Do you have a difficult time keeping your houseplants alive? Rest assured that you are not alone!
There could be dozens of speculations that contribute to the lack of growth and bloom in your plants, such as under-watering, over-watering, excess sunlight, or insufficient sunlight. However, to keep your houseplants well-fed is not one of them.
By including well-trusted fertilizer in your plant watering routine, you can boost your houseplants’ growth by providing the essential nutrients they need to bloom. Additionally, the
fertilizer for houseplants will keep each part of the plant from roots to leaves healthy and protected from pests and insects.
Let us explore the realm of best fertilizers for houseplants. This article will discuss the usage and types of fertilizers for houseplants and provide you with the best fertilizers you need to boost your plants like never before.
Table of Contents
What Is The Best Time To Fertilize The Houseplants?
Houseplants will fade and wither when they require water. The leaves will grow pale when they are not exposed to enough sunlight. And when there is low humidity, they might turn hard. However, you may never know if it’s the best time to fertilize your houseplant as there are no clear signs.
Therefore, instead of waiting for decay signs, you have to plan a fertilizer schedule according to their growth cycle. Given below is the schedule which is typical for most houseplants.
Fertilizer Schedule for Houseplants
With the season, the requirement of fertilizing your houseplants also changes. Therefore, you should alter the fertilizing applications according to the season and your plant’s growing stages.
Summer Fertilizing Schedule For Houseplants
During summers, houseplants are more active as they receive sufficient exposure to sunlight. Therefore, you need to shift to a repetitive routine for houseplant fertilization.
Firstly, focus on what type of houseplant fertilizer you are using. For instance, if you use liquid fertilizer, you can repeatedly apply it, like monthly or weekly. However, in the case of granular fertilizer, you should use it once in two months.
The slow-release filters break down slowly to release nutrients further in small amounts. Therefore, one application of slow-release fertilizer can last for 3-4 months.
Spring Fertilizing Schedule For Houseplants
During the spring season, it would help if you began fertilizing your houseplants eight weeks prior to the last estimated spring frost. That means you should start the application in mid-March for the optimum results. During this time, the days are long, and the houseplants will transform from a semi-dormant state into an active growing stage.
For granular fertilizer, apply half the amount as directed on the instruction label. And for liquid fertilizer, mix the fertilizer to half its strength. As the fertilizer only feeds the plants when they are ready for active growth, the plants do not require an enormous amount of nutrients from fertilizers.
Winter Fertilizing Schedule For Houseplants
Houseplants should not be fertilized during the winter season, as they are not in a state of active growth. Precisely speaking, the houseplants are inactive in winter.
If you fertilize the houseplants during winter, the fertilizer can turn the leaf tips into brown color and burn your plants.
Autumn Fertilizing Schedule For Houseplants
Fertilize your plants eight weeks prior to the first expected fall frost. After that, you should gradually stop the fertilization and tapper off the frequency.
The best time is from mid-August, apply half the amount of fertilizer, and extend the time between fertilization up to 3-4 applications, which will lead to the beginning of winter.
Two Exclusions To The Schedule
- You can continue following the summer fertilization schedule in a tropical climate as the weather is warm throughout the year.
- You can fertilize even in winters if you live in a climate which does not receive estimated winter frost. However, apply it half the frequency and strength of summer applications.
What Are The Nutrients Required For Essential Growth Of Houseplants?
Soil is home to essential nutrients required by plants for active growth and development. However, the plants require three primary nutrients in high amounts, including, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). The three nutrients make up the NPK ratio.
Other secondary nutrients that are essential for plant health are magnesium, sulphur, and calcium. Additionally, houseplants require small quantities of zinc, manganese, copper, molybdenum, boron, and iron. They are known as traces and play an essential role in plant growth.
Let us discuss the essential nutrients required by houseplants in detail.
Nitrogen is one of the essential nutrients responsible for plant growth. It is found in plant proteins, hormones, cells, and chlorophyll.
The source of soil nitrogen is atmospheric nitrogen. Many plants, like legumes, stick the atmospheric nitrogen on their roots. However, fertilizer factories use atmospheric nitrogen to make ammonium nitrate, urea, and ammonium sulfate. When applied to the soil, the nitrogen converts into nitrate for the plants to absorb.
Potassium aims to improve the overall strength and health of the plant. It enhances the plant’s ability to handle extreme temperatures and also eases the stress from drought. Additionally, it helps the plants to resist diseases.
