A Guide to Fertilizers for Bushes


It is essential to plant health to fertilise bushes since doing so offers extra nutrients that the soil around them may be deficient in. The application of fertiliser to young bushes, as well as bushes that have recently been transplanted, has the effect of accelerating plant growth and the bush’s ability to establish itself in the surrounding landscape. Additionally, fertiliser assists bushes whose growth has slowed in beginning to sprout once more. The process of photosynthesis is the means by which all plants generate their own food, and the application of fertiliser supplies the required nutrients and ingredients to encourage the process of photosynthesis as well as healthy, robust plant development.

What the Numbers Mean

The majority of fertilisers are combinations of three different elements: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These components are often denoted by a set of three numerals, such as 18-18-18. The proportion of each component included in the package expressed as a weight is shown by the numbers. As a result, a fertiliser with the percentage breakdown 18-18-18 would have equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. 16 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorous, and 8 percent potassium would make up a 16-4-8. The composition of a fertiliser that is 8 percent nitrogen but has no phosphorous or potassium would be represented by the notation 8-0-0.

What Bushes Need

Nitrogen is the element that plants utilise the most, and its presence is critical for the development of robust plant life. Phosphorous encourages photosynthesis as well as the growth of strong roots, whilst potassium helps with the retention of water and provides resistance to disease. It is important to determine the pH of the soil before commencing a programme of fertilising to guarantee that the fertiliser will be effective. It is best for the bush to have a soil pH that is between 6.0 and 7.0 so that it can most effectively absorb the nutrients from the fertiliser. If the pH of the soil is too high or too low, the fertiliser may not work properly or it may even be poisonous to the bush. According to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, doing a soil test before applying fertiliser will help establish whether or not any improvements to the existing conditions need to be made. Apply fertiliser in the early spring or in the fall, after the active growth season has come to an end. In most cases, one application each year is all that is required, unless the soil conditions are sandy or well-drained, or if there has been a season with an unusually high amount of precipitation. In such case, depending on the state of the bush’s health as a whole, a second application could be required.

When water-soluble mixes are dissolved in water prior to application, they are also referred to as fast-release fertilisers. This allows the nutrients to instantly surround the plant after the fertiliser has been put into the soil. Although water-soluble nutrients typically cost less than slow-release versions, one of their drawbacks is that they have a propensity to leach through the soil more quickly with only a few inches of rainfall or additional watering. As a result, the bush does not receive the amount of nutrition that was intended for it to receive. On the other hand, a fast soaking in a water-soluble mixture could be able to save the life of a shrub that is struggling.

Water-Soluble Bush Fertilizer

According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, granular fertilisers, also known as slow-release fertilisers, provide continuous nourishment throughout the growing season. This is possible because the granules gradually release nitrogen and other components. Fertilizer in the form of granules should be spread out in a broad ring around the bush, and then the fertiliser should be worked just below the surface of the soil. The shrub gets a little amount of fertilising whenever there is rainfall or consistent watering. Granular fertilisers are a smart choice for hilly terrain, beds that get a lot of drainage, and soils that have been extensively compacted.

Granular and Slow-Release Fertilizers

According to North Carolina State University, natural fertilisers such as composted manure or vegetation supply the necessary components at a slower pace than other types of fertilisers do. In addition, natural fertilisers give many of the trace elements that bushes need, such as iron or zinc. Because natural fertilisers often contain lower quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium than other types of fertiliser, they need to be applied to plants much more frequently. Natural fertilisers, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to be put to the ground at any time and contributing to an overall improvement in the state of the soil.

Natural Fertilizer Options

It is not always necessary to fertilise plants just because they are not growing well. Planting in the incorrect location, receiving an excessive amount of sunlight, an insufficient amount of sunlight, overwatering, or underwatering can all cause problems with the growth of shrubs and bushes. These problems can include leaves turning yellow or falling off, limited twig growth, or the plant as a whole dying back. Before fertilising, it is important to identify and address the root cause of the plant’s poor performance; otherwise, the use of fertiliser during the plant’s time of stress may cause more plant death.

When Not To Fertilize

Never fertilise when the plant is showing indications of drought stress, such as burned or drooping limbs, and do not apply any fertilisers during a time of drought unless the bush is adequately irrigated. Never fertilise when the plant is showing signs of drought stress. If there is not a reliable supply of water, fertilising while circumstances are dry might potentially cause harm to the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves.

Never fertilize when the plant shows signs of drought stress, such as scorched or drooping branches, and do not apply any fertilizers during a period of drought unless the bush is well watered. Fertilizing when conditions are dry may cause root, stem and leaf damage if water is not consistently available.