Houseplants: ‘Cut down’ on fertiliser now to avoid damage

Houseplants that are 'impossible to kill'

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Fertiliser provides nutrients for healthy plant growth and is very beneficial to plants during their growing season. Feeding them regularly throughout spring and summer replenishes the soil with minerals to help them thrive, but it’s not always necessary in the colder months. In fact, according to experts, autumn is actually the last time indoor plants should be fed with strong fertilisers until the following spring.

Just like garden plants, houseplants are also affected by the changing seasons.

In autumn, the drop in temperature and lower levels of light can make it harder for plants to grow as rapidly as they do in summer.

This causes growth to slow down until they reach a dormant period which lasts through winter.

With the warm season now behind us, what exactly should you do right now to keep your houseplants thriving?

According to Meg Spink, an expert at Patch Plants, this is the perfect time to simplify your plant care and “cut down” on fertiliser.

She said: “Autumn is the last time you should add a squirt of fertiliser to the soil.

“Because plants don’t grow very much in winter, they won’t need feeding again until spring.”

Using nitrogen-rich fertiliser in the cooler seasons isn’t only a waste for dormant plants, but it can also cause significant damage.

Feeding your plants at a time when they’re not actively growing can impact the roots and leave them permanently damaged.

This happens because nutrients in the fertiliser aren’t easily absorbed by the plant if it is unable to grow.

Excess salt in fertilisers can “burn” the roots and limit moisture uptake, leaving your houseplants looking “over fertilised” and underwatered.

In order to avoid damage, it is important to gently phase out your fertilising routine rather than stop altogether.

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GardeningKnowhow recommended slowly decreasing the frequency and amount of fertiliser used each month.

Reduce it down to “only a couple” of applications once growth slows down in autumn, and always make sure the soil is moist before applying it.

It is easy to tell if you are over fertilising your plants by looking out for a few key signs.

Leaf discolouration, changes to the soil, and wilted foliage are all red flags for houseplants, but what exactly does fertiliser damage look like?

White soil

A crust of fertiliser on the soil surface is one of the clearest signs of a feeding issue.

This looks like white ash on the soil and indicates that the plant is not absorbing the minerals.

Damaged leaf tips

Browning leaf tips and margins are another noticeable symptom of fertiliser damage and can indicate that the plant isn’t absorbing water properly.

Blackened roots

Limp and browned or blackened roots occur when the salts in fertilisers “burn” the roots by blocking absorption.

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