Fertilizers For Southern Plants
Fertilizers are the vitamins or the essential elements that a plant needs to grow and stay healthy. The soil, atmosphere, and water usually provide the plant with these essential nutrients, but there are times when the soil is generally nutrient deficient and in this case a fertilizer is essential. There are sixteen essential elements to plant nutrition. These elements are separated into two categories, macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients are: oxygen [O], carbon [C], hydrogen [H], nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], potassium [K], Calcium [Ca], magnesium [Mg], sulfur [S] and are required by the plant in large amounts. Oxygen, carbon and hydrogen are provided to the plant by the atmosphere and water. Required by the plant in small amounts are the micronutrients, which are: iron [Fe], manganese [Mn], zinc [Zn], baron [B], copper [Cu], molybdenum [Mo], and chlorine [Cl]. These elements are the building blocks to plant nutrition and health.
There are several types of fertilizers on the market today that are especially formulated for specific plants and to mention a few, there are Azalea fertilizers, Hibiscus Fertilizers, Palm Fertilizers, and many others. Let’s say you go to your local nursery or garden center to purchase the recommended fertilizer for your plant and the item is not in stock, or even available in your local. What do you do now? Fertilizers are formulated by percentage ratios such as 6-6-6, which is a 1-1-1 ratio or what is called a balanced fertilizer. As long as you get as close to fertilizer ratio as possible the plant will be happy.
When applying fertilizer please follow the package recommendations to how much should be applied and how frequently. Over fertilizing your plants does not help the plant in fact can cause more harm than good because a plant will only take up the fertilizer that it needs. Depending on the plant over fertilizing can cause a decrease in plant health, can lead to a decline, or eventually death; and in some species of plants, over fertilizing can cause an increase in insects. Fertilize newly planted plants after you see new growth appear.
Listed below are a few southern plants and the recommended fertilizers.
Allamanda – Allamanda’s are moderate feeders, requiring a balanced fertilizer with applications 3 to 4 times a year. After establishment water only during periods of drought. Allamanda pictured right.
Bougainvillea – Bougainvillea’s are heavy feeders and a Bougainvillea fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Bougainvillea are 6-8-10, 12-4-18, and 17-7-10, or you can use a fertilizer that is recommended for Hibiscus Plants. Bougainvillea pictured left.
Firebush: Hamelia patens – Firebush is gaining popularity with gardeners and landscapers alike due to the plant’s drought tolerance after establishment; the plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden, and requires little to no maintenance. Firebush requires little to no fertilizer, but can be fertilized twice a year in early spring and early summer with a 12-4-8 fertilizer or a fertilizer that has a 3-1-2 ratio blend. Firebush pictured right.
Firecracker Plant: Russelia equisetiformis – Firecracker plant is very drought tolerant after establishment in the landscape and is not picky about the soil it grows in. The plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Firecracker Plant requires very little fertilizer and you can apply a balanced fertilizer in the early spring and mid-summer. Firecracker Plant pictured left.
Hibiscus - Hibiscus are heavy feeders and a Hibiscus fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 are also recommended for Hibiscus and are a time-release fertilizer. Hibiscus plants attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.
Homestead Purple Verbena: Verbena canadensis 'Homestead Purple' – There are two types of Verbenas, annual and perennial, but both types of Verbenas require the same fertilizer, and do extremely well under drought conditions and summer heat. Both types of Verbenas require a well-drained soil or plant in an area that does not collect water during heavy rains. Fertilize Verbenas once a year with a balanced plant food. Homestead Purple Verbena pictured right.
Ixora – Ixoras require an acid soil and an acid fertilizer. When Ixoras are planted in alkaline soil the plant suffers from Iron and Manganese deficiencies. When planting Ixoras amend the soil with Miracle-Gro Azalea soil or Miracle-Gro Rose soil and top dress with mulch. The recommended fertilizer for Ixoras are the same that are recommended for Gardenias, Azaleas, and Rhododendrons which should contain the minor elements, or a fertilizer recommended for Palm trees, or a fertilizer recommended for Hibiscus. Apply fertilizer 3 to 4 times a year. Do you drink coffee or tea? If so, the used ground can be recycled back into the soil under your acid loving plants such as Ixoras.
Lantana: Lantana camara – Lantana loves the summer heat and is extremely drought tolerant after the plant is established. In the south, Lantana is a perennial that comes back in the spring and should be pruned back after the danger of frost is gone. Lantana requires very little fertilizer and can be fertilized very lightly with a balanced fertilizer such as 6-6-6, 8-8-8, or 10-10-10 in early spring and mid-summer. Lantanas attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Lantana Plant pictured left.
Palm Trees – require a 3-1-3 ratio fertilizer such as 12-4-12, or 13-3-13, or 15-5-15 at a slow-release or a control-release formulation. The fertilizer should also, contain minor elements or micro-elements. Broadcast the fertilizer around the root zone and past the drip line of the palm fronds.
Pride-of Barbados: Caesalpinia pulcherrima – Pride-of Barbados is in the Fabaceae family, (Legumes) and has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia. The Rhizobia (bacteria) takes nitrogen from the air and changes the nitrogen to nitrates, a form of nitrogen that is immediately available to the plant’s roots. Because of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, if you need to fertilize the plant use a low nitrogen fertilizer. The plant is very drought tolerant after establishment and grows well in a wide range of soils from alkaline to acidic.
Turk’s Cap: Malvaviscus arboreus – Turk’s Cap is in the Malvaceae Family, the same family the Hibiscus plant is in. Hibiscuses are heavy feeders and a Hibiscus fertilizer should have a low phosphorous [P], which is the middle number and a higher analysis of potassium [K], which is the last number. The recommended fertilizers for the Hibiscus are 10-4-12, 9-3-12, or 12-4-18. Osmocote 17-6-10 + minors or Osmocote 18-6-12 are also recommended for Hibiscus and are a time-release fertilizer. Turk’s Cap is more drought tolerant than the tropical Hibiscus and attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Turk's Cap pictured right.
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©Cheryl Ann Meola 2013. Texas Certified Nursery Professional (TCNP) #1282.