Fertilizing and Watering Container Plants
If you are looking for a great way to have greenery in a small space, container plants may be the perfect solution for you. Typically, they require more maintenance than plants growing in a garden but are still fully capable of producing healthy and productive container plants.
To keep your plants thriving, it is a good idea to do regular fertilizer applications anywhere from 2-6 weeks after planting. This also includes if you used a potting mix with a slow-release fertilizer since repeat watering will diminish nutrients over time. When you start to fertilize depends on the pot, watering, rate of plant growth, and weather.
An all-purpose fertilizer such as Espoma Organic Garden-Tone 3-4-4 Fertilizer is a great option. This type of fertilizer includes nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which are the main nutrients plants need. To promote flower or fruit growth, specialty fertilizers with higher amounts of phosphorus or potassium are ideal. A couple of options we recommend to our customers are Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Bloom Booster Flower Food 10-52-10 and Ferti-Lome Blooming & Rooting Soluable Plant Food 9-58-8.
Soluble versus slow-release fertilizer
A soluble fertilizer is dissolved in the same water used to irrigate plants, making it easy to fertilize and hydrate your plants at the same time. They are a great choice for container plants, when nutrients are needed quickly – such as your plant is no longer blooming as it once. We recommend Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
Slow release fertilizer is typically granular products that release a small, steady amount of nutrients over a course of time. The nutrients are added to the soil by naturally breaking down and decomposing. They can also be used effectively in containers, where watering helps release small amounts of nutrients over time. Large, fast-growing plants may need more nutrients than slow-release fertilizers can provide, so keep an eye on your plants and supplement if needed. Osmocote and Osmocote Plus is a great slow release fertilizer that you will find at our locations.
Regardless of which fertilizer you select, it's important that you follow the label to avoid over-fertilizing, which can result in the burning of plants. It is best to consider more frequent fertilizer applications at a lower rate to prevent nutrient loss with water damage. If a fertilizer calls for one tablespoon per gallon and you fertilize once every two weeks, try using half a tablespoon per gallon and fertilize every week instead.
Maintain even moisture
Depending upon the size and material of the container, maintaining even moisture may be challenging for container plants – during hot and dry weather, you may need to water more than once per day. At a minimum, you will usually need to water at least once per day to avoid your containers drying out, which will cause them to stress.
Mulch works great for containers and will help cut down on watering since it minimizes water loss from evaporation. It will also moderate soil temperatures, so the roots stay cooler in the heat. Mulch also prevents soil from splashing onto leaves, which can be a problem for some plants including tomatoes.
Mulch can include a multitude of materials such as grass clippings from the lawn, shredded newspaper, pine needles, and shredded tree trimmings.
If you use trays to catch water under your plants, be sure that It does not cause prolonged periods of waterlogged soil. Plants like moist not overly saturated soil so be sure to dump water-catching trays regularly.
Information provided by Yard and Garden News by the University of Minnesota Extension.