When to Start Fertilizing Houseplants and When to Stop

Suyash is a Master Gardener and the Editorial and Strategy Director at BalconyGardenWeb.com. With a focus on houseplant care, he combines over a decade of hands-on horticultural experience with editorial expertise to guide and educate plant enthusiasts.
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If you don’t have any idea about When to Start Fertilizing Houseplants and When to Stop, we are here to help!

Fertilizing houseplants can be tricky – when to do it? How to do it? When to start it? When to end it? Well, all these questions can be confusing – not only for a beginner but for a seasoned gardener, too. So, is there a rulebook? Scroll down to get the answers!

Let’s Understand the Plant Growth Patterns First, Shall We?

When to Start Fertilizing Houseplants and When to Stop

While every houseplant may look quite different to you at the first glance, but they all pretty much follow the same and a predictable growth cycle – showing a thriving and vigorous growth in spring and summer (their ‘party season’), and then taking a chill pill, as the winter approaches – unless you live in a hot climate. Say, for example, if you live in a warm region like Texas, the plants will continue to show signs of growth in the winter months, too.

Now that you have got an idea on how the houseplants grow, it’s time to move to the next part of the fertilization story!

So, When to Start Fertilizing Houseplants?

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Come Spring and you must realize that this is the wake up call for plants – they are up from their winter nap, and ready to stretch their stems to grow those vibrant leaves. This is the perfect time to start feeding them— usually around March or April in majority of the USDA Zones.

This is the time you need to get the right fertilizer – a balanced liquid feed like 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 works the best (As it has all the nutrients in a balanced ratio, making sure the plants get all of them in the correct amount) – they are well rounded meal for 99% of the houseplants you have in your collection.

The amount of fertilizer you will use plays a crucial rule – it is always a good call to dilute the feed to 1/4 or 1/2 of its strength, and use it once in 4-6 weeks, starting from Spring. Why? Well, using a mild dose more frequently is better (gives the plant a constant supply of nutrients every few weeks) than using a high dose once in say 2-3 months.

Come summer, and start treating your plants like teenagers – they will be in their peak with endless appetites! Keep feeding them consistently through these months.

Some Essential Tips:
  • Always water the plants before you feed them – you also need a little warm up before you hit the gym, right?
  • Look at the plants after you fertilize them – how they respond to it. Yellow leaves, slow growth patterns or foliage drop, may be? All these are the indications that you may need to tweak your dose and approach. Also, make sure they get indirect light all day long.
  • If you have used a fresh and high quality potting mix recently – you don’t have to feed the plant.
  • Slow growers like Snake plant won’t need as much feeding as fast growers like Pothos.
  • Also, if the plant is kept in a well lit space, it will grow better and faster – requiring frequent fertilization, as compared to a plant that’s kept in a dim lit space (as it won’t grow as fast, comparatively.)

When to Stop Fertilizing Houseplants?

There comes a time when you take a break from the partying, right? Well, the same applies for the plants. After they were in all their growing glory from Spring to Summer, their tempo will slow down in the fall, and this is the time when you need to reduce, not stop, the feeding.

At this time, it would be a good idea to feed the plant, using a 1/4 strength dose, once in 8-10 week, or should I say just once in the fall.

After fall, winter will start knocking on the doors and this is the time when most of the houseplants love to rest = absolutely no fertilization. Let them sleep and hibernate. Don’t fertilize in the colder months. Simple!

Note: If you live in a warm, temperate zone, continue to feed the plants in the winter months as they are not as that cold in those areas! Use a 1/4 diluted dose, once in 7-9 weeks. 

The Bottom Line

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When I first started my gardening journey, I was a novice and was more clueless than confident. Over time, I have mastered the art I just shared with you – that came with patience, and a bit of trial and error.

Using these techniques, my green friends flourished in all their glory. And yours will too! Happy gardening!

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