Fast Fertilizer Fixes

FN 1.1 IMP SunPatiens Compact Tropical Rose 0003
Like Goldilocks—we want our soil to be just right

Often we turn to commercial fertilizer when we feel a bed is lacking in size, color, or bloom. As a matter of fact, a few of these quick fix scenarios played out in our display beds this year. When the time comes, it’s important to remember that overfeeding can introduce problems as much as underfeeding does.

FN 1.7 IMP Sunpatiens Compact Orange 0002
‘SunPatiens Compact Orange’—too much green and too little color

Size is one aspect of growth that can be controlled by feeding; coloration and bloom are others. For example, the SunPatiens in Bed 1 were planted late so we pushed them too hard and too fast with the fertilizer. We ended up with a lot of leaf growth but too little color.

FN 1.3 ALO Frydek 0005
‘Frydek’ started small and eventually filled out fine

On the other hand we experienced a different situation in Bed 10 with Alocasia ‘Frydek’. Although the soil was weak next to the building we didn’t push the plant with fertilizer. It was hungry so it started out tiny and took awhile, but eventually the Alocasia adapted to its environment and filled out just fine.

FN 1.4 SAL Vista White 0002
Salvia does well in the shade as long as we feed it

We pushed ‘Vista White’ Salvia in the shade in Bed 4 and felt that the color was adequate. Salvia does well in the shade as long as we feed it—this is true even if we start with a well-prepared bed. It’s just a heavy feeder so don’t run it narrow, lean, and dry or hard; keep some feed to the plant to keep the bloom spikes coming.

FN 1.11 MG 2391 copy
Zinnia blooms get buried when the soil is too rich

‘Zahara Double Fire’ Zinnia was also in Bed 13. We grow Zahara and Profusion, two great no-maintenance Zinnias—no foliage problems and plants bloom all summer long. One thing we’ve learned however is to go light with the feeding—when the soil is too rich the blooms get buried down in the foliage.

FN 1.9 MG 2348 copy
We value the information we take away from our display beds

This is what happened with the SunPatiens in Bed 1. If the plants had been a little bit hungry the bloom would have been up on top and given us a better color display.

As a convenience we do sell commercial fertilizer, but keep in mind that these are after-the-fact fixes. When you don’t trust the soil your job is harder so it’s better to amend the bed right at the start, before planting.

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Diefenbacher Greenhouses is a supplier of annuals and creative green goods. We sell directly to Garden Centers and Landscapers in the Cincinnati Area. 

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