When to Fertilize Perennials and Shrubs: 4-Step Guide

when to fertilize perennials and shrubs

It is vital to know when to fertilize perennials and shrubs using suitable types of fertilizers. 

Fertilizer application is best twice a year during the new growth in the early spring and the early fall.

Shrubs are part of perennials; therefore, both regrow each spring and can live for over 2 years. So, to upgrade your home and maintain beautiful evergreens, invest in annuals, perennials, and shrubs. 

Note that not all eternal plants are garden-grown. So, use this USDA Plant Hardiness Zone guideline to determine what grows in your location. 

To explore further, here are fantastic and easy crop types that bloom yearly and grow in well-drained soil.

Keep reading!

Simple Perennials and Shrubs (Evergreens) for Beginners to Grow


  • Barberry – With a height of 6 feet, it can survive drought.
  • Smoke Bush – Can grow to a height of 30 feet with exposure of part shade to full sun.
  • Aucuba, Japanese – Uses part shade and sun and rises 10 feet in height.
  • Rosemary – Best for hot, dry conditions with not much moisture, increases between 2-4 feet tall.
  • North Pole Arborvitae – Grows up to 15 feet tall and resists the winter season.
  • Junipers – They love the full sun and grow 130 feet tall.


  • Black Flower – Withstands drought, enjoys full sun, grows to 3 feet.
  • Perennial Sage – Grows up to 5 feet tall and needs full sunlight.
  • Lanceleaf Coreopsis – Height of 2 feet tall, uses the full sun.
  • Hydrangeas – Grows between 4 to 12 feet tall and enjoy part shade to full sun.
  • Black-Eyed Susan – Grow to a height of 3 feet with full sun.
  • Daylily – Requires part shade to full sun and reaches 3 feet tall.

How to Fertilize Perennials

It is vital to fertilize your lasting plants twice a year to provide essential nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients encourage healthy, faster, and bigger growth while promoting blooming year after year. 

First, here’s a quick look at a few aspects you need to consider before using the feeders.

1. The Plant Type and Soil pH

Find your plant type, suitable fertilizer, or natural nutrients already available in the soil. Besides that, a soil test would determine the additional fertilizer, as some do great in alkaline or acid soils, while others in a variety of pH soil.

2. Fertilizer Type and Balancing

For the choice of fertilizer, most everlasting vegetations are safe with natural organic fertilizers or all-purpose plant food. These types have no side effects; hence, no burning of the foliage. However, settle for only 1 pound nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet as the perfect balance.

Also, look for fertilizers with labels of 10-10-10 or 5-5-5. These numbers mean balanced key ingredients like potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and phosphate.  

3. Feeding the Leaves and Roots

Consider using liquid fertilizer often should the leaves need more nutrients. Meanwhile, feed the roots with natural manure and compost before growing big.  

4 Easy Steps on How to Fertilize Perennials (Guide)

Here are easy steps to follow when applying fertilizer. 

Step 1

Get rid of dead leaves and branches. Trim the crop to promote energy to the healthier leaves.

Step 2

Mix and prepare your fertilizer as per the label instructions. That includes diluting the liquid fertilizer with water to prevent burning the leaves.

Step 3

Ensure the soil is not dry but has enough moisture by watering it.

Step 4

Pour the concentration with care on the soil while skipping the leaves.

Bonus Tip #1

Too much fertilizer and water are two great killers of plants!

How Often to Fertilize Perennials

The feeding frequency depends on the types of fertilizers, location, and method used. But the standard procedure requires twice-year fertilization.

That is in the early spring and early fall.

To help you understand better, here are a few scenarios. 

  • The use of water-soluble fertilizers is frequent.
  • Slow-release fertilizer use is gradual and needs more months to apply. 
  • In Southern regions, you need two applications.
  • In Northern areas, one application is perfect.  

Winter Perennials Fertilization

Most new planters get confused about when to fertilize perennials and shrubs. Generally, feeding your plants in winter from around December to the end of February is unnecessary. However, to ensure your long-season crop gets nutrients round-the-clock, use a slow-release fertilizer.

On the other hand, when dealing with liquid fertilizer, add 50 percent water. Apply directly to the soil and not wet the leaves or trigger burns. Whatever the fertilizer, you won’t use much because these undying crops are dormant in winter; they use fewer nutrients which slows their growth.

More potassium and low nitrogen are ideal during winter. For instance, the potassium to nitrogen ratio should be 2:1 to 1:2. This balancing keeps them sturdy and healthy. Excess nitrogen makes the leaves soft and fragile to diseases. Apply early in the morning to prevent fungal infection.

Besides that, you can add mulch to offer the soil nutrients and warmth during breakdown. Lawn clipping, dry leaves, and thin branches make brilliant mulches.

Bonus Tip #2

Do not fertilize when the ground is snowy or frozen!

When to Fertilize Perennials in Springslow-Release

US Spring happens around March to the end of May; most lasting crops begin to grow at this time of year. It is ideal to feed perennial plants before spring starts or new spring growth.

With zero mulch or any form of compost manure around the plants, add 1,000 square feet of area per 1 pound nitrogen fertilizer.

Should You Fertilize Perennials in the Fall?

Yes, it helps to strengthen them when temperatures drop in autumn. Also, it protects them all through the winter period. But it is not critical due to the long-term effects of the perennials or killing them during winter. Here is why!

The plants stop growing to prepare for winter – late growth in fall makