The Q&A Archives: Fertilizers

Question: I have beautiful flowers but my stems aren't strong enough to hold them up. I've been using 10-10-10 fertilizer. What do I need to use to make the stems stronger?

Answer: The numbers on the fertilizer package relate to the amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium it contains. A 10-10-10 would have equal amounts of all three elements. Nitrogen promotes lush foliage, Phosphorus helps with stem, flower and fruit (or seed) production, and Potassium works in conjunction with the other two elements, plus it help the roots develop. It's possible that you've overfertilized your plants and they're trying to respond, but they're growing so quickly that the tissues in the stems are weak and cannot support the flower heads. Some flowers have a 'nodding' characteristic when in full bloom, and some flowers get so saturated with water during rains or overhead sprinkling that they can't stand up straight. Why not try to stake the stems to help hold them upright? Next time you fertilize, try a 5-10-10. It has less Nitrogen and more Phosphorus and Potassium, to promote strong stem and root growth and flower and seed production.

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