We hear this question daily. All plants – annuals, shrubs, perennials and trees need proper nutrients to grow, stay healthy and look good. But there are so many fertilizer choices it is easy to be discouraged and end up choosing the easy route – a slow-release fertilizer. Apply it once and be done with fertilizing for the season.
Sounds easy, right? While great for many plants (shrubs) it is not the best for your annuals and hanging baskets. They need more than a slow-release fertilizer can give them. They are best fed with a water-soluble fertilizer.
Water soluble fertilizers are fertilizers that can be dissolved in water and makes it is easy to control the precise amount of nutrients available to your plants. Soluble fertilizers usually have N-P-K numbers listed on their label. The N is for nitrogen, the P is for phosphorus and the K is for potassium or potash.
Of the 16 (12 of which are contained in water soluble fertilizers) known elements necessary for plant life, N-P-K, are the three that are of the most importance and always listed on water soluble fertilizers, in that order.
- Nitrogen is the most important of the nutrients and is essential to the production of chlorophyll and is responsible for leaf growth, as well as, overall size of the plant.
- Phosphorus is necessary for photosynthesis and provides for energy transfer within the plant and is associated with the fruiting or flowering stages of growth.
- Potassium, or potash, increases chlorophyll levels, helps plants make better use of light and air and increases growth by cell division.
The ultimate goal of fertilizing is to supply your plant with the right amount of nutrients. Applying a water soluble fertilizer to the annuals and perennials both in the ground and in containers every 7 to 14 days can make a remarkable difference.
Ultimately, your plants will only be as great as the care they receive, and while understanding the best fertilizer for the job may take a little bit of work, the rewards of healthier, longer-lasting plants is the pay off.