Plants require phosphorus in large amounts for root development and growth. Flowers with a sufficient phosphorus quantity will result in more blooms, and the fruits will ripe faster.
Calcium promotes the growth of young shoots and roots and is essential for plant vigor. On top of that, it supports the cell wall building of the plants.
As calcium is immobile, the plant cannot transfer the nutrient to the area affected by the deficiency. Therefore, you need external calcium sources such as Dolomite, lime, superphosphate, and gypsum to make up for the deficiencies.
Sulphur is essential to maintain the dark green color of the plants, which enhances the vigorous growth. In addition, it is a crucial nutrient after phosphorus, which is required to manufacture chlorophyll.
Magnesium aids the plants in nutrients uptakes and seed formation. As it is present in the chlorophyll, it is also responsible for the houseplants’ dark green color. Plus, it can convert sunlight into food for plants.
What Are The Different Ways To Apply Fertilizer?
Soil does not always contain sufficient nutrients as most of the nutrients are already exhausted by plants. Therefore, you need the best fertilizers for houseplants to retain their active growth and liveliness.
Once you have got your fertilizer, it is time to apply. However, there are not one but many ways to apply the fertilizer.
In this process, you will directly apply the fertilizer to the soil so that the plant’s roots take up the essential nutrients required for their growth.
You can use a dry mix or liquid fertilizer to dissolve in a water-based solution to saturate the soil and control the dosage eventually. Dilute about half the formula’s strength as you do not want to burn your plants with over-feeding.
To avoid shocking your plants with high concentration, make sure you water the soil before applying fertilizer. It is necessary because if the soil is dry, the plants will extract the moisture and overfeed themselves with fertilizer.
The second method to fertilize houseplants is to spray the fertilizer directly on the leaves. Foliar feeding enhances high nutrient intake as compared to soil fertilization.
Things to know about Foliar Feeding:
- You should experiment with foliar feeding after dusk and before dawn. During this time, the leaf stomata are open.
- The absorbing stomata are beneath the leaf so ensure that the fertilizer reaches the place properly.
- Ensure there is a good amount of airflow around the leaves to prevent moisture-related problems and the growth of fungus.
- Use a sprayer that delivers a fine mist that allows better absorption.
- Always fertilize leaves before the temperature reaches more than 72 degrees as the heat results in the closure of stomata in some houseplants.
Mistakes To Avoid While Fertilizing Houseplants
Fertilization can be simple for some and challenging for others. If this is your first time, you should be careful while following the instruction and its application.
To help you out, we will guide you through the possible mistakes you can make while fertilization and how to avoid them.
It is common to over-fertilize your houseplants. In order to enrich your plants with nutrients, you unintentionally overfeed them. However, plants can only handle the required amount at once.
Here is how you over-fertilize your houseplants:
- Continue to fertilize during dormancy
- Poor soil drainage leaves the fertilizer residue in the soil
- Extreme use of slow-release fertilizers
- Applying a different combination of fertilizers
Over-fertilization leads to yellow leaves, and excess salt build-up from fertilizers can weaken the plant roots.
The first thing you can do is to moderate your fertilization process. Besides diluting the fertilizer, try to avoid feeding your plants that have slow-release fertilizer in the soil.
Flushing the soil is another practice for plant maintenance. The process is quite simple: all you have to do is pour the water over the soil until it flows down to the drainage holes. Repeat the step multiple times and allow the soil to drain in between.
Under-fertilization is not as common as over-fertilization. However, you can rule out the signs of under-fertilization if the plant shows weak stems and pale leaves.
Other signs of under-fertilization are visible on older leaves that appear yellow or drained. Also, the plant may appear to be stunted and indicate slow growth. An under-fertilized household plant cannot resist pathogens.
The symptoms are due to a lack of essential nutrients in the plants resulting in nutrient deficiency.
If the plant has begun to flower but struggles to bloom, try providing potassium and phosphorus to give your plant an extra boost. However, make sure that you also include other elements, such as calcium, sulphur, and magnesium.
Under-fertilization can be easily solved by providing your plants with enough nutrients to make up for the deficiency.
How Often Should You Fertilize Your Houseplant?
