Feeding foliar plants - most important nutrients?

joel_bc(z6 BC)March 10, 2014

Feeding & puning are actually the questions. Our heartleaf philodendron was healthy and truly glorious - like Rapunzel's mangnificent flowing locks - until our young cat got at it and started shredding and defoliating!

We've managed to train the cat away from this nasty obsession. Now we'd like to see the H.P. grow lots of new leaves. So I know it would be no good to go overboard on fertilizing, but administer some a bit at a time. But, in terms of a soluble plant food, what nutrient emphasis is most important? (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, etc)

Another but related question: with heartleaf philodendron, if we prune back the vines - say, a third of the way or half way up - will this reliably boost the tendency for the vines to produce abundant new leaves?


This post was edited by joel_bc on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 14:07

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Any time you remove an apical meristem (tip of branch or stem where elongation occurs), it forces branching proximal to the pruning cut, which means you get more leaves (on the new branches).

All nutrients plants normally get from the soil are equally essential to normal growth. Even the least used nutrients can cause growth abnormalities or stalled growth. Remember, growth is a measure of the increase in a plant's mass, so a plant that is extending might not actually be growing.

The little ditty about what the plant is supposed to do with the N, P, and K it takes up (up, down, all around) as a way to remember that N is for the top of the plant (foliage), P is for the roots and blooms, and K is supposed to benefit the plant's general well being is misleading and inaccurate. The plant needs P and K for foliage growth as much as it needs N. It needs N for roots and blooms as much as it needs P, and it needs all the other nutrients for its general well being as much as it needs K.

There is a distinct advantage in supplying nutrients at the ratio closest to that at which the plant uses them. A fertilizer's RATIO is different than its NPK %s. EG, 24-8-16, 12-4-8, and 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratios, and supply nutrients in very close to the ratio at which plants actually use them. I use a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer for everything I grow, and it works very well. I like Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 because it has ALL the essential nutrients, in the right ratio, in soluble form so nutrients are immediately available, and it derives most of it's N from nitrate sources, instead of from urea, and that fact helps to keep plants compact & from getting leggy in low light conditions. It also contains Ca and Mg - two nutrients most soluble fertilizers don't include.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 4:34PM
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joel_bc(z6 BC)

Thanks, Al. I know you favor fairly frequent repotting in uncompacted soil, too.

I'm going to see if I can find FoliagePro in British Columbia, where I live.

With heartleaf philo, is it likely more vine (along, of course, with more leaves) will grow nicely from the mature vines - if I cut them off at, say, to eight inches from the soil? (Pruning just below a node.) Some of the 40-inch long vines were pretty badly savaged, but are still looking good with a lot of leaves for their first 10 inches or so.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If the plant is growing upward, you'd prune just above a node, if it is pendulous, i.e. growing downward, it would be just below a node. If you use the words distal and proximal, distal meaning toward the away side from the root to shoot transition and proximal meaning nearer the root to shoot transition, there is no confusion. Your elbow is distal to your shoulder and proximal to your wrist, so your cuts would be just distal to a node.

I wouldn't hesitate to cut it back as hard as you like. It would be better to wait until summer though. The plant will have more energy then, and all the new growth that occurs will have short internodes. If people would get in the habit of pruning these plants every year in June, they would be regularly be removing leggy winter growth and making room for new growth that has shorter internodes due to the increase in light.

If you cut them off, they will back-bud, but you could just start new plants, too. They're very easy to clone. If you shorten the vines back to 2 leaves regularly, you'll be surprised at how full and compact the plant will get.

Once I learned what a difference repotting vs potting up makes for my bonsai trees, I started applying it to everything I grow for the long term. Everything that lends itself to being fully repotted, gets a full repot at regular intervals. It's easy to tell if a repotting and root pruning is needed, just by lifting the plant from the pot. If the root/soil mass comes out of the pot intact, the plant will benefit from a repotting at the first appropriate opportunity. The best time to repot or do serious work on your plants is in summer - like from mid-Jun to mid-Jul.


This post was edited by tapla on Wed, Mar 12, 14 at 16:23

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:54PM
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