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How And When To Fertilize Succulents

8 min read

How And When To Fertilize Succulents


Succulents are special houseplants with incredibly diverse and exotic appearance. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and their forms can be downright unique and fascinating. Some succulents look like little animals or miniature trees, while others resemble rocks or even works of art. Their low-maintenance nature is a big part of their charm. Unlike some other plants, succulents don't demand constant attention. They thrive in conditions where you can ease up on the watering, skip the heavy feeding, and don't need to fuss over specialized, nutrient-rich soil. Plus, they're not picky about humidity levels, making them ideal for a wide range of environments. It's like having a beautiful green friend that's perfectly content to just chill out and look fabulous with minimal effort on your part.

Fertilizer And Plant Health

Fertilizers play a crucial role in the cultivation of plants, providing essential nutrients vital for their growth and vitality. These nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, along with micronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and iron, are absorbed by plants through their root systems. They are then distributed throughout the plant, supporting various physiological processes necessary for healthy development.

In both agricultural settings and home gardening, fertilizers are utilized to enhance soil fertility and promote robust growth. By supplementing the soil with important nutrients, fertilizers ensure that plants have access to everything they need to thrive. This is particularly important in indoor environments or gardens with nutrient-deficient soil.

However, it's essential to use fertilizers correctly, as overapplication can lead to soil pollution and adverse effects on both plants and the environment. their plants while minimizing environmental impact

Benefit Of Fertilizer

While some nutrients are naturally present in the soil, they quickly become depleted as the plant consumes them. This is especially true in indoor environments, where the amount of soil available to a plant is limited. In these situations, it becomes necessary to supplement the soil with additional nutrients through fertilization. Fertilization can provide plants with the essential macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and micronutrients (calcium, magnesium, iron, and others) they need to grow and maintain their health.

Nitrogen is one of the most important macronutrients for plant growth, helping with the production of chlorophyll and the formation of healthy foliage. Phosphorus helps with root development, the transfer of energy within the plant, and with blooming, while potassium is essential for overall plant health and reproduction.

In addition to macronutrients, micronutrients are also essential for healthy plant growth. Calcium, for instance, helps with cell wall development, while magnesium is important for the production of chlorophyll. Iron is needed for photosynthesis, and zinc contributes to plant growth and disease resistance.

Fertilizers are formulated to supplement the soil with these essential nutrients, ensuring that they are available to the plant in the correct amounts and ratios. The composition of a fertilizer can vary, depending on the type of plant being grown and the specific nutrient requirements of that plant.

Without proper fertilization, plants may experience stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and weakened immunity to pests and diseases. Over time, the soil can become depleted of essential nutrients, making it difficult for the plant to thrive. Regular fertilization is, therefore, essential to ensure that plants have access to the nutrients they need to maintain their health.

Types Of Fertilizer

Fertilizers can be organic or inorganic, depending on their source. Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources such as animal manure, compost, and plant residues, while inorganic fertilizers are typically manufactured from chemical compounds.

Compostis a nutrient-rich organic material that is made by decomposing organic matter such as kitchen scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. To use compost as a fertilizer for your houseplants, you can mix it into the soil before planting or top-dress the soil with a layer of compost. It’s important to make sure that the compost is fully decomposed. Compost can also be used to make compost tea, a liquid fertilizer made by steeping compost in water.

On the other hand, commercial fertilizers are usually made from a combination of synthetic or organic materials and are formulated to provide specific nutrients to plants. Commercial fertilizers are typically labeled with the NPK ratio, which indicates the percentage of each nutrient in the fertilizer. For example, a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. Commercial fertilizers are available in a variety of forms, including liquid, granular, and slow-release. Liquid fertilizers are often the most popular choice for indoor plants because they are easy to use and are quickly absorbed by the plant roots. They usually come in concentrated form and need to be mixed with water before application. Liquid fertilizers should be applied more frequently than granular or slow-release fertilizers. Granular fertilizers are dry and come in small pellets or crystals that are sprinkled on top of the soil. They release their nutrients slowly over time, usually with each watering. Granular fertilizers are convenient because they don't require frequent applications like liquid fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers are similar to granular fertilizers, but they release their nutrients over a longer period. They are typically mixed into the soil or added to the bottom of the planting hole before planting. Slow-release fertilizers can be a good choice if you don't want to fertilize your plants frequently or if you're worried about over-fertilizing.

Do Succulents Need Fertilizer?

Succulents are not heavy feeders. Many succulents are growing in sandy soil without fertilizer. However, while succulents can thrive in nutrient-poor soils, they can benefit from occasional fertilization. Fertilizing succulents can help promote healthy growth, vibrant foliage, and encourage blooming in flowering varieties. However, it's essential to use fertilizer sparingly and follow proper guidelines to avoid overfeeding, which can lead to problems such as leaf burn or excessive growth.

