Feeding house plants

House plants grow throughout spring, summer and autumn. During this time, a regular feed will help to keep them healthy.

The roots of garden plants can spread through the soil to find nutrients, but pot-grown house plants are completely reliant upon you for the minerals they need.

Use our guide, below, to choose the fertiliser with the right nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) content for your house plants, and discover when and how to feed them.


Foliage plants

For lush, green foliage, feed plants every two weeks using a fertiliser with a high nitrogen content. Most generic house plant fertilisers are rich in nitrogen and will keep foliage plants looking good. If the leaves look yellow, then a nitrogen-rich feed will give them a boost, as will any feed containing magnesium (Mg). Reduce feeding to monthly in autumn and stop completely in winter.

Orchids and flowering plants

Give flowering plants a generic house plant fertiliser every two weeks in spring, then change to a weekly feed that is rich in potassium in the run up to flowering. Tomato fertilisers contain extra potassium, but are often too strong for house plants, so dilute by half the recommended dose. Orchids do not appreciate heavy doses of fertiliser and can be killed by too much, so feed weekly with a generic house plant fertiliser diluted to half or even quarter strength. If using commercially available orchid fertilisers, follow the dosage instructions on the pack.

Cacti and succulents

Most cacti and succulents can survive without supplemental feeding, but they will grow and flower more profusely if fed. Feed them with a specialist cactus feed to provide the right balance of nutrients. Avoid fertilisers with too much nitrogen, as they can promote soft, weak growth. Apply cactus fertiliser every two weeks in spring and summer only.

Citrus plants

Citrus plants are extremely heavy feeders. Specialist citrus feeds are available, but a generic house plant feed will suffice every two weeks in spring and summer. These plants often need more magnesium (Mg) than is available in regular feeds, so add a solution of Epsom salts monthly, especially if the leaves begin to turn yellow. During winter, stop feeding entirely unless your plant is flowering, in which case a monthly dose of house plant feed will help.

Ericaceous plants

Some house plants prefer ericaceous or acidic soil. These include African violets, gardenias, ferns and azaleas. Such plants should be fed using a specially-formulated ericaceous fertiliser. You don't need to feed them in winter.

Carnivorous plants

Plants such as sundews, pitcher plants and the Venus flytraps generally grow on soils that contain very few nutrients. They’ve developed the ability to catch insects to supplement their diet and don't require additional fertiliser. It’s also wise to avoid feeding them too many bugs as even in the cleanest of homes, they’ll generally catch what they need without help.

Feature by Dr. Ross Bayton.


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