General Discussion:

should I fertilize my house plants

Messages posted to thread:

Carol18-Jan-04 08:21 PM EST 5a   
Susan19-Jan-04 04:18 AM EST 6a   
carolincalgary19-Jan-04 10:52 AM EST 3   
Carol19-Jan-04 12:09 PM EST 5a   
simon21-Jan-04 02:34 PM EST 3   
Rachel in BC22-Jan-04 12:01 PM EST 8   
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper27-Jan-04 05:26 PM EST   
Carol27-Jan-04 06:48 PM EST 5a   
Will Creed28-Jan-04 02:15 PM EST   
sarah30-Jan-04 07:59 AM EST 3   
Jude01-Feb-04 10:16 AM EST 6a   
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper01-Feb-04 02:04 PM EST   
Jude02-Feb-04 07:32 AM EST 6a   
Melanie28-Feb-04 08:30 AM EST
Will Creed, Interior Landscaper28-Feb-04 06:02 PM EST   
Wendy P29-Feb-04 03:10 PM EST   
Mindy22-Aug-04 11:51 AM EST 5b   

Subject: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 18-Jan-04 08:21 PM EST

I have a few tropical house plants, I usually fertilize them in the spring, to fall, but was wondering about the winter months? I think I heard or read somewhere not too? What should I be doing? I have a jasmine, and a fiscus benjiminia, a spider, some sort of fern, and a couple I don't know the names for. One has large dark almond shaped leaves, and produces a white heart shaped leaf like bloom, with a large staimen, and the other has one branch with thin pointy leaves, that come straight out horizontal from the branch. I don't know if the kinds of plants are important? Can you help me in this area?

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 19-Jan-04 04:18 AM EST

I don't fertilize any houseplants in the winter - except African Violets which are growing under lights so they keep producing flowers. The rest I give a rest for the winter (...assume they're at least semi-dormant) and only start fertlizing again in the spring. Works for me.....

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: carolincalgary
Zone: 3
Date: 19-Jan-04 10:52 AM EST

I fertilize my houseplants from about March to end of October then give them a rest.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 19-Jan-04 12:09 PM EST

Thanks ladies. I will follow that ritual too.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: simon
Zone: 3
Date: 21-Jan-04 02:34 PM EST

why do the ends of my plant turn brouwn?

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Rachel in BC
Zone: 8
Date: 22-Jan-04 12:01 PM EST

I heard that if the ends of Spider Plants turn brown it is a good indication that you have pollutants in your air as they are very good at cleaning the air. It also could mean that the air is too warm and/or dry for their liking. Carol - could the plant that you are describing with the large dark leaves and white "flower" be a Peace Lily? (Incidentaly, Peace Lilies are also excellent at removing pollutants from their environment.)

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Date: 27-Jan-04 05:26 PM EST

Fertilizer is highly overrated as to its importance and effectiveness with indoor plants. If you didn't fertilize at all your plants would probably not look any different. Plants that are potted in quality potting soil have more than enough nutrients to last for a couple of years or more.

Despite that, I know that folks love to fertilize. Houseplants are mostly from tropical regions and do not have dormant periods. However, in northern climates the daylight hours are reduced in winter. That means there is less sunlight in winter and that causes the growth rate of plants to slow, but does not put them in dormancy.

The reduced light in winter means slower growth, less water and less nutrient usage. That is why there is a reduction in fertilizer application in the winter.

To make it simple for those who want to use fertilizer, use it at half strength whenever the plant is growing vigorously (usually April - September). Don't use it at all if the plant is not growing, growing very slowly or ailing. If in doubt, don't!

Brown tips on spider plants have many causes. Air pollution is not one of them. Hard water is the most commmon cause of leaf tipping. Using perlite and superphosphate (potent sources of fluoride) is another. Allowing the soil to become too dry also produces brown tips.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Carol
Zone: 5a
Date: 27-Jan-04 06:48 PM EST

Hi, Rachel, the plant I discribed is not a peace lily, it is very common, I see them everywhere, flourishing very well, however I Have had mine for a couple of years, and it just doesn't seem to be doing very well. Sometimes the leaves turn brown, and it never seems to get any bigger. One girl told me to use potatoe water, which I sometimes do. I have repotted, and keep it in good light, but it doesn't seem to like it in the direct sunlight, the leaves will turn brown. I just can't seem to get this particular plant to flourish.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Will Creed
Date: 28-Jan-04 02:15 PM EST

Perhaps your plant is an Anthurium.

Subject: RE: top dressing for house plants
From: sarah (
Zone: 3
Date: 30-Jan-04 07:59 AM EST

I hate repotting houseplants since I always make a huge mess and often break off stems. However, I see the soil in many of my houseplants is depleted and the plants are not thriving and they could use a shot of nutrients. Can I top dress the pots I have with new soil and perlite so nutrients will trickle into the old soil and down to the roots? For tha t matter, could I top dress them with compost so long as I'm careful to not burn leaves?

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Jude
Zone: 6a
Date: 01-Feb-04 10:16 AM EST

I started several new African violets and they look very healthy. I fertilize them about every 2 weeks. The leaves are growing profusely but as yet there is no sign of flowers. Should I cut back on the fertilizer or what is the solution to get flowers?

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Date: 01-Feb-04 02:04 PM EST

Sarah - I am glad to learn that you hate repotting because that is something else that is overdone and overrated. Soil can't "look" depleted because you cannot see the mineral nutrients. If your plants have been in the same soil for two or more years, then I recommend fertilizing at half strength when your plants at growing vigorously. Top dressing and compost are not a good idea for indoor potted plants.

Jude - Your AV's will not bloom until they are very potbound no matter how much fertilizer you apply. Use a fertilizer with the middle number higher than the other two (5-10-5, for example), but only at half strength and once per month.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Jude
Zone: 6a
Date: 02-Feb-04 07:32 AM EST

Thanks. I will try this. They need a little more time to become potbound.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Melanie
Date: 28-Feb-04 08:30 AM EST

I fertilize my plants all the time. I know that repotting can be overated but when should you do it? I want to plant a few plants in bigger pots so they will grow bigger. Whend should I do this? And should I change all the dirt or add the entire plant with the dirt to new soil? Also I planted the top of a pine apple and notice there's a few house plants hanging around. There is only a few in the pinapple plant and one of my other plants. Should i change their dirt or just buy a fruit fly killer?

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Date: 28-Feb-04 06:02 PM EST

Hi Melanie,

Bigger pots don't necessarily make plants grow larger. In fact, it is the available light that has the greatest impact on plant growth.

Potted plants grow best when the rootball is 80% roots and 20% soil. Most people would consider that to be very potbound, yet that will produce the best growth.

Moving a plant into a pot that is too large substantially increases the risk that the roots will stay moist for too long and the roots will rot.

Here is the best repotting rule-of-thumb: If after thoroughly watering a plant, it dries our sufficiently to need water again within three days or less, then it is probably ready for a pot one size larger. Otherwise, leave it in its pot.

When you do repot, leave the existing rootball intact, but loosen the outside roots a bit. Then put it into a new pot with an inch or so of fresh potting mix added to the bottom and then fill in the sides.

The fruit flies are probably fungus gnats. If so, they emerge from eggs that are laid in the soil. Remove excess soil from the surface of the suspected plants. Then be sure to allow the top inch or two of soil to dry completely before watering. The dryness should kill the eggs and larvae that are in the top inch of soil. If this does not work, let me know.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Wendy P
Date: 29-Feb-04 03:10 PM EST

A tip on African Violets: They often slow down on blooming in winter - they require 16 hours of bright light to bloom properly. You can make your own "grow" light by mixing cool and hot[sunshine] flourescent bulbs in one fixture. Less expensive than specialized bulbs.

Keeping a plant root-bound causes the plant to send it's growth and energy outwards rather than down. I fertilize using Miracle-Gro [20-30-20] once a month March to Oct. If you can't remember a date, fertilize weekly at 1/4 strength. NEVER fertilize a dry plant. That can cause yellowing or brown leaf tips. Your plant needs water if you put your finger into the soil to your second knuckle and you feel dry. Perlite doesn't add nutrients, it aids in friability and allows oxygen to reach the roots.

For outdoor annual hanging baskets, fertilize with a handful of slow-release 14-14-14 mixed into the top of the soil. Since baskets are watered frequently, nutrients leach out quickly. Replace them by adding 1/4 strength fertilizer [Miracle-Gro, water soluble 20-20-20, or organic fish] once a week. Check often and water daily [if not more] during the summer months. As potted plants can't reach out into the soil when they're hungry or thirsty , they depend entirely on you for survival. Whether they "scrape by" or flourish is up to you.

Subject: RE: should I fertilize my house plants
From: Mindy
Zone: 5b
Date: 22-Aug-04 11:51 AM EST

I have an anthurium and its leaves continuously turn brown starting at the tips. I thought it was perhaps potbound as it had been doing well but was in the pot that it had been given to me in, so I repotted it. Then I thought I was overwatering as I was keeping the soil moist per one thing I read on the plant. Now, per another source, I'm letting it dry out a little between waterings, but the leaves continue to brown throughout. The water here is hard, but we have a house filter on it. Any ideas what I'm missing?

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