In general, succulents grown outdoors in garden beds or containers may require less frequent fertilization compared to indoor succulents due to the nutrient-rich conditions provided by natural rainfall and soil decomposition. Outdoor succulents can often obtain sufficient nutrients from the surrounding environment.

Indoor succulents, on the other hand, may benefit from occasional fertilization to supplement the limited nutrients available in potting soil. When fertilizing indoor succulents, it's crucial to use a diluted fertilizer solution and apply it sparingly, typically during the active growing season in spring and summer. Avoid fertilizing during the dormant period in fall and winter when succulents require less water and nutrients.

When Is The Best Time To Fertilize Succulents?

Fertilizing succulents should be done during their active growing season, which typically occurs in spring and summer. This is the time when succulents are bustling with energy, sprouting new leaves and expanding their root systems. Providing them with the right balance of nutrients during this period can significantly boost their growth and overall health. As a general rule of thumb, it's recommended to fertilize your succulents once a month throughout the growing season. This regular feeding helps ensure that they have access to the essential nutrients they need to thrive.

It's important to refrain from fertilizing succulents during their dormant period, typically in fall and winter. During dormancy, succulents enter a state of rest, slowing down their growth and conserving energy. As a result, their nutrient requirements decrease significantly. Fertilizing them during this time can lead to an accumulation of unused nutrients in the soil, which may have adverse effects on the plants' health. To avoid this, it's best to withhold fertilizer until the succulents emerge from dormancy and resume their active growth in the spring. By adhering to this fertilizing schedule, you can help ensure that your succulents receive the optimal care they need to thrive year-round.

How To Fertilize Succulents

1. Fertilizing Succulents With Compost And Compost Tea

Fertilizing succulents with compost, compost tea, and organic fertilizer is a fantastic way to provide them with the nutrients they need to thrive while maintaining their natural, eco-friendly environment.  Start by preparing your compost using a mixture of organic materials such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, and shredded paper. Once your compost is ready, apply a thin layer (about half an inch) around the base of your succulents, taking care not to cover the leaves or stems. Gently work the compost into the top layer of soil using a small hand rake or your fingers, being careful not to disturb the roots. Water the soil lightly to help the compost settle in and start breaking down, releasing nutrients gradually to the succulents. Please note that exposure to sunlight and high temperatures can promote the growth of harmful bacteria and algae in compost. Store your compost in a cool, dark place, such as a shaded corner of your garage or a refrigerator, to slow down microbial activity and prolong its shelf life.

To make compost tea, simply steep a handful of well-aged compost in a bucket of water for a few days. Stir the mixture occasionally to help release the nutrients into the water. Once the water has turned a rich, brown color and has a faint earthy smell, it's ready to use. Strain out the solids and pour the compost tea directly onto the soil around your succulents, avoiding wetting the leaves. Repeat this process every few weeks during the growing season to provide a steady supply of nutrients to your succulents. Compost tea contains beneficial microorganisms that require oxygen to survive. To maintain their health and effectiveness, ensure that the tea remains well-aerated. This can be achieved by using a bubbler or air pump to continuously agitate the tea and introduce oxygen. For more information about making compost tea, check out our blog.

2. Fertilizing Succulents With Commercial Fertilizer

For succulents, it's best to use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents. These fertilizers are designed to provide the essential nutrients that succulents need without risking over-fertilization. Look for a fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio, such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20, which indicates the percentage of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the product.

Additionally, consider using a fertilizer that contains micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, as these elements are also important for succulent health and growth.

When fertilizing succulents, dilute the fertilizer to half the strength recommended on the package to avoid overfeeding. Apply the diluted fertilizer solution to the soil around the base of the plants, rather than directly onto the foliage, to prevent burning. It's important to fertilize succulents sparingly and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Over-fertilization can burn the roots and harm your succulents. 

Extra Tips

Not all succulents have the same fertilizer needs. Each species may have unique requirements based on their individual growth patterns and nutrient preferences. For instance, some succulents may thrive with a higher concentration of nitrogen, while others may require more phosphorus or potassium. It's essential to research the specific needs of your succulent species to provide them with the appropriate fertilizer regimen. Generally, succulents that exhibit faster growth rates often have higher fertilization needs compared to slow-growing varieties. However, be careful not to over-fertilize, as even faster-growing succulents do not require as much fertilization as other houseplants. Too much fertilizer can lead to nutrient imbalances and potential damage to the plants.

Another important tip is to water your succulents before and after fertilization. By hydrating the soil first, you help prevent root burn, a condition that occurs when concentrated fertilizer comes into direct contact with dry roots, potentially causing damage. Moreover, watering your succulents after fertilization helps to flush out excess salts from the soil, preventing them from accumulating and causing damage to the plant's roots. 

Additionally, monitoring your succulents closely is key to ensuring they receive the right amount of nutrients. Keep an eye out for any signs of nutrient deficiencies or excesses, like yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or unusual discoloration. These indicators can help you fine-tune your fertilization routine to meet your plants' specific needs.

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