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Feeding Your Houseplants

Wondering what kind of fertilizer your houseplants need?

Most people think that when you water your plant you are feeding it. That is simply not the case; plants need food just like us! If you haven't fed your plants before or haven't fed your plants in a long time, this is the post for you!

When To Fertilize Your Houseplants

Many houseplants go into dormancy in the winter time because of less sunlight and shorter days. Different houseplants will go into different levels of dormancy. For example, Alocasias may drop all of their leaves during dormancy while Pothos might only grow a little slower during dormancy. These cycles of plant growth and seasons can tell us when we should be feeding, or fertilizing, or plants.

During the beginning of Spring and throughout the summer, plants start breaking dormancy and growth will start to significantly pick up. This is when your plants would appreciate a little extra food to help them grow big and strong for the warmer weather.

When the weather starts to warm up you should start feeding your plants once every 2-3 weeks. You want to be careful with over fertilizing, as this could burn their leaves because of the excess nutrients that they are getting. When you start regularly fertilizing, you will notice the huge increase of growth in your plant and almost immediately see new leaves and a stringer thicker root system. Fertilizing can even encourage some plants to grow flowers. Flowering houseplants are always such a treat!

Types Of Fertilizers

What fertilizers should you be using? There are all kinds of ways to feed your plant--here are a few options:

  • Liquid fertilizers: I personally recommend liquid fertilizers that include fish emulsion, liquid kelp, and other extra minerals. There will be directions on how to dilute the liquid fertilizer in water before feeding it to your plant.

  • Compost: This is a great, well-rounded, nutritious food for plants. Locally made compost can be found for free or low-cost throughout NYC, and is often organic. You just need to sprinkle an inch or so on top of your potted plants.

  • Kitchen scraps: If you want to get creative, you can start using some of your kitchen waste to help restore your plant's nutrients. You can use things like coffee grounds (note: this will add a lot of acidity so do research on what your plant needs), pasta water, and steamed vegetable water (make sure the water is room temp!). Boiling banana peels or eggs also creates enriched water that is good for plants. These items all contain excellent minerals and properties that you can give to your plants to help them grow.

Fertilizer Numbers

When you purchase a store bought fertilizer you will notice 3 bold numbers on the back of your product (for example, 10-10-10). These 3 numbers are the measurements of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the fertilizer, in that order. Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are essential elements that your plants needs for proper growth.

A great way to remember the order of the elements in the fertilizers is by remembering the acronym NPK. Nitrogen is essential for plants to produce nice healthy leaves and stems. Phosphorous is important for developing the plants root system, flowers, and fruits. Lastly, potassium (chemical symbol "K") is required for the plants roots, flowers, and fruits to stay healthy.

Based on certain symptoms that your plant is exhibiting, you can pick a fertilizer that will help to fix the current issue your plant is facing. For example, your houseplant might be developing chlorosis, which is when a plants leaves yellow from the veins. Now knowing about the purpose of NPK, you would know that you would need a fertilizer with a higher amount of nitrogen to help the leaves (ex: 12-10-10 or 8-5-5). A plant nutrient deficiency chart could be really helpful to pinpoint what your plant is dealing with so you can properly amend the soil. If your plant is not showing any abnormal health issues than you are still highly encouraged to fertilize your plant to prevent any issues in the future with a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10.

Overall, fertilizing your houseplant will make it a healthier, stronger, and happier plant that you can enjoy. Happy growing!

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