Houseplants can benefit from regular feeding. Here are tips & recommendations for fertilizing indoor plants to keep them healthy & growing.
Are you a houseplant lover like me? If you are, then you’re in the right place! Even if you only have 2 or 3 houseplants, at some point they’ll appreciate some nourishment. Fertilizing indoor plants keeps them healthy and helps them to grow strong.
I lived on the California coast for 30 years and now live in the Arizona Desert. The higher humidity and even temperatures on the coast are a more desirable growing climate for houseplants. The outdoor humidity here in Tucson is often below 15% (subtropical & tropical houseplants prefer it above 50%) and the air conditioning in our homes dries out the air even more.
I didn’t have nearly as many houseplants in San Francisco and Santa Barbara as I do now. I never used fertilizer then but did feed them yearly with worm compost and compost.
Now that my houseplant collection has grown by leaps, I decided to start a fertilizer regime to up the ante on the nourishment factor to make it easier on my green babies and show them some love in this hot, dry climate. I want to share all of this with you in case you’re searching for a method to feed yours.
Best time of year for fertilizing indoor plants
Spring and summer are the best. If you live in a climate with warmer winters like I do, into early fall is fine too.
I stop fertilizing my plants in mid to end October because plants are not actively growing at that time. They need their rest in the cooler, darker months.
How often to fertilize/feed indoor plants
I apply the worm compost/compost at the end of March. 1 application per year does it.
I use the other 2 foods once a month starting in April and end the process in October. One month I’ll use Maxsea, the next month Eleanor’s, and the next Maxsea, etc.
Many of the houseplant fertilizers say you can feed with every watering but I feel once a month for 7 months is enough.
See how I feed my houseplants!
3 Ways to Fertilize Houseplants
This is the way I’ve fed my houseplants for years. I now use a locally produced worm compost as well as a local compost. Both are organic and provide beneficial micro-organisms to increase microbial activity in the soil.
They work in symbiosis with plant roots to provide mineralization, make plants stronger, and to add to the overall health. Just like a healthy microbiome is good for we humans, it’s good for the soil too.
For a 6″ grow pot, I apply a 1/4″ layer of the worm compost with a 1/4″ layer of compost over that. For a 14″ grow pot, I apply a 1/2 – 1″ layer of each. Easy does it, even though this is a natural way to feed houseplants, you can still overdo it.
Apply the worm compost/compost duo in early spring when the weather is warming. 1 application per year does it.
This has been on the market for many years and has a following. It’s a non-burning formula (many commercial fertilizers can cause root burn) which can feed the foliage as well as the roots.
It was formulated to provide a mineral balance that the plants need for growth. It’s good to know that all the vital nutrients and key elements in this are easily absorbed by the plants.
This is off their website: “By providing key elements for facilitated absorption, while simultaneously minimizing ion antagonism, Eleanors VF-11 works in concert with nature. All of our products utilize this formula: sustainable growth. Our mission is to return our soil back to its roots”.
As I say, happy soil, happy plants!
This is another popular plant food, which I’d never used up until 10 months ago. My friend in San Francisco has used this for many years and swears by it.
It’s a balanced seaweed formula with over 60 recognized elements all of which are beneficial to plants. It benefits the foliage and to promote strong, vigorous growth.
It’s a balanced formula (16-16-16) which are the 3 primary nutrients plants like. In a nutshell, the 1st is Nitrogen for foliage, followed by Phosphorous for roots and flowering, and Potassium for overall functioning (also good for flowering).
Tips for fertilizing indoor plants
Don’t overdo it
Fertilizers can burn the roots of plants if the concentration is too strong or you apply it too often. In the garden, salts leach out of the soil easier than in a small grow pot.
For example; if your houseplant is looking sad, and the fertilizer calls for a ratio of 1 oz per gallon, don’t up to 4 oz per gallon thinking you’ll help the plant.
I routinely use fertilizers (except Eleanor’s) for indoor plants at 1/2 strength to avoid burn.
Don’t fertilize a plant that is bone dry and stressed (wilting or drooping)
Water it as you normally would and let it recover before fertilizing.
Pay attention to lighting
If your plants are in low light, fertilize them less often. The growth is slower and so is the rate at which the soil dries out.
Fertilizing Houseplants FAQS
I don’t. Plants rest in the winter and resume active growth in spring. Hence the term spring growth!
It isn’t necessary but they’d appreciate it and their overall health will be better and stronger.
This is the “Arrowhead corner” in my dining room.
Spring and summer are best in most climates.
Read what the package says. I feed my plants once a month in their active growing season.
I’m not sure if it matters. Perhaps there have been some studies on this but I haven’t read any.
I fertilize my plants in the morning or afternoon because that works for me.
Burned leaf edges (brown edges), brown or yellow leaf discoloration, the growth looks smaller, and/or the plant wilts.
If the burn isn’t too bad, you should be able to flush the salts out the soil with water. The plant may or may not recover, depending on the damage to the roots.
Whether you choose 1, 2, or all 3 of these methods of fertilizing indoor plants, they will be happier!
Here are more helpful guides for houseplant care!
- How to Water Indoor Plants
- Repotting Houseplants
- How to Clean Houseplants
- Where to Buy Indoor Plants Online
- Winter Houseplant Care
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