Fertilizing annuals and perennials

Thu. May. 7, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Fertilizing annuals and perennials

Many of us have made our way to our local Garden Centers! Stocking up on things to do outside where social distancing works so well! Of course then we had a drop in temperatures and some of your plants had to be covered!

So this is a peach but you get the idea!

Generally, I’ve not been one to add a lot of chemicals to my gardens which includes fertilizer.  However, to boost the bloom and get the foliage flashing –  fertilizing is the ticket.  There is a difference in how you fertilize annuals and perennials.

Fuschia ‘Double Purple’

Since annuals live their entire life in one season, they will bloom bigger and better with more fertilizer treatments.  They don’t have the advantage of a perennial that already has a hardy root system. 

Always follow package directions OR use less!  Never use more.  For great blooms, use a 10-20-10 fertilizer.  The middle number is phosphorus and is responsible for fruits, blooms and roots.

N = Nitrogen – foliage

P = Phosphorus – blooms/fruits and roots

K = Potassium – overall plant health

If you’ve bought plants for their foliage, then use a fertilizer with more nitrogen, something like a 20-10-10.

yellow bleeding heart

Perennials could use a power boost each Spring.  To play it safe, you can use a general fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 but cut the dose by half and then fertilize again in early June.  I urge you to err on the side of caution so you don’t  burn your plants. 

front porch


Now here’s an organic option that I use. In fact, I just used it when planting my crabapple tree.  DRAMMATIC Organic Fertilizer with kelp. It’s 2-4-1 which means you know you won’t burn plants, that includes in hot weather… 

NOTE:  If it’s really hot, DON’T fertilize.  You can always top dress your plants as well.  Adding compost right on top of the soil works for water retention and gives them some macro and micro nutrients.

finished compost ready for garden bed

If your perennials have been in decline, maybe getting floppy or leggy, perhaps fewer flowers, then give them a dose of fertilizer.  Keep in mind, they may also need to be divided. Maybe some social distancing for the plants too.

Hosta division