons of spring and summer. As for the winter season, fertilizing your potted plants should be done just twice or thrice. This frequency is enough since the plants won’t be actively growing at this time.
Using fertilizer for your potted plants in spring isn’t difficult. Always use potting mix for new plants to help them grow well. Afterward, use a combination of slow-release fertilizer with either liquid fertilizer or granular fertilizer. We hope that you learned a lot from our quick guide. If you have any queries, do send us a comment.