Bonsai Gardening Secrets:
Fertilizing to Create more Blossoms on Your Flowers, Flowering
Shrubs, and Trees
by Michael J. McGroarty
The secret to making your flowering trees,
shrubs, annuals, and perennials bloom more is in the numbers. All
fertilizers have analysis numbers on the package. These numbers
represent the percentage of each chemical the product contains.
For example, 12-12-12 is a typical garden garden fertilizer that would
contain 12% nitrogen, 12%phosphorous, and 12% potassium. The quick
explanation is; nitrogen produces vegetative, or top growth,
phosphorous produces flower buds, fruit, and root development, while
potassium builds strong healthy plants.
Most lawn grasses are vigorous growers and therefore require
significantly more nitrogen than the other plants in your yard. A lawn
fertilizer would have an analysis of 26-3-3, indicating a fertilizer
high in nitrogen. You would not want to use a fertilizer containing
such a high percentage of nitrogen on landscape plants because it
would be very easy to burn them. You must also keep in mind that many
lawn fertilizers contain broad leaf weed killers, and most ornamental
plants have broad leaves. The fertilizer doesn’t know the difference,
and it will damage or kill ornamental trees and shrubs.
During the summer months the growth rate of most plants slows down,
and when plants are not actively growing, they need very little
nitrogen. Although not vigorously putting on new growth, many plants
such as Dogwood Trees, Rhododendrons, and Azaleas are quietly working
to produce flower buds for next year. Annual and perennial flowers are
also busy making new flower buds.
To encourage flower bud production you can apply a fertilizer that
contains a small percentage of nitrogen, a higher percentage of
phosphorous, and a little potassium. I recently purchased a liquid
fertilizer with an analysis of 5-30- 5, ideal for flower production.
Because the product is sold as a bloom producer, the manufacture also
added a little chelated iron, manganese, and zinc, all good for your
plants as well.
Most garden centers and discount stores carry similar products. I
chose a liquid fertilizer because liquid fertilizers are absorbed both
through the roots and systemically through the foliage, so they work
quicker. I used a sprayer that attaches to the end of the garden hose
to apply the fertilizer, but do not use the same hose end sprayer that
you use for lawn fertilizers. There could be residual weed killer
still in the sprayer.
About those hose end sprayers. I purchased one that is supposed to
automatically mix the proper ratio for you. I used it to apply a
general insecticide, and it worked, but it sure seemed like I went
through a lot more insecticide than I needed. When I used it for the
fertilizer the screen on the little pick up hose inside the jar kept
getting clogged with the tiny solids in the fertilizer. I recommend
using a solution of one part liquid fertilizer to one part water in
the sprayer jar, and applying at a heavier rate.
Watch the liquid in the sprayer jar, and if it isn’t going down remove
the lid and clean the little screen by spraying it with water from the
garden hose. Read the application instructions on the container to
determine how much fertilizer to apply, and how often. A fertilizer
high in phosphorous will increase flower production. You will see a
Remember the golden rule of applying fertilizers. “Not enough, is
always better than too much.”
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
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