Feeding is another term for fertilizing (or fertilizing if you live in America). Watering is not “feed“or”fertilization“in the true sense of the word, and what you feed the plant is not really”food“Confused yet? If you are, or even if you just want a refresher on the topic, this guide will take you through the topic of plant food.
Plants create their own food through photosynthesis.
If you want to learn more about the science of what this is, our photosynthesis guide explains it. If you don’t – just know that all plants create almost all of their energy, which in turn drives growth, through photosynthesis.
Constantly excessive fertilizer comes not make your plant grow faster or major. It just comes kill it.
When you provide fertilizers, you add small important elements to the soil that surround the roots needed by plants but cannot be produced by them.
Fertilizing a plant should be secondary to getting the basic directions first. For example, before you even consider adding extra things to the soil, you need to get the watering right and the plant needs enough light for its need to produce an optimal level of photosynthesis. If your plant does not create its own food to begin with, your house plant will not grow properly no matter how much fertilizer you pour over it.
So what exactly is fertilizer?
The simple definition of a fertilizer is: “A chemical or natural substance added to the soil to increase its fertility”.
Humans need a varied diet to allow our bodies to extract sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins. Plants also need certain qualities of nutrients to grow:
– Nitrogen (N): This helps plants with growth, in particular they create lush leaves or foliage on a plant. Nitrogen is very important for these reasons and it is important that the soil contains enough to achieve growth. Nitrogen is also part of the chlorophyll in plants. Chlorophyll is the green part of leaves and stalks that capture light energy and is used to make sugar for the plant through photosynthesis.
– Phosphorus (P): All plants need a strong root system to support everything above ground and phosphorus is needed to achieve this. Therefore, it provides nourishment for developing root systems. In mature plants it helps with reproduction. Although nitrogen is essential for leaf growth and therefore photosynthetic, ie to drive a plant, phosphorus is essential in the distribution and storage of that fuel, in the form of sugar and starch.
– Potassium (K) (a.k.a. potash): This is normally associated with good flowering and fruit. For example, if you grow tomatoes in the garden, it is always recommended to use a high potassium feed. Obviously, many houseplants do not produce flowers and those that do, not on a scale that tomatoes do, but the principle is the same. In addition, potassium also improves the resistance of plants to diseases.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are known as the three macronutrients and are found in almost all packaged fertilizers because they are needed in relatively large quantities.
The following are needed in smaller quantities and the average plant owner need not worry too much about them (but we cover the lack of micronutrients in a later guide):
– Sulfur, calcium, magnesium, live, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
What’s in the bottle / box / tube?
Finally the good stuff! Sorry for some of the detail above, we could have just jumped right into this, but part of being a good gardener and owner of a house plant is being self-sufficient. Hopefully if you understand some of the science behind that little bottle of fertilizer, you can see what you do each time you use it in a different light.
Almost all houseplants that are suitable fertilizers come with a label on the one that lets you in, listed in the following order: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, you can also see it written as NPK. You see all this in a relationship i.e .: 10-4-2 for example, indicates 10 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorus and 2 percent potassium.
We already know from the above section how our plants will use these elements, so all that remains is to know which one to pick up from the store. This is very simple as most houseplants are quite happy with a fertilizer for all purposes. Most fertilizer companies know this, so what’s in each product is generally the same. Which means it’s just about picking it up with your favorite brand on the label. Mostly.
To add variety, the fertilizer will come in different forms, choose the one that suits you best:
– Ready to use liquid: You just have to follow the directions by pouring a few drops into your watering can and that’s it.
– PULVERULENT: Like the liquid variety, the instructions and spoon pile follow what is needed in your watering can, stirring and removing.
– Slow-release sticks / tablets: If you really can’t be bothered with fertilizing every couple of weeks or months, these may be for you. You only shoot those instructed in the soil and they gradually break down and slowly release the fertilizer inside. You have less control if you use this method but they are good for convenience. The disadvantage is that they tend not to be good value for money.
Perhaps the most asked and most important issue of them all. It is best to check your plant needs in our plant hub and go from there. If that doesn’t help, the rule of thumb is to follow: Feed to half strength every three or four weeks when your seedling is actively growing.
Remember most plants Never need excessive fertilizers to do well. The majority do not grow extremely rapidly, and even those who do so do not produce pulp and growth masses. House plants are not garden plants, where the latter can get crazy amounts of growth for a very short period and therefore need significantly more nutrients.
Does fertilizer mean faster and better growth?
The answer to this is No. When a child is born or someone starts bodybuilding, he or she needs more food than usual to drive his or her rapid growth. If you give him or her more food then they actually need it, then you end up with fat.
This is pretty much the same for plants. Although there is no such thing as an overweight plant, they may suffer from bad effects such as distorted growth or just die on you. Provides fertilizers in every way when the plant is actively growing, but proceed cautiously. Less is more.
If you remember anything from this article, remember this: Constant excessive amounts of fertilizer do not make your plant grow faster or larger. It will only kill it.