How Important Is It to Feed Trees and Shrubs – Really?

We tend to pamper our gardens, lavish care on flowerbeds, closely supervise containers and even be scrupulous with lawn care, but one of the most prominent parts of our landscape is often overlooked. Trees and shrubs of all sizes, shapes and cultivars also need proper feeding to stay strong and healthy. Spring is the ideal time to feed them a nourishing meal just as they need more energy and nutrients to grow lush buds, blossoms and foliage.

Why Trees and Shrubs Matter

Trees, shrubs and bushes are an important part of any landscape. They help define borders, create different levels of growth and form a living backdrop for more dramatic plants and flowers. Trees and shrubs also help serve as windbreaks and provide shade in the yard, creating microclimates for other plants to thrive. They are also important shelter for wildlife, including birds. These plants can be long-lived with very little maintenance, but proper feeding is essential to help them resist insects and diseases. Well-fed trees and shrubs will more easily reach their full growth potential, showing all their beauty for years of landscaping enhancement and enjoyment.

To Feed Your Trees and Shrubs

Different trees and shrubs – evergreens, conifers, flowering, fruit, berry,  etc. – all have different nutritional needs. For the best feeding, it is important to meet those specific needs, or else excess nutrients and minerals will go to waste. To feed your trees and shrubs properly…

  • Learn Your Plants
    Properly identify any trees or shrubs in your yard that you may not be sure about, and study their nutritional needs so you can provide the best food. Many plants have similar needs but may have specific requirements for better blossoming, larger fruits or broader leaves, and you can adjust the nutrition the plant receives to help it grow just as you want to see it.
  • Get a Soil Test
    You won’t know what nutrients your soil is already providing if you don’t have it tested. Trees and shrubs need adequate amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and other minerals for strong growth, and a reputable test can help determine what your soil already has to offer your plants. When nutrients are noticeably missing, you can choose the right fertilizer and feeding regiment to replenish the soil.
  • Check Your Plant Growth
    Mature, well-established trees and shrubs may not need feeding every year if the soil is still richly nutritious. Check how much plants are growing, including how large and lush leaves, buds and blooms are. When growth seems much too slow or may be lacking altogether, it is time to give your trees and shrubs a good meal. Also note the conditions of your plants’ growth – very stressful years, such as after a hard winter or during a drought period, may require better feeding.
  • Determine the Best Food Type
    Not only should you choose a fertilizer that will meet the nutritional needs of your trees and shrubs with its chemical additives, but you want to choose a fertilizer that meets your needs as well. Even though some fertilizers may have the same nutrient composition, there are different formulas to choose from – quick- or slow-release fertilizers, liquid compounds, feeding spikes, pellets and more. Read usage instructions for each one and choose a fertilizer you feel confident applying correctly.
  • Apply the Fertilizer Properly
    Your trees and shrubs won’t eat well if you don’t feed them properly. Follow the fertilizer’s instructions meticulously in terms of when it should be applied, whether watering is necessary, amounts to spread on different ground sizes, etc. The best way to feed your trees and shrubs will vary depending on the plants’ size, age and general health, as well as your local climate and moisture levels. Make adjustments as necessary to help the fertilizer do its best work.

After the Meal

Just feeding your trees and shrubs isn’t quite enough to be sure they are as healthy and thriving as possible. Continue giving them the best possible care with appropriate pruning, a proper watering schedule, staking young saplings against strong winds and mulching plants to preserve water and discourage weeds. Along with the right nutrition, these steps will make sure every tree, shrub and bush in your landscape looks its very best.