Early spring is the perfect time to start your fertilizer schedules for your tropical plants! The conditions are perfect; the growing season has just kicked off, the weather is warm, and we’re just beginning our transition from the dry season into the rainy weather of late spring. But what should you put on your list before fertilizer shopping? Here are the best fertilizers for all your favorite tropicals!
Which Fertilizer Should I Use on My Tropical Plants and Flowers?
The best fertilizer for your tropical plants depends quite a bit on their soil pH needs. For example, acid-loving plants such as camellias, gardenias, and azaleas do best with an acid-loving fertilizer formula. These fertilizers temporarily lower the soil pH with the addition of sulfur, which helps the plants absorb the nutrients in the fertilizer.
If your plants aren’t quite so picky about acidic soil, they’ll likely do well with slow-release fertilizer granules with a balanced ratio, such as 13-13-13 or 14-14-14. Bedding and groundcover plants are especially fond of these formulas! Apply it like you would salt and pepper; sprinkle generously enough around the plant base that you can see the granules easily from a few feet away, but don’t coat the area or pile the granules on.
Bromeliads (including air plants), staghorn ferns, and orchids are all very fond of fish emulsion. This organic fertilizer is hard to overdo it with, and it’s also great for your potted plants.
The Best Fertilizer for Tropical Fruits
Tropical fruit trees do best when kept on a regular fertilizer schedule, but our limestone-heavy soil poses a few challenges for encouraging them to get the right balance of minor elements. If you’re not sure what fertilizer to choose for your mango or lychee trees, the key is a formula rich in potassium—your tropical tree’s most-wanted nutrient! An 8-3-9 fertilizer solution provides enough potassium without adding too much nitrogen, which can cause excessive leaf production and not a lot of fruit.
However, fertilizer alone isn’t the only thing your tropical fruit plants need for a healthy harvest. This fertilizer doesn’t contain certain essential minor elements, like boron, copper, manganese, and zinc, which the plant also needs for healthy production. During the rainy season, apply a foliar spray containing these elements directly to the tree foliage and a chelated iron drench to the root area.
During the rainy season, you shouldn’t need to follow up your fertilizing routine with a whole lot of irrigation. However, the occasional irrigation during the dry season will serve your trees well. Don’t be afraid to let tropical fruit trees experience a little bit of drought stress; in many cases, it promotes flowering.
The Best Fertilizer for Palms
Palms have fairly particular needs, and it’s important to feed them correctly if you plan to feed them at all. The best fertilizer for these tropical plants is a controlled-release formula containing an 8-2-12 ratio plus 2-4% manganese. If you really want to do right by your palms, check the ingredients list on the fertilizer bag. A good-quality palm fertilizer will include polymer-coated ingredients (such as polymer-coated urea and polymer-coated sulfate of potash) that promote the slower release of the ingredient. If possible, look for manganese in the form of magnesium sulfate or kieserite.
With proper fertilization, you’ll enjoy more flowers, tastier fruit, and better overall health with all of the tropical plants in your garden. Still have fertilizer questions we haven’t answered here? Visit us soon at our garden center in Fort Lauderdale!