The frequency of the fertilizer application depends on several factors, which includes:
According To The Season
Summer and Spring are considered as the growing season where the houseplants require regular fertilization. However, the frequency of application entirely depends on the plant’s growth rate. Some houseplants have an intense growth rate and require fertilizing after every 2 weeks, while plants with a slow growth rate need fertilizing every 3-4 months.
According To The Fertilizer
In most cases, the quantity of fertilizer your plants require depends on the type of fertilizer used. The instructions are provided on the label indicating how much and how often you should fertilize the plants.
Granular fertilizers can be used more often than it is directed on the product. You can even use the fertilizer once every two weeks. That is because; granular fertilizers are quick to release in the soil. As soon as the plants absorb the fertilizer, the soil is ready to receive more.
The slow-release fertilizers should be applied only as directed on the instruction label. As they slowly release nutrients in the soil, they can last for more than two months after one application.
In the case of liquid fertilizers, you can add them as regularly as you water the plants. However, it also depends on the size and growth of your plant.
What Are The Different Type Of Fertilizers?
Before you start fertilizing, it is crucial to know the different types of fertilizers and which one will improve your houseplant’s overall growth.
The best fertilizers for houseplants is divided into two categories: Organic and Synthetic Fertilizers.
Organic fertilizers are made from animals and plants, including fish emulsion, worm castings, bone meal, kelp, and compost. They provide a wide variety of nutrition to plants to enhance their growth.
In addition to nutrients, they can also feed beneficial bacterial to help the plants in nutrients absorption. With organic fertilizers, there are low chances of overdose as the NPK offers a lower concentration.
Processed in laboratories, synthetic fertilizers are available in the ready-to-apply form. With synthetic fertilizers, you will know the exact percentage you are getting to prepare the dose accordingly.
Another thing is that they are quick-releasing fertilizers, which provide an instant boost to your houseplants.
Different Forms Of Houseplant Fertilizers
Both Organic and Synthetic Fertilizers come in different varieties, including liquids, slow-release, granular, sticks, and tablet forms. Among all of them, liquid and slow-release fertilizers are best suited for houseplants.
Sticks and pills fertilizers are also convenient, but they do not distribute the nutrients evenly in the soil.
Before making a decision, let us take a look at each category of fertilizer in detail.
The liquid fertilizers include ammoniates, anhydrous liquid ammonia, aqueous ammonia, and nitrogenous fertilizers. They are convenient and necessary for houseplant fertilizers. They are helpful as they can provide a steady supply of nutrients to the plants, which you can control.
During winters, you can easily stop the feeding when the houseplants become dormant and increase the feeding when your plant is ready for new growth.
Granular Fertilizers are available in two different formulations: granular and loose pellets and other as compressed fertilizer spikes.
With pelletized granular fertilizers, you need to distribute them on the soil’s surface evenly. Whereas with compressed fertilizer spikes, you need to push the spikes down into the soil to come in contact with the roots.
The best thing is that the pelletized and compressed granular fertilizers are comprised of natural components. The components are worm casting, limestone, bone meal, rock phosphate, sulfate of potash, animal and plant-based ingredients.
As the name suggests, the slow-release fertilizers release a steady and small amount of nutrients into the plants’ soil to absorb over time.
Slow-release nutrients are organic as the nutrients naturally break down and decompose. You can use them for both outdoor and indoor plants. Moreover, the fertilizers are generally coated in time-release shells, which slowly release the nutrients.
Best Fertilizers For Houseplants – Reviews
Now that you have gained enough knowledge about the fertilizers for houseplants, it is time to read our best products’ detailed reviews. After reading the reviews, we hope you will select the best fertilizer for houseplants that meet your requirements.
NPK Ratio: 4-2-4
Houseplants add life to your bedroom, living room, or any room in the home or office, for that matter. However, to keep them in healthy condition for a longer period, you need to care for them, and Easy Peasy Liquid Indoor Plant Food takes care of the plant’s nutrition.
In an 8 oz bottle, the fertilizer contains long-lasting NPK liquid nutrient formula. The sulphur nutrient works faster than regular plant foods and fertilizer spikes. The 4-2-4 houseplant food concentrate promotes the growth of small plants.
The nitrogen quantity is sufficient enough to boost bright colored new leaves. At the same time, potassium helps in flowering for about two years, and phosphorus will enhance the root growth and protect the plant from root rot.
