Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

How much fertilizer do transplants need?

new transplant

In hot humid climates nitrogen is always in short supply. If you, like me, also use pine mark or other mulches that break down rapidly there is even less nitrogen in the soil.

The plants you bring home to your landscape come from a well fed environment. To help them adjust keep up the fertilizer levels for the first six months. Two years later your plants will be stronger and healthier.

If you just use nitrogen as we often do down here the new plants may develop potassium and magnesium deficiencies. So be sure to use a good all around fertilizer.

The roots of container-grown ornamental plants primarily are concentrated within the original container substrate root ball during the establishment period following transplanting into the landscape. Plants growing in container substrates containing pine bark or peatmoss have higher nitrogen (N) requirements than in most landscape soils due to microbial immobilization of N by these organic components. However, use of high-N fertilizers, such as those used in container production of ornamentals, can cause imbalances with potassium (K) and magnesium (Mg) when used on palms in sandy landscape soils. Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) and chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘President’) that had been growing in containers were transplanted into a landscape soil to determine if high N fertilization during the establishment period could accelerate the rate of establishment without exacerbating K and Mg deficiencies. Although plants of both species had the darkest green color and largest size when continuously fertilized with high N fertilizer, this treatment did induce Mg deficiency in both species. Plant size and color for both species were highly correlated with cumulative N application rates, but also with initial N application rates, suggesting that high N fertilization during the first 6 months affected plant quality at 12 and 24 months after planting, even if high N fertilization was discontinued. However, continued use of a moderate N landscape palm maintenance fertilizer ultimately produced areca palm plants as good as those receiving high N during the establishment period.

Effects of Fertilization on the Growth and Quality of Container-grown Areca Palm and Chinese Hibiscus during Establishment in the Landscape