parlor palm with fertilizer in pot

Do I Need to Fertilize My Indoor Plants?

Everyone says the basic formula for keeping plants happy is sunlight, soil, and water. But since the sun reappears each day, and water gets replenished each week, how do you keep your soil in tip-top shape? The answer is fertilizer! However, fertilizer isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Knowing the right formula to use and how to apply it can help your plants grow noticeably bigger and brighter. 


Here’s a breakdown of what fertilizer can do for your houseplants!

To explain why fertilizer is so important, first let’s dispel a couple of myths. Now, fertilizer doesn’t necessarily “feed” your plants. Instead, it provides the right balance of minerals and other compounds so they can photosynthesize, develop strong roots and lush foliage, and in some cases, colorful blooms.

So, it’s not exactly the food that’s going to nourish your plants—it’s more like the multivitamin that helps your plants perform basic functions.

Another thing about fertilizing houseplants that’s important to keep in mind, is that if it’s used improperly, it can do more harm than good. Overfertilizing your plants, or fertilizing at the wrong time can have some pretty unfortunate side effects, like weak, spindly growth. So, before you grab the first bottle of plant fertilizer you see on the shelf, take some time to figure out what formulas will work best for your plants.

Applying fertilizer on a consistent basis is important, because on top of your plants absorbing those nutrients, watering the soil over and over again will flush them out. Some plants need to be fertilized more than others, so we recommend doing a Google search for each of your houseplants to determine the ideal fertilizing schedule. Mark the dates on your calendar with a green dot, or draw a little leaf so you’ll remember! 


cactus with watering can and fertilizer

What Kind of Fertilizer Should I Use On My Houseplants?

Different houseplants have different needs, so while there are some good all-purpose fertilizers that can be used on a multitude of common plants, it’s still good to consider all your options. To understand the basic composition of fertilizers, you’ll want to know what those 3 numbers on the front of the bag mean. These numbers, known as the NPK ratio, tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are in the formula.

Nitrogen is extremely important for all plants, because it’s essential for photosynthesis, and helps plants to grow big and green with healthy, lush foliage. Phosphorus is also important for photosynthesis, but it’s especially effective in stimulating root development, and more plentiful blooms in flowering plants. Potassium is important for overall plant health, helping defend them against diseases and pests. 

woman spraying fertilizer on houseplants

Too little nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium in the soil can cause growth problems for your plants, but too much can also cause some major issues as well. That’s why it’s important to look closely at the kind of formula you’re purchasing, and follow the application instructions carefully. It’s a good idea to get a fertilizer that’s fortified with micronutrients like magnesium and calcium, because deficiencies in these minerals can cause yellowing leaves and other nuisances.   

While an all-purpose fertilizer should give you some good results, you may find that some formulas provide better results for specific plants, like cacti and succulents, edible plants, dwarf citrus trees, or flowering houseplants like anthuriums. Synthetic fertilizers work quite effectively, but there are many all-natural formulas available that work very well, if you’d prefer to keep things organic. 


How to Fertilize Houseplants

One of the easiest ways to fertilize your houseplants is by using a slow-release, granulated fertilizer. This way, you don’t have to reapply as often, and your plants won’t get too much fertilizer all at once.

Simply sprinkle the granules across the soil surface according to the instructions on the package, and over the next few months the formula will deliver a steady supply of nutrients to your plants.

Another easy way to fertilize your houseplants is by using a water-soluble fertilizer. Follow the package instructions to make sure you dissolve the right amount of formula into the right volume of water, and water your plants with it like you normally would. 

spraying alocasia with fertilizer

When it comes to the timing and frequency of your fertilizer applications, it really depends on the plant. Most houseplants should only be fertilized during their active growing phase, which is typically from spring through early fall. If you fertilize your houseplants at the end of fall, or in winter when they’re in their dormant phase, it could totally scramble their natural processes. 

Dormancy is like a period of hibernation for plants, and they need that time to rest and recharge so they can grow faster and stronger in the summer. Fertilizing your plants during this time could trigger a growth spurt that they don’t have the energy to pull off, resulting in new growth that’s weak and tired. However, some plants, like dwarf citrus trees, are super heavy feeders and will benefit from year-round fertilization—you can just reduce the frequency of applications in winter. 


With spring on the horizon, now is the perfect time to begin fertilizing your houseplants to help kickstart all that new growth. If you’d like to get some new plants to fill out your collection, check out our full catalog to see all the latest new houseplants from Plant Decor Shop, ready to be shipped right to your door!


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