Food for thought: Do I need to fertilize my succulents?

Despite what many people think, succulents do need some fertilizer. They may survive without it, but to get your plants to thrive, you need to feed them! Think of your plant as if it’s a person. If people don’t eat well and get the correct nutrients, they can become unhealthy and get sick very easily. Luckily, it’s much easier getting a plant to stick to a healthy diet, and you can read more below on how to begin fertilizing your succulents.

What kind of fertilizer should I give my succulents?

Basacote Plus can be used when fertilizing succulents
Basacote Plus is the fertilizer we use for our succulents

Slow-release fertilizers

Slow-release fertilizers are mostly sold in granule form. You can add these into the soil when potting up a plant. Every time the plant receives water, the granules release a little bit of nutrients into the soil. These granules typically last between 6 and 12 months, after which they need to be replaced. This is a great, low-maintenance way to feed your plants, and most succulents are happy to have a constant, low-level release of nutrients into the soil.

At Living Desert Plants, we mainly use Basacote Plus 12M 16-8-12 (+2) as our slow release fertilizer, and find that it works quite well. It is reasonably balanced and affordable.

Osmocote can be used when fertilizing succulents
Osmocote is another popular slow release fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers

Liquid fertilizers are a bit more precise than their slow-release counterparts. These are ideal for extra sensitive succulents like Lithops that must not receive water or extra nutrients during their dormancy period. You can apply a dose of liquid fertilizer to your collection once per month during the growing season. The major advantage of these fertilizers is that they are generally much cheaper, and much easier to find, than slow-release types.

We can recommend Pokon – Cactus and Succulent Plant Food as a good, well-balanced liquid fertilizer for fertilizing succulents. It can be purchased at most retail nurseries and garden centers.

Liquid fertilizer can be used when fertilizing succulents
Liquid fertilizer may look a bit strange, but plants love it!

When should I be fertilizing succulents?

If you are using liquid fertilizer, only fertilize your succulents during the growing season. There’s not much point in giving them food when they are dormant, as they are not actively growing nor absorbing much nutrients from the soil. If you fertilize them at the wrong time, you could cause an excessive nutrient buildup in the soil. 

As an example, fertilizer should be given to Haworthia in autumn and winter when it’s cool, and Echeveria should be fertilized in spring and summer when it’s warm.

How much should I be fertilizing succulents?

Generally, we suggest halving the recommended dose of general fertilizers when applying it to succulents. This prevents their roots from being damaged, as most succulent roots are quite sensitive to fertilizer burn, which is caused by a high soil nitrogen content, which in turn creates an excessive amount of salt in the soil. Only use the full recommended dose if the fertilizer is specifically designed for succulents.

- Cheryl K

We ordered plants from LDP through Harry Lewis a while back. We were very happy with our parcel. Reasonably priced. Very helpful as well. I can recommend Living Desert Plants.

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