Fertilizing Container Plants

For most of its life, a container plant will depend on you to fertilize it in the growing season to ensure a good supply of flowers and strong growth.

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Leaf Boosters

Most plants initially benefit from a balanced fertilizer to build them up, before a fertilizer aimed at specific needs is applied. A high-nitrogen fertilizer boosts leaf growth, and some plants, such as bougainvillea, benefit from this before being given a high-potash fertilizer to promote extra flowers. Plants grown for their foliage, such as hostas and coleus (Solenostemon), need a nitrogen fertilizer in summer to promote a terrific display of leaves.

Hostas Need NitrogenEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Containers for Patios © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fertilizing Lime-Haters

Some plants, such as azaleas, camellias, kalmias, and rhododendrons, hate alkaline conditions and need to be grown in a special acidic (ericaceous) potting mix. Widely available, ericaceous potting mix has a pH of 6.5 or less (the pH denotes the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the potting mix). Such plants are usually clearly labeled. When watering, ideally use rainwater or, if that’s impossible, cold, boiled water.

Best Soil for CamelliasEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Containers for Patios © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Permanent Container Plants

Every other year at the start of the growing season (depending on the rate of growth), permanent container plants will need rejuvenating, or they quickly decline. This involves potting them on, top-dressing, or repotting. Potting on means moving the plant up to a larger container with new potting mix to provide more room for root growth. With top-dressing, the top inch of potting mix is removed and replaced with a new layer. Repotting means taking the plant out of its pot, shaking off old soil, teasing out the roots, and adding new potting mix before putting the plant back in the same pot.

Re-potting A Permanent Container PlantEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Containers for Patios © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited
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Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007

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