How to Fertilize Cactus and Succulents in Containers

How to Fertilize Cactus and Succulents in Containers
Fertilize Cactus and Succulents in Containers

Fertilize Cactus and Succulents in Containers

Many of you appreciate the beauty and the low-maintenance of using succulents (including cactus) in containers

container planted with succulents
Container filled with ‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia and Elephant’s Food (Portulacaria afra)

With succulents coming in a myriad of colors and unique shapes, they add welcome beauty to our outdoor spaces.

Blue Elf Aloe (Aloe x 'Blue Elf')

Photo: Blue Elf Aloe (Aloe x ‘Blue Elf’)

While using succulents, (as opposed to flowering annuals) in containers are a more low-maintenance option, they do need regular applications of fertilizer.

Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Photo: Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Succulents grown in the ground get their nutrients from the surrounding soil. Micro-organisms in the soil are constantly breaking down organic matter, which adds nutrients.  

However, the soil in pots doesn’t undergo this process and whatever plant you grow, need supplemental nutrients in the form of fertilizer.

This is even true of cactus and other succulents.

Lady's Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

Photo: Lady’s Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

So how do you go about fertilizing succulents in containers?

1. Type of Fertilizer: You can use a liquid, low-nitrogen fertilizer or go for the organic option of fish emulsion.

2. How Often to Fertilize: I like to use a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, applying every 3 months, at 1/2 the recommended strength on the package. If you prefer using a liquid fertilizer, you can use a product such as Fame Organic Garden Fertilizer, which should be applied monthly beginning in mid-spring to late summer.

3. When to Fertilize:  Apply every three months when using a slow-release fertilizer or monthly with a liquid fertilizer. Do this beginning in spring, once the threat of frost has finished in your area. Cacti and succulents don’t need fertilizer in winter.

succulents in pots
Potted succulents

I have a container filled with three different succulents by my front door and I love how it looks and how easy they are to care for. I encourage you to use succulents in containers, which is a great way to add unique beauty to your garden with little fuss!

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
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