The Q&A Archives: Phosphorus for Bulbs

Question: I have been told that phosphorus does not move in the soil. I want to use it on my established lily bulbs. How can I get the phosphorus down to the bulbs without digging them up?

Answer: You're right, phosphorus does not move readily through the soil the way nitrogen and potassium do. In fact, some studies indicate that phosphorus doesn't move more than 1/4 inch through soil. Has a soil test determined that your soil is lacking phosphorus? Are your lilies showing signs of deficiency? The best you can do is scratch the phosphorus into the soil near the bulbs. It may be best to transplant them to soil you have enriched with compost and phosphorus. The microbes present in rich organic matter help make phosphorus available to plants. Finally, for a short-term solution to the problem, you could try an all-purpose foliage spray after the plants have bloomed, though you'll have to repeat this regularly if deficiency symptoms continue. Best of luck!

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