When to fertilize succulents?

Best Fertilizer for Succulents

Some Choices from a Certified Horticulturist for Happy Succulent Plants

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Succulents, like all plants, need feeding, but in small quantities with perfect timing – here’s a resource to give you some guidelines and choices.

Many succulent plants are extremely sensitive to salt – guess what most fertilizers are made from?

That’s right – salts! Fertilizer will dry out the tiny root hairs and make it impossible for a plant to even get moisture, let alone nutrients.

I find the best way to feed succulents is with a tiny amount of steer manure or compost, mixed into the soil, which is (ideally) gravelly or sandy, with perfect drainage.

I’ve used worm castings for this too, which gives a very mild boost, which is ideal for succulent plants.

Succulents looking tired and worn out? Give them a boost with some kind of liquid fertilizer for almost instant results.

I make my own compost tea almost exclusively, but sometimes this isn’t possible to make, if you’re living in a condo, for instance.

In that case, use some kind of commercial fertilizer, like this one from my affiliate.

It’s important to follow the mixing directions, if it’s a concentrate – don’t think that if a little is good, more must be better.

Amazon has a wide range of liquid fertilizer to choose from.

Finding the right kind of fertilizer can take a bit of trial and error – learning how much to use, and how often, depends on

  • the type of plant
  • how big it is
  • and how much soil is in the pot

That’s why I can’t give you exact numbers – it’s going to be different for everyone depending on their conditions (such as climate, weather, temperature, light levels and many other factors) and the age and growth habit of your succulent plants.

It also depends on whether the plant has gone a long time without feeding, or if it’s been well taken care of.

Generally, succulents don’t require any fertilizer at all during the winter. Only fertilize when they’re actively growing, and stop early so they have a chance to use up what’s in the soil.

So, if you start to prepare them in late September for a winter indoors, in anticipation of a frost, then you would stop feeding them in early August, so the salts in the fertilizer don’t build up in the soil when the plants start to go dormant.

What’s wrong with this Epiphyllum? Can you tell from the color?

How Do You Tell If a Plant Needs Feeding?

If a plant needs feeding, you can tell from the color.

Generally, pale or yellow foliage indicates that it needs some Nitrogen.

However, in some cases this color change indicates that it’s in the wrong kind of soil.

The Epiphyllum above looks to be potted in almost pure peat moss. Peat moss is acidic, so it ties up Nitrogen, not allowing the plant to access it. There might be lots of Nitrogen, but it’s not available to the plant.

The cure in this case would be to sprinkle Dolomite Lime on the top of the soil, and water it in – don’t add fertilizer. Over the next few weeks, a change will be obvious, with the leaves changing to green as the Nitrogen is released from the soil.

Check the pH of the water you use – you may be surprised at how out of whack it is. Then, change the pH of the water to suit your plants perfectly.

The pH down or pH up solution can alter the water, and make it easier for plants to access the nutrients they need.

Although this is made specifically for hydroponics, it’s great to use for soil grown plants too.

The pH of a soil can make it impossible for plants to uptake nutrients, either all or some of them.

Some plants absolutely demand a sweet soil, or one with low pH, and this product makes it easy to change the water and not only make it possible for the delivery of nutrients, but it also prevents you from over fertilizing in the mistaken belief that the plants need feeding.

Echeveria are the oddball among different types of succulents; they prefer (or require) a pH on the acidic side, not alkaline (or sweet) like most others.

Adding charcoal to the base of a terrarium or other container without a drain hole can make it possible to grow even succulents in that type of pot.

Although not ideal to attempt to grow anything other than moss this way, terrariums and aeriums are a popular way to grow succulents, and this is where charcoal fits in.

This product is meant to add to drainage, remove or lower carbon dioxide, increase oxygen flow, and better soil quality.

If your planter or container is without a drain hole, charcoal can help keep your plants happy for a lot longer.

Charcoal is easy to find online at Amazon.

One type of fertilizer that is popular is slow release fertilizer. It’s used a lot in commercial greenhouses and nurseries because it can be applied to the top of the pot as a top dressing, or mixed right into the soil – sounds easy, right?

I don’t recommend using this handy and economical feeding system for succulents in a home situation, because it tends to keep releasing, long after you would prefer the plant to start going dormant, making it unlikely to overwinter properly.

If you insist on using it, add a tiny amount on the top of the soil, then remove it in the late summer to allow the plant to go dormant.

However, for a great alternative, use worm castings for a slow release fertilizer. They’re much more gentle on the plant delicate roots, and can last most of the summer.

Do the same thing commercial growers do; sprinkle a teaspoon of the dry castings on the top of the soil, close to the plant.