- Promotes colorful blooms and leaf growth
- Specific NPK ratio with added sulphur to promote better nutrient intake
- High concentrate helps to reduce the use of plastic bottles
- Easy to follow instructions
- An excess amount can burn your houseplants
NPK Ratio: 9-3-6
Instead of growing plants in the yard or garden, grow them inside your apartment. However, with such extensive choices of houseplants, you require a fertilizer that can nourish the wide variety. Perfect Plants have formulated a liquid fertilizer to provide the ideal nutrients to different house plants immediately.
With Liquid fertilizer, the key benefit is that it rapidly penetrates into the soil. As the fertilizer is already liquid, the roots can absorb the nutrients instantly.
You can simply add the liquid fertilizer into your regular watering can to increase your plants’ overall growth and health. Immediate nourishment is the key to promote healthy foliage and tough roots.
Being a liquid fertilizer, it is straightforward to use to avoid over-fertilizing and overwatering the plants. You can control the exact amount of nutrients which is required by your houseplants.
- Promotes vibrant growth and healthy plants
- Can be used for a variety of houseplants
- Comes with a concentrated mix
- Re-sealable bottle keeps the effectiveness intact
- Should not be applied during winters
NPK Ratio: 13-5-5
Keeping your houseplants healthy has never been easier than with Jobe’s Houseplant Indoor Fertilizer Spikes. With the right amount of nutrients, the houseplants will thrive in any given condition.
The fertilizer spikes offer a continuous release of essential nutrients to the plant’s roots. This is where the plants require nutrients the most, and it spreads all the way up to the leaves. Its one-time application can last for about eight weeks.
Comes with pre-measured concentration, the formulated spikes can be directly inserted into the soil around the plant. Unlike other granular or liquid fertilizers, the Jobe’s Houseplant Spikes helps eliminate smells, hazards, and mess. Moreover, it cannot be washed away if you water the plants.
- Supports blooms and plant foliage
- Does not include any hazardous material
- The fertilizer is odorless
- Does not leach the nutrients upon watering
- Excess use might lead to overgrowth of the plants
NPK Ratio: 1-1-1
Some fertilizers come with complicated instructions of applications, and if misapplied, they can harm your plants. Miracle-Gro comes with ready-to-apply foam, which makes it easy and straightforward to use.
Great for all kinds of houseplants, the fertilizer contains all the necessary nutrients for their healthy growth and development. You need to pump the fertilizer twice a week on small plants and five times on large plants and water as usual for best results.
If you are new at gardening, this is the best fertilizer to start with as it does not involve measuring or mixing. Just simply apply the foam directly to the soil, and your plants will grow to their full potential.
- Feeds all the indoor houseplants instantly
- Can be used on edibles, cacti, and succulents
- The foam dissolves into the soil as you water
- Easy-to-apply formula
- Overuse can kill or burn your houseplants
NPK Ratio: 3-1-2
It doesn’t matter if your houseplants are placed in a pot, hanger, or a holder; the All-Purpose Fertilizer formula can provide nutrition to plants anywhere at any time. Promoting healthy and robust growth, the fertilizer eliminates plants’ wilting more efficiently than granules or pellets.
Use a teaspoon of liquid for every 2 cups of water to provide your plants with sufficient phosphorus, nitrogen, and vitamins. They are necessary for better production of roots and leaves. With an 8 oz bottle, the fertilizer can last for a year.
The durability of the fertilizer is another excellent feature. You can use it on virtually every indoor herb, including orchids, cactus, mums, daisies, Gerbera, poinsettias, and African violets.
- Feed any type of houseplants
- A small quantity can boost plant growth
- The bottle can last for about a year
- Revives dying plants
- Fertilizer is gentle on your plants
- Not suitable for starting seeds
NPK Ratio: 15-9-12
Osmocote Plant Food works perfectly in different growing conditions and plant varieties, making it an all-in-one solution for all professional and beginner gardeners. Comes in granular form, the smart-release plant food is ideally formulated for various houseplants.
Strengthened with eleven necessary nutrients, it can be applied indoors as well as outdoors for thriving growth required in different growing conditions of the plant. Additionally, the granules are generally coated with resin that steadily releases the nutrients as you water the plants.
Another best thing about plant food is that its one-time application lasts for over six months. Moreover, the application is relatively simple. You can measure the desired amount with a measuring scoop. One scoop of plant food is sufficient for two gallons of water to cover four sq. ft. area.
