Lilies forum: Fertilizer

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Name: Michael Norberry
Arcata, CA Zone 9 or 17 suns (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: California Seed Starter Ponds
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mnorberry
Jul 25, 2013 12:07 PM CST
What should I be looking for when purchasing fertilizer for my lilies? I have been told that slow release will not work here in my area because it does not get hot enough. Right now I add some bonemeal when they start coming up and after they bloom. But I have noticed that they are getting smaller in height. They need something more. Any suggestions? Most of mine are grown in containers.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 25, 2013 2:12 PM CST
Slow release fertilizers (if they are not completely organic) are slow release because the beads (or pieces) of fertilizer have varying thicknesses of a coating that breaks down in time, due to microorganisms or natural physical breakdown. Inside this coating, then, is the fertilizer that is "slowly" released. Actually, once the coating integrity is breached, the fertilizer is quickly released, but due to the multitude of beads that are breached at different time intervals, the overall action is slow release. People claim that they find broken insect eggs in houseplant soil frequently, but in actuality, it is these beads that have cracked, the fertilizer released, and the rest of the shell (the coating that is resistant to breakdown) remains.

It's true that slow release fertilizers release faster in hot weather. All chemical reactions work faster with warmer temps. But it's a silly notion that things don't break down in, say, 50F weather. A slow release fertilizer that claims 3 months of feeding might feed (at a much lower rate) for 6 or 9 months for you. Bonemeal is slower release than any processed slow release fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers are fast acting, but would be slower in your case for the same reason.
Name: Michael Norberry
Arcata, CA Zone 9 or 17 suns (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Region: California Seed Starter Ponds
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mnorberry
Jul 26, 2013 11:02 AM CST
What do you use when fertilizing your lilies?
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 26, 2013 3:59 PM CST
Not too picky about fertilizers, except that in the garden it is always granular. I normally use very little because I use so much leaf mulch that constantly decomposes. My neighbors deposit their fall leaves (and sometimes summer grass clippings) in my yard, too. Unfortunately, everyone has maples and ash trees... leaves that naturally decompose quickly. I have to mulch my beds twice a year. I fertilize once a year.... maybe. Consequently, I use whatever I have available. I haven't bought granular fertilizer for many years. People always give me what they don't want anymore, and that's plenty. I use high nitrogen fertilizers or not. It's the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer that dictates how much I use - explanation to follow.

Three years ago I had to redo a couple beds because the soils were getting too heavy. I purposely overdid the mixing of raw leaves with the soil. You could almost swear that the ratio was 1/10 soil and 9/10 leaves (in reality it was probably 1/5 and 4/5 by volume). I still needed to replant bulbs there that fall (no choice), so I added a lot of high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, because I new the microorganisms that would be so busy breaking down the leaves would tie it all up. I am sure I put on at least double the recommended rate for a lawn. It was a bit of a gamble, but I looked at it as an "experiment". I am always more interested in what I can learn about plants (or what they can teach me), as opposed to their beauty (which is in the eye of the beholder, anyway). Results were staggeringly positive. I had planted seedling bulbs there that fall, and some bloomed the next year, but the year after, oh my gosh!
Plants went from, say, a one or two bloom stem the first year, to this the second year:
Thumb of 2013-07-26/Leftwood/1e1738 This is one of the Sweet Surrender x Dots and Dashs seedlings.

It is my opinion, that in the end, people make too much about using too much nitrogen in their fertilizer. There are exceptions for certain particular soils. And if they are fertilizing heavily, then yes, they do need to worry. But once or twice a year at a recommend rate, I don't think there is a need for high phosphorus or potassium in the N-P-K ratio. Nitrogen will most always be the limiting nutrient in soils that are not heavily fertilized, and therefore it is difficult to put on too much. Remember potassium and phosphorus are relatively immobile in the soil, whereas nitrogen can be leached out (even by heavy rain) easily. Also note that I underlined "recommended rate". Most people, knowingly or not, use more than what is recommended.

Note that Miracle-Gro's Bloom Booster used to have 50% phosphorus. Now if you check the label, it is 30% (15-30-15). Similarly, their all purpose used to be 15-30-15 and it is now 24-8-16. Yup, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient.
Name: Anthony Gloriosoides[ sure!]
Rosetta,Tasmania,Australia (Zone 7b)
idont havemuch-but ihave everything
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: Australia Lilies Seed Starter Bulbs
Plant and/or Seed Trader Hellebores Birds Seller of Garden Stuff Garden Art Cat Lover
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gwhizz
Jul 27, 2013 4:15 AM CST
We use a fish based liquid fertilizer -gets results!
lily freaks are not geeks!
Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Lilies Seed Starter Pollen collector Bee Lover Region: Wisconsin
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Roosterlorn
Jul 27, 2013 4:40 AM CST
Rick--your high nitrogen addition to green leaves is interesting. So, the nitrogen never was consumed or lost in the process, only being used in the process of decomposition, and then slowly released again. as decomposition was completed. No wonder your Dots and Dashes grew so well. Innovative manipulation of nitrogen, Rick.

Mike--Container gardening is a little different ball game than open soil gardening, too. So what I use or others use who practice open soil gardening wouldn't necessarily apply in you case. As Rick says, nitrogen and (I'll add WATER to the list) would, I think, be the two most limiting factors limiting plant growth in containers. Those are the two things depleted most rapidly in any soil. With containers, you don't have the lateral depletion as you do with open soil gardening so a build up of slower, less mobile things like sodium, phosphorus and potassium, IF UNUSED, is much more likely. Plants will only use enough phosphorus and potassium to support their growth. And they get that growth from nitrogen and water. If you want to experiment a little, try adding a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer to a couple containers at about a safe, one third the recommended amount (you can always work up from there)and see what happens.
[Last edited by Roosterlorn - Jul 27, 2013 5:43 AM (+)]
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Jul 27, 2013 7:51 AM CST
Roosterlorn said:Rick--your high nitrogen addition to green leaves is interesting. So, the nitrogen never was consumed or lost in the process, only being used in the process of decomposition, and then slowly released again. as decomposition was completed. No wonder your Dots and Dashes grew so well. Innovative manipulation of nitrogen, Rick.


That's exactly right. The gamble was not whether to add a lot of nitrogen, but how much. And when it is re-released into the soil after organic decomposition, it's in a more efficiently usable fashion, i.e. along with other nutrients and natural chemicals need by plants. I keep saying that compost is practically a cure-all, and this is yet another example.

I meant to expound about container fertilizing differentiation from the garden, as I alluded to it in the first sentence of my original post. Thanks for doing it for me, Lorn.



N.B. The "Dots and Dashs" name has no "e". From the horse's mouth, Hugh Cocker said that the RHS didn't want to allow his purposeful misspelling, but he won in the end. Big Grin



Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
Lilies Seed Starter Pollen collector Bee Lover Region: Wisconsin
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Roosterlorn
Jul 27, 2013 9:22 AM CST
Good for him! Hurray!

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