Article written by Bob Reidmuller, Altman Plants
Published as part of the Altman Plants Monthly newsletter April 2015 – Click Here to Subscribe
Many years back a friend of mine was given a gorgeous Tillandsia as a gift. Likely based on the misinformation usually attached to Tillandsias as being “air plants” and not needing anything but a place to hang out, she asked the grower that gave it to her “Do I have to feed it?”. He very succinctly replied, “Do you eat?”. The point was made – all living things need nourishment in one way, shape or form.
Spring is Here!
March brings us the first day of spring finally. Little by little starting in the lower tier of the states, warming temperatures will keep creeping ever northward until even North Dakotans can go out and get their hands dirty in the garden and start planting.
Even their cacti and succulents that have patiently overwintered indoors in a semi-stupor of dormancy can tell that the days are longer and brighter, and the urge to grow kicks in….
How Do I Feed My Succulents?
As far as plants are concerned, spring in the south is in March, in the north, sometime in May, but feeding succulents follows a rule that is applicable to all areas – Do it in the warmer months of your growing season and stop feeding about a month before your first frost is predicted.
Succulents are not heavy feeders like annuals and roses. They have grown and adapted to harsh, nutrient poor soils so it doesn’t take a lot. In fact, overfeeding can be very detrimental. It falls right in along with watering cautions: if in doubt whether to water or not (or feed or not), don’t. They get along much better being denied than over-indulged. With that in mind, the safest way to fertilize your succulents is with a balanced, all-purpose liquid fertilizer that has been mixed to half of the strength indicated on the box or bottle of the product. Anything like Miracle-Gro or Schultz’s Houseplant food works fine. This only needs to be done once a month (in place of a watering) as was indicated in the warmer months during the plants growth cycle. If planting up or repotting your succulents in the earliest part of the growing season, a balanced, slow release fertilizer can be mixed into the new soil and then forget about it until next year.
It is important to stop feeding by the end of summer or a little before. What happens is the extra shot of food that late in the season causes the plant to keep on putting out lush new growth that is tender. Then when the colder weather hits it can damage this soft growth – a frost or freeze would obviously be the worst case scenario.
So bask in the ever brighter, warmer days as they come and be good to your succulents, just not that good! You know, come to think of it, if we cut our feeding by half strength like succulents, we wouldn’t be worrying about that swimsuit come summer!