If you apply the fertilizer as instructed, it will result in the exceptional growth of plants’ roots and leaves. For that, you need to mix the granules into the top 3 inch layers of soil and water the plants as usual.
- Stimulated with 11 essential nutrients
- Feeds for about six months after one application
- Does not burn the plants
- Works well for indoor and outdoor plants
- Can damage the plants if not applied as instructed
NPK Ratio: 2-2-2
Easy to use organic and natural fertilizer, Espoma Organic Indoor Plant Food is equipped with essential microbes to provide exceptional results. The natural formula enhances the vigorous, healthy, and vibrant growth of the plants.
The application process of the fertilizer is relatively straightforward. You have to shake the container and turn it downwards by ensuring that the lid is closed. After that, turn the container upright, remove the lid, and you can use the pre-measured dose on the plants.
The blend is enriched with humic acids, beneficial microbes, and kelp extracts. Moreover, the liquefied nature of the mixture ensures instant availability of nutrients to the houseplants through leaves.
If you are more inclined towards organic gardening, this natural plant food is the best choice for you.
- Pure organic food
- Easy to use and apply
- Boost your plant growth
- Liquid formula with readily available nutrients
- Release intense smell when applied
NPK Ratio: 3-1-2
Houseplants require a steady supply of nutrients to grow in their healthiest forms. Specially made for a houseplant, All-purpose Ready-to-Use Fertilizer can guide your plants to live a long-lasting and nourishing life.
Comes with a pre-mixed formula, the plant food requires no mixing as you can simply add the food into the watering can to apply on your houseplants. Let your houseplants boost steady growth, a healthy root system, and green leaves with All-Purpose fertilizer.
Created to be gentle on your plants, you can use the Indoor Plant Food every time you water your plants. It will not burn or harm your plants in any situation. Moreover, your plants will receive a steady supply of nutrients without being shaken by solid fertilizers or harsh concentrates.
The Plant Food contains the micro-nutrients which promote healthy growth and protect the plants. Additionally, it is perfect for all types of houseplants, including Spider Plant, Peace Lily, Aloe Vera, Cast-iron plant, Cactus, and many more.
- Contains no harmful chemicals or urea
- Ready-to-use fertilizer
- Gentle on all the houseplants
- Delivers a steady supply of nutrients
- It might not effectively work on Chinese evergreens
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can You Use Coffee Grounds For Houseplants?
Yes, you can use coffee grounds to fertilize houseplants. However, it is best to make compost first rather than directly applying them to the soil. Direct application can result in extreme moisture retention, impair plant growth, and fungal overgrowth.
2. Can You Use Used Tea Bags To Fertilize Plants?
Yes, composting tea bags is an environment-friendly disposal method and excellent for the plant’s overall health. It provides organic matter, which increases drainage and oxygen levels, maintains moisture and soil structure for the beautiful growth of your plant.
3. Can You Use Banana Peels To Fertilize Your Plants?
Banana Peels are suitable for plants as they contain 42 % potassium, among the major nutrients required by plants. Potassium helps the plants move water and nutrients between the cells and strengthens the plant’s stems.
You can cut the banana peels into small portions to mix with the potting soil and apply them to the soil, or you can directly lay banana peels on the soil. The banana peel will decompose while releasing essential nutrients for the houseplants.
4. Is There Any Harm To Use Baking Soda For Houseplants?
Baking soda does not cause any harm as it helps to eliminate the growth of fungal spores on the houseplants. Also, regular applications can minimize the bloom of foliar or powdery mildew during Spring.
5. Can You Use Sugar Water For Plants?
When you add sugar water to the plant, it will manipulate the plant’s ability to absorb water. In some cases, it is helpful when the plant is dying. However, if you add sugar water to a healthy plant, it will not accept the water and die.
6. Do You Need To Water Plants Before Applying Fertilizer?
You should water your plants a day before applying fertilizer. If you apply fertilizer when the soil is dry, it can burn your plant roots.
Houseplants can bring liveliness and positivity wherever you place them. Therefore, to keep their spirits alive, you need to take care of their nutritional requirements. Only sunlight and water cannot fulfill the nutritional requirements; you need a fertilizer for houseplants.
The best fertilizer for houseplants contains the proper balance of nutrients and minerals to ensure that your plants have lush foliage, beautiful flowers, and healthy roots. Therefore, choose the best fertilizer from our selected products and boost your houseplants to live more beautifully as time goes.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.