Or mix it into the soil when you go to repot an overgrown plant.

Or make it into compost tea.

There are many choices of slow release fertilizer at Amazon.

Stay away from fish fertilizer inside your home.

The very smell of this will drive you outdoors to escape it, and the plants may do well for a while, but it’s just too strong and can harm the roots of many succulents.

Keep it where it belongs; in the vegetable garden.

This resource for finding the right nutrient source for your succulent plants will be revamped as I test and trial other systems and products.

Want your succulents to survive the winter? Learn how to bring them indoors and be happy and healthy with this free e-course; Fill in your name and email address on the form below to enroll!

Did you know plants can get hangry too? A “hangry” (hungry and angry) plant can start to die because it lacks the proper nutrients it needs to live. Plants use the nutrients in the soil to feed themselves and stay healthy. Over time, the plant’s soil eventually needs plant food to replenish the depleted nutrients.

Store-bought plant food can vary in price and tends to have filler ingredients and chemicals that aren’t the best for you or your plants. Homemade plant food is an easy and inexpensive way to feed your potted plants without accidentally harming your houseplants or breaking the bank.

Lots of common household items have the properties needed to replenish the nutrients in your plant’s soil, so you can create natural plant food in the comfort of your own home. We identified a few remedies to try out to create your own DIY plant food.

What Does My Plant Need?

The chemical elements in household items are important to keep in mind. The most important elements are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These elements are in store bought plant and measured by the “NPK” balance with each letter referring to its symbol on the periodic table (“N” referring to nitrogen, “P” referring to phosphorous and “K” referring to potassium). Each element helps productivity in different processes in the plant. Some other important elements to keep in mind include magnesium and calcium. Test a small portion of your plant soil first to make sure it will not harm any plants.

Now that you know all the important elements your plants need to survive it’s time to put them to the test by creating your own homemade plant food recipe.

Homemade Plant Food Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon epsom salts
  • ½ teaspoon of ammonia
  • 1 gallon of water

An old plastic milk jug serves as a good container for this recipe. Add all of these ingredients to your container and let it sit for about half an hour. This gives your solid ingredients time to dissolve.

Add plant food directly to the soil so that the plant’s roots can best absorb the nutrients. Start by lightly topping your soil once a month and adjust how often you feed your plants based on how they respond.

Pro Tip: Label your container and store away from curious pets and kids!

Types of Deficiencies and How to Solve Them

Plants show us what they’re hungry for based on their appearance. Yellow leaves and stunted growth are a couple ways our plants try to tell us what they need. Take a look at these signs of deficiency to see what your plant is craving.

Helpful Plant Hacks

Homemade plant food is ideally used for outdoor plants since smells and ease of application can vary. Adding plant food to potted plants can also be a little messy, so be extra careful when adding homemade plant food to your indoor plants.

Keep in mind that some ingredients, like ammonia, can be unpleasant to your eyes or nose, so double-check your ingredients and recipes before you start adding them to your plants! Most items can be purchased at your local grocery store if you don’t already have them around your home.

The most accurate way to detect nutrient deficiency in your soil is to get the soil tested. Many at-home soil testing kits can be bought at your local gardening or hardware store, but keep in mind that most of these tests are analyzing pH levels. If you want to test deficiency for a specific element (nitrogen, for example), you’ll want to contact a Cooperative Extensions Service (CSREES) or a local commercial soil laboratory. This can either come with a small fee or no fee depending on where you live.

Now that you’ve learned a few ways to feed your hungry plants, keep a close eye on them in the following weeks to see how they respond to their new food. Adjust how often and how much you feed your plant based on how they react. If your plants start to perk up, you can afford to feed them a little more and see if it helps its growth. You can also try picking up a new plant or two if you want to continue filling your home with greenery. If you’re interested in learning more about plant care or need help deciding which plants are right for your home, take a look at our guide to the best houseplants for every room in your home.

Learn how to fertilize succulents

How often do succulents need fertilizer?

Now that you know about a great fertilizer, you may be wondering how often to fertilize succulents. While you can fertilize succulents as often as once a month, especially if you’re using manure tea, they will generally do just fine with one fertilizing each year in the spring.

For a lot of succulents this is the beginning of their growing season so they can are ready to use the added nutrients. If you have mostly winter growing succulents, I’d recommend fertilizing in the fall.

If you decide to use something other than manure tea for your succulent fertilizer, stay away from slow release options. These are extremely potent and can often burn the succulents rather than help them grow. I recommend using a water soluble fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength.

Fertilizing indoor succulents

I’ve gone back and forth on whether indoor succulents need fertilizer. Ultimately, I’ve decided to fertilize mine just once per year in the spring (when the days are getting longer).

