Succulent Fertilizer Needs – Tips For Fertilizing Cacti And Succulents

Potted Cacti And Succulents
cacti fertilizer
(Image credit: tugceozturk)

More often these days, indoor gardeners are experimenting with growing plants categorized as succulents. They’re realizing there is quite a bit of difference between growing succulents and the traditional houseplants. One of these differences is feeding succulents and cacti.

Succulent Fertilizer Needs

Along with watering, soil, and light, succulent fertilizer needs are different from other plants. In the range of natural conditions from which these plants originate, feeding is extremely limited. Succulents don’t need much fertilization. Therefore, fertilizing cacti and succulents that are domesticated should be limited to replicate their native conditions.

When to Feed Cacti and Succulents

Feeding succulents and cacti in most cases should be limited to just once a year, according to some experts. I confess that is a rule I’ve broken. Too much fertilizer weakens succulent plants, and any extra growth is likely to be weak and possibly spindly, encouraging the dreaded etiolation we all try to avoid. Other experts remind us that nurseries feed with every watering during the period of growth, a method called fertigation, where a slight amount of food is included in the watering system. Some recommend a monthly feeding schedule. Consider this information as you learn when to feed cacti and succulents. The idea is to feed your succulent plant just before and during its growing season. Experts say this is early spring through late summer. If you have a plant that grows in winter, give it fertilizer during that time. Most of us don’t have information of that nature about all our plants; therefore, we approach succulent and cactus fertilizer requirements in a general way, such as a spring feeding for all. This schedule is appropriate for most plants. If plants aren’t experiencing growth or are looking poorly, fertilizing cacti and succulents again in early summer may perk them up. And, if you decide to try a monthly feeding, research the plants you have identified and see if there is reliable information about which feeding schedule is best for them, or at least learn their growing season.

Feeding Succulent and Cacti

Just as important as the timing is what we use, particularly if we limit ourselves to once a year feeding. We’ll want to make that feeding counts. There are several products designed for succulent fertilizer needs. Some recommend using a high phosphorus fertilizer, such as those that encourage summer blooms, at a weakened level. Others swear by a compost tea (offered online). Most discourage the use of nitrogen-heavy products and nitrogen-rich compost, although a few recommend using a balanced fertilizer monthly. Finally, add trace elements to the soil in plants that have been in the same soil for a year or longer. Follow these tips, and you'll soon establish a feeding program that is right for your collection.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.