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Changing plant food question

Posted by Lamora 4 (My Page) on
Thu, Dec 6, 12 at 14:54

Hi Everyone! Happy Thursday! :)
I am not going to say names of plant foods, everyone has their own opinion on the subject.

I was wondering how to go about changing the foods you use. I have a full bottle of something that I have had for a while, was given to me. But at that time, I was using something else. Now I am running out of what I have been using and been wanting to try this other stuff.

Is there a way to go about "weaning" off of one food and introducing another? Kinda like what you are SUPPOSSED to do with your dog/cat... lol

Or.. if the foods are almost, not quite, equal in the formula,(like what I have) does it matter much to the plant? or would they go into like a shock if food is changed too quickly? I don't want to make my plants sick from not using what they are used to. (DUHH)

Thanks for any responce on this,
Marjie :)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Changing plant food question

Simply switch, there's nothing more to it, sorry, but this is nowhere near as involved as you're making it. Simply switch what you're using & mix as per the directions on the package.

RE: Changing plant food question

pirate_girl, thanks.. ok, just making sure~ still new and still learning! :)

RE: Changing plant food question

PS, we don't usually fertilize going into Winter (as we are now). I don't know what plants you mean, but usually best to wait 'til Spring to fertilize.

RE: Changing plant food question

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 6, 12 at 21:23

I don't completely agree or disagree with Karen on the topic because I don't think it's quite that simple. If, for instance, you're using a fast-draining soil and watering correctly, you have little choice but to fertilize during the winter if you wish to avoid deficiencies. If, on the other hand, you're using a soil heavier than ideal and watering in sips in an attempt to help reduce the likelihood or root rot or impairment of root function, you might wish to consider not fertilizing to prevent increasing the rate at which salts from fertilizers and tap water accumulate.

The ability to keep a consistent low level of fertility is much preferred to nutritional deficiencies and toxicities (excesses). You have to look no further than to how mother nature provides for her charges to see the truth in that statement. No one withholds nutrients from the soils where plants naturally occur, even in the winter. The real problem with that idea in container culture is, as soils become more and more water retentive, that gets harder and harder to achieve. I fertilize more frequently in the winter (a low dose with every watering) than I do in the summer (usually weekly at a higher dosage).

So, it's not something you can just cover with a blanket statement. It's something that needs to be reasoned through.

.... and yeah, we're good, K. ;-)

It's true that all you do is switch when changing fertilizers, but it's a good idea to give some consideration to what you're switching TOO. All fertilizers aren't created equal, and there can even be significant differences between 2 fertilizers with the same NPK %s or ratio.


RE: Changing plant food question

Pirate, I do feed low dose at my waterings, even now, with all my plants, and they don't seem to mind. At this point, I am basicly taking care of them all the same way, with a few exceptions. But that is me, and so far it is working for the most part. With a few exceptions~~ of course.. :)

Al~ the food that I wanted to change to is very similer with what I have now, just a few very minor differences. I do flush with every watering, I filter my water and have a fast draining soil mix. (Sometimes I wonder if the plants are getting ANYTHING out of it! lol). But they seem to be doing real good with what I am doing. I think I will keep it up.. :)

Just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to make them sick by switching foods~~ like our dog does~~poor baby~~ ;) (yes, I know there is a huge difference in animals and plants~~ but they both are my babies)

Thanks for the advice.
Marjie~~ :)

RE: Changing plant food question

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 7, 12 at 7:22

Can I ask what you're switching to/from?


RE: Changing plant food question

Al, just for you~ :)
From: MG Liquid Houseplant Food..8-7-6
to: Schultz Plant Food..10-15-10
I will be feeding 1/2 strength, like I am now with the MG... will that work?

The printing is microscopic to me, so I had my husband read it to me just now, he said there is some difference. I missed a few things in it when I tried to read it, (mom keeps hiding the magnifying glass!!)But I hope it works.

I asked 2 plant stores here what they use, both swore by the Schultz Plant Food, plus, like I said, it was given to me.. that helps.. lol

So, what to you think? am I doing right by my plants?

RE: Changing plant food question

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 7, 12 at 17:00

Between the 8-7-6 and the 10-15-10, I'd stick with the 8-7-6. Both have much more (P)hosphorous than the plant needs or can use, but the 10-15-10 has WAY more, like about 4x as much as needed. No plant uses more P than N, so it's very difficult to make a case FOR fertilizers that supply more P than N.