The fertilizer causes succulents to grow more quickly which can cause a lot of stretching if your succulents aren’t getting enough light.

If possible, move your succulents outdoors to a bright, shady area just after fertilizing to help them stay compact as they enjoy the boost of nutrients. If you do keep them inside, try to give them as much light as possible and even consider using a grow light.

So, if you’re itching to fertilize your outdoor succulents, order some manure tea and get started! I know you’ll love how large they grow and fill in. I’d love to know about your experience fertilizing succulents!

Also, if you know anyone who you think would benefit from this post, please share it with them on social media or via email.

How and when to fertilize succulents

Sharing is caring!

Sublime Succulents may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

Even novice gardeners know that fertilizer is important to encouraging and maintaining healthy growth in plants, but how does it differ for succulents?

Table of Contents

What kind of fertilizer should I use?

There are many kinds of fertilizer on the market, from commercial chemicals to worm castings. Succulents are quite adaptable and can utilize most types. If you choose to use a commercial fertilizer, you should get one that has a higher ratio of phosphorous to nitrogen. While both are essential for growth, nitrogen is already abundant in most soils – phosphorous is the limiting factor. Additionally, an excess of nitrogen can encourage pests including fungus and insects. There exists commercially available succulent fertilizer. This is a good choice for most succulents.

How much fertilizer do I use on my succulents?

This is the most important aspect of fertilizing. As you know, succulents live life at a slower pace than other plants. Just as they need less water, they need less fertilizer. In fact, if you are using a standard commercial fertilizer, you should dilute the dosage to half. If it is a liquid, ensure that you are applying it to the soil around the plant, not directly to the plant. I like to mix fertilizer into the water I am watering with, it makes application easy. When using solid fertilizers, mix them into the top layer of soil (if you can). Try not to disturb your plants!

If you have outdoor succulents that are planted in the ground, fertilizer is usually not necessary. They are able to receive the necessary nutrients without your help. That being said, applying fertilizer sparingly can help to encourage growth if used at the right time.

When should I fertilize my succulents?

It’s hard to generalize this one, as it varies from species to species. A good ruleof thumb is that you should fertilize them in early spring, when growth begins to pick back up. Summer is a good time as well. If you have a species of plant that is dormant during the winter, don’t bother fertilizing it. You should only have to fertilize your succulents a few times a year, so space it out by a month or so during the growth seasons.

Do not fertilize when the soil is dry – this could cause your succulents to be burned. Instead, mix the fertilizer into the water before you water your plants, or add it after.

What is your preferred succulent fertilizer? Comment below!

Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Soil Potting Mix 8 qt.

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Miracle Gro cactus mix seems to wet? Info in comments

Definitely put your plants in terra cotta, pretty much exclusively as you’re learning the tricks of the trade. If you want to have prettier pots, place a piece of floral arrangement sponge stuff (that hard green thing you poke faux flowers into) under the terra cotta pot, and then place the terra cotta into a cachepot. Or you can put the terra cotta pots in baskets. That’s how I spice up the plain orange pots. You didn’t ask for that advice, but I wouldn’t want you to waver for prettier pots that will only hurt your new friends.

I would put them in a C&S soil mixed half and half with perlite. This isn’t the best, but you’re also just getting into this! You really don’t want to go all out and spend $50+ on potting mix for 40 plants you haven’t acquired yet. This is a gradual thing! You want these guys to be taken care of to the 90% level, watch them grow, love them, invest in a few more plants, read a little more, and gradually invest in a better potting medium. I am a broken record, but you should check out Gardenweb.com for information on 5-1-1 (with bark fines) and gritty mix (no bark, just rocky ingredients) potting mediums. Don’t confuse them. They are two different mixes and sometimes people get confused and make gritty mix with bark fines and like everything on the internet, one person will be a little bitch to you and make you feel bad for a rookie mistake. I hate when people do that on GW. Everyone was new to this at one point! We all make mistakes.

Good luck and PM me if you have any questions.

Edit: formatting

Fertilizing Cactus Plants: When And How To Fertilize A Cactus

Wondering how to fertilize a cactus plant can present a bit of a dilemma, because the first question that comes to mind is “Does a cactus need fertilizer, really?” Keep reading to find out and learn more about fertilizing cactus plants.

Does a Cactus Need Fertilizer?

The classic perception of the perfect environment for cacti is a harsh, dry desert with two extremes: periods of no rainfall whatsoever or sudden deluges that the plant must absorb, store and use throughout the next dry spell.

It’s important to remember that whether they are outside in the garden exposed to seasonal extremes or in a bright sunny spot in the house, fertilizing cactus plants can keep them happily growing no matter the season.

Just like with any other garden or houseplant, fertilizing cactus plants will help them adapt, actively grow and even multiply if that’s one of their characteristics. Cacti fertilizer requirements are pretty simple. Any good houseplant food (diluted to half) that’s higher in phosphorus than nitrogen is a good choice. A 5-10-5 solution can work well.

Now that you know that they really do need fertilizer, it’s also important to know when to feed cactus plants.

How Do I Know When To Feed Cactus Plants?

Despite the fact that cacti can survive (and thrive) in some of the harshest conditions on earth, most of them prefer multiple small feedings instead of one gigantic flood. Cactus plants really don’t require a ton of water or fertilizer (they do require a lot of bright light).

At a minimum, fertilizing cactus plants once a year is a good rule of thumb, but if you’re really organized and can set up a schedule, feeding them 2-3 times per year in the spring, summer and fall will easily satisfy your cacti fertilizer requirements.

Cactus plants need fertilizer during their active growing periods more than any other time. Many gardeners use a time-release mechanism that will feed the plant for a longer period of time, such as 3 or 6 months in order to be sure not to miss their peak growing time.

Finally, remember one of the “golden rules of growing” as you plan to care for your cactus plants: never overfeed! Overfeeding is as dangerous to your cactus plants as overwatering is to any plant. Being careful not to overfeed is just as important as knowing when to feed cactus plants and how to fertilize a cactus, and gives your plants the best chance of staying healthy and happy.

Feeding your desert garden: You’re probably doing it wrong

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Check out EchinopsisFreak.com to really see the vigor at which cactus should flower, and if yours aren’t up to par, read on. Our cactus should perform like this every year and yet so many fail. These Echinopsis on the videos are so floriferous because they are generously fed to stimulate blooms just as we do with roses.

Outside Mexico City, special thornless prickly pears are commercially grown for nopalitos, the young newly forming pads that are not yet fibrous. The farmers fertilize annually with an 8″ deep layer of cow manure. This demonstrates, as some local gardeners have discovered, that cactus can be big nitrogen lovers.

We grow a lot of different kinds of cactus in the high and low desert environments. Those native to our local soils such as compass barrel, hedgehog and blue beaver tail are nicely adapted to low nutritional levels. But exotic cacti from both North and South America are some of the most exciting day and night bloomers. Yet all too often ours seem to languish, parsimonious with new growth and flowers. The answer is their foreign soils of origin quite different in composition and organic matter than our desert ground. Some contain much higher nutrient levels and cactus from these habitats need to be fertilized the right way at the right time to meet their needs.

At the end of our winter rains, deeper layers of porous soil are fully moistened. This and the lengthening days kick off cactus flowering season, providing the ideal conditions for effective fertilization. The two cactus experts I have worked with both use water soluble blue crystal fertilizers with their clean delivery and high nitrogen content.. Water soluble means you mix and apply in water so it quickly carries the nutrients directly into the soil for quick access by roots. Because its moist just beneath the surface, the fertilizer solution travels deeper than dry ground, carrying the nutrition far and wide. When sandy soil is very dry the liquid won’t travel the same way without extensive watering in.

Experts attest to the use of this same blue fertilizer as a foliar feeder, which means you can wash the plant with your solution allowing it to run off the cactus onto the ground. Cactus are also able to take up the fertilizer through their epidermal layer. Because cactus absorb light energy during the day to fuel photosynthesis at night to stimulate intake. Do not foliar feed during the day because drops lingering afterward cause unsightly spotting or blotch burns.

Cactus growing in pots suffer the same nutritional losses because they grow in man made soil mixes created for express drainage. They become nutritionally deficient rather quickly, so feeding becomes more and more important as needs increase with age and size. Because pots limit root spread compared to cactus growing in ground, they can’t travel to find more nitrogen when it’s exhausted. This may stimulate dormancy, halting growth. Therefore it’s wise to feed once in early spring after temperatures rise above freezing at night to stimulate the reproductive growth phase. Then feed lightly again three months later for more vigorous vegetative growth.

If you’re big on keeping things simple, this method of fertilization lets you feed your entire garden without using another plant food. Apply it with a watering can, with a Miracle Gro hose end feeder or the $15 hose proportioner that allows liquid concentrate to be mixed into your hose water.

Always remember that when feeding cactus, less is more. Mix exactly as directed or use at a lesser strength to avoid burning roots. Always water deeply after feeding to speed uptake by plants. Feed at the right time of year and the right time of day to avoid damage. Be thorough and even with application. After spring feeding you’ll enjoy time on the patio watching your cactus explode into bud and bloom, growing more colorful each day as the mercury rises.

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