Surprisingly, many people believe that succulents don’t need to be fertilized. And that can be true if you particularly want to keep your plants very compact and small, like those grown in terrariums.
However, if you want your succulents to put on some lovely lush new plant growth, and especially if you want them to flower, a small feed of succulent food at specific times of the year will reward you with extra growth and stunning flowers.
Let’s discuss the fertilizer needs of succulents and how and when they should be fed.
When Should You Fertilize Your Succulents?
Most succulents will benefit from a light application of fertilizer in early spring just when the weather is starting to warm up. This coincides with the time that many succulents will be emerging from their winter dormancy and will begin to put on new growth.
A light feeding at this time will give the plant some extra energy to stimulate some new growth.
The other time you can give your succulents a light feed is in early fall. This will be the time before they go into dormancy in the winter. Giving your succulents a feed during this time will help them to store any nutrients that they may need to sustain themselves over winter.
What Type Of Fertilizer for Succulents Should You Use?
The most important thing to remember is to make sure that you dilute your fertilizer, no matter which one you use. This is because full-strength fertilizers are too strong for succulents and too much fertilizer can easily burn both the roots and the leaves.
Using Commercially Available Fertilizers
There are plenty of commercially available liquid and granular fertilizers that you can use on your succulents as long as you dilute them. There are even fertilizers that are specifically designed just for succulents and cacti. These have already been formulated to be kinder on your indoor and outdoor plants and can be applied as per the instructions on the pack.
If you want to select a more general fertilizer, choose one that has an even N:P:K ratio like 10:10:10. This ratio signifies how many parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are in the mix. For succulents, you want a fertilizer that has equal parts of all three.
Using Fertilizer Teas
Believe it or not, you can actually purchase commercially produced fertilizer tea bags. You use these tea bags by steeping them in water and then applying the liquid to your succulents as a manure tea. These are perfectly safe to use on succulents and will produce some lovely new growth on your plants.
Each “tea bag” makes around 5 gallons of manure tea. All you have to do is place the tea bag in a large 5-gallon bucket or watering can and then fill it with water while running the water over the bag.
Place a lid on the bucket or watering can and leave it to sit for a few days. After around 2 to 4 days, open the bucket and remove the teabag. Now you can use the manure tea the next time you water your succulents.
If you’re into organic gardening and make your own compost, you can also use this as plant food to make your own fertilizer tea. Many plastic compost bins have a drain plug. If you remove this plus, the liquid will come out. This liquid will be full of organic plant nutrients. But, you don’t want to use this undiluted on your succulents because it may be too strong.
The best idea would be to dilute with water in equal parts and just use a small amount on your succulents, to begin with. You can do the same if you have a worm farm. The resultant liquid from these is known as worm tea and it can be used in the same way as compost tea.
The good thing about these types of fertilizers is that they are all-natural and are a by-product of your compost or worm farm. This means that they don’t cost you any extra to produce and are quite often the best fertilizer for many succulents.
You can also make eggshell tea if you find that you use a lot of eggs at home. Here’s what to do to make this organic fertilizer:
- Rinse the eggshells to remove any residue.
- Crumble up the shells and pour boiling water over them.
- Let the eggshells soak overnight in the water.
- The following morning, strain the shells and use the remaining water on your succulents.
This gives your plants an extra dose of calcium and potassium. Remember though, that succulents also need nitrogen so you may need to supplement with another fertilizer to ensure that they also get enough of this.
Using Diluted Fish Emulsion Or Other Liquid Succulent Fertilizers
Fish emulsion and seaweed concentrate make ideal plant fertilizers for your succulents as they’re a natural fertilizer and very beneficial for your plants. Remember that these products are generally quite concentrated so you need to dilute them down before applying them to your succulent plants.
Read the instructions on the pack to see if there are dilution instructions for succulents. Otherwise, it should be safe to dilute at half the strength to what is recommended for ornamental plants or flowers.
Add Some Slow-Release Fertilizers
Although this is not the most recommended type of fertilizer, you can add some balanced slow-release fertilizer to succulents that you grow in pots. You only have to add this once a year but make sure that you find one that is recommended as succulent plant food.
These fertilizers release nutrients gradually as the plants needs them.
How Do You Apply Fertilizer To Your Succulents?
The best way to apply fertilizer to your succulents is in liquid form that you apply in place of your regular watering. Remember that most succulents only need to be watered when the potting soil has dried out completely.
Therefore, you want to wait until your plants need water and then give them the liquid fertilizer as part of their watering. You’ll be diluting the fertilizer with water anyway so this means that you’re fertilizing and watering at the same time.
The nutrients will be available in the water so that the roots of your succulents can absorb them.
How Often Should You Fertilize Your Succulents?
Most succulents only need to be fertilized twice a year. The first time is in the early spring as the weather starts to warm up. At this time, you can give them a dose of liquid fertilizer as part of their regular watering.
You can also feed your plants again in the fall as the weather starts to cool down. Again, wait for the soil to become dry and then apply a weak dose of liquid fertilizer. This should sustain them all through the winter with a little leftover to initiate new growth when they come out of dormancy.
Is It OK To Fertilize Succulents More Often?
It is ok to feed succulents more often if you want to encourage lots of new growth. But remember, this may cause your plants to put on too much growth and become quite soft rather than hardy.
You may also find that your plants will become quite leggy if you feed them too often.
What If You Don’t Fertilize Your Succulents?
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t fertilize your succulents or you’ve forgotten. The only thing that will happen is that they won’t grow all that much and they may not produce any or many flowers in the warmer months.
For succulents grown indoors that you want to keep small and compact, it’s not necessary to fertilize them at all. There should be enough nutrients in the soil that you’ve used to sustain them as long as they get enough light.
Some Tips On Fertilizing Succulents That Are Grown Indoors
As already mentioned, it’s not that dire if you don’t fertilize your indoor succulents at all. However, if you really want to learn how to take care of succulents in such a way that promotes new growth and flowering, it’s ideal to feed these potted succulents just once a year in the spring as the days start to get longer.
Because the addition of fertilizer will encourage new growth, you want to also ensure that your plants are getting enough light. If they don’t, they’ll start to become leggy as they reach up to find the light.
For this reason, it might be a good idea to give your indoor succulents a spell outdoors in a bright, but shady spot out of direct sunlight when you give them a feed. This will help your plants stay relatively compact as the boost of nutrients encourages more growth.
If you can’t move your plants outside, consider placing them under a grow light instead to stop them from reaching up for the light.
Succulents don’t require a lot of fertilizer but they do benefit from a small dose once or twice a year. Especially, if your plants are growing outdoors and you want to see some flowers.
A diluted liquid fertilizer is best because you can apply it during their watering time and it won’t be too strong to burn your plants.
In general, indoor succulents don’t have to be fertilized if you want to keep them small and compact. However, they will be unlikely to put on much growth without the added nutrients.