I just left the following on another current thread about fertilizing. It gives an idea about what the CEO of a fertilizer company thinks about high-P formulations:

From Dave Neal: "You are correct. We market high P fertilizers because people "believe" they need them. As you have noted, our Foliage-Pro does a great job start to finish. However, it is simpler to give the market what they think my emphasis] they need than to try to reeducate it. There is some evidence to believe that low N helps to convince a plant to stop its vegetative growth and move into its reproductive phase (flowering), but environmental factors are probably more important. P is typically 5th or 6th in order of importance of the six macronutrients. There is little scientific justification for higher P formulas, but marketing does come into play for the vast majority of users who lack any real understanding of plant nutritional requirements. Therefore, the market is flooded with a plethora of snake oil products that provide little benefit and can actually do harm. For example, one exhibitor at a hydroponic trade show had a calcium supplement with 2% calcium derived from calcium chloride. Can you guess what continued application of 2% chloride would do to plants?

I hope this answers your question and am sorry for (Xxxx's) inaccurate response."

Dave Neal, CEO
Dyna-Gro Nutrition Solutions ...."

It's not that you can't grow healthy plants using 8-7-6 (it's harder with 10-15-10, though), but plants use about 6X as much P as N, so all that extra P has only the potential to limit. An excess of any single element can be as limiting as a deficiency.

If I had to make some sort of order out of a few of the more common fertilizers being used for houseplants, from poor to very good, it would be like this:

20-20-20, 14-14-14, or any other 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers
MG 12-4-8
MG 24-8-16 or any other of the other very common 24-8-16 brands
Foliage-Pro 9-3-6

The closer you get to being able to supply nutrients in the ratio at which plants use them, the better off your plants will be, unless you understand how to manipulate them with cause and are intentionally taking that control. The last 3 fertilizers listed supply NPK in as close to the same ratio as the average of all plants as you can buy.


RE: Changing plant food question

Thanks Al, so if I want to keep doing well with my plants, I should look for something else.. Been wanting to try the Foliage Pro for some time now, maybe I can talk my DH into it. (actually, the way he feels about my plants, I don't think he would mind-- ;)

Ok then, don't ask nerseries what they use.. it just confuses the issue.

But this helps me a lot, tho I don't understand it all, but a little bit sips in now and then..

Thanks again, so very helpful~~ again

RE: Changing plant food question

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 7, 12 at 23:12

I'm not trying to marginalize anyone, or make myself out to be anything special, but you'll most often find a lot of growers quick to tell you what you should use, but very few willing to attempt to explain what benefit/advantage there is to be found in it. In most cases, people believe and repeat what they read on the fertilizer box with the pretty pictures, are repeating something they heard/read somewhere else, or are sure that because their plants don't seem to be suffering from the fertilizer du jour, that it must be a very good choice.

Whenever I'm in the fertilizer/pesticide aisle of a store, I'm always intrigued by the conversations that take place. Almost no one knows what they want when they get there, or how to make a choice. In most cases, they MAKE a choice based on the promises/hype on the front of the box, and there is a LOT of leading and misleading going in order to entice you, or, they guess. If they ask an employee on the floor, it's only rarely they get a reasonable suggestion. That's not good or bad, it's just a fact of life due to it understandably being a low priority for most people to educate themselves on things like fertilizers, IPM, or pesticides in general. Often though, the people who really have no idea why they chose a particular product will either suggest it to others or defend it against all comers as the best in the west.

If I had to describe the ideal a container gardener would be well-served to strive for in the area of supplemental nutrition, it would be to take steps to ensure that all the essential elements plant normally take from the soil are available in the soil in the same ratio at which the plant uses those elements (that's the NPK ratio, not the NPK %s), at a concentration high enough to ensure there are no deficiencies, yet low enough to ensure the plant has no difficulty taking up water and the nutrients dissolved in water. A very high % of fertilizers can be eliminated as good choices due to the fact the ratio of the NPK %s ensures either a deficiency of some nutrients AND a toxicity (excess) of others at ANY given time.

If you'd like to try some FP 9-3-6, I'd be happy to share a couple of ounces and an eye dropper bottle with you. I buy it by the gallon, and I'd hardly miss it ..... and a couple of ounces will fertilize a lot of houseplants for quite some time. Let me know .....


RE: Changing plant food question

Hi Al, sounds great! Thank you! :) I will send an email. And again, thanks..

RE: Changing plant food question

Wow wow wow! Hold on! The liquid stuff is a waste of money and has not many micronutrients. Good idea on swithcing. I agree with Al on the NPK ratio though.

I would suggest you get the all purpose miracle gro 24-8-16. It cheaper, has better nutrition, and great npk ratio. Easy to use, just use it half of what they say. Inside feeding it is WAY less then outside. My number one fertilizer choice for soil.

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