Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Don’t Feed Houseplants When They’re Resting

20151018AIn the fall, days grow shorter and often grayer as well, so much less light is available to your houseplants. This causes them to grow more and more slowly and many will in fact stop growing entirely until the days lengthen again. Some may actually go entirely dormant, but most are essentially just “resting”.

This is not a good time to “feed” (fertilize) your plants. By adding fertilizer now, you’ll be stimulating new growth… but the new growth that appears will tend to be etiolated: pale with abnormally long internodes, something you’ll probably feel the need to prune off later.

For that reason, it’s better to “starve” your plants a bit between late October and late February (in the Northern Hemisphere). Cut your fertilizer treatments entirely. When they do start to show new growth, usually by early March at the latest, you can start fertilizing again.

There is however an exception to the rule that it is best not to fertilize houseplants in the winter. If you’re growing them under lights (florescent lamps, for example), giving them long days even in winter, most will continue to grow year round and thus will require fertilizing year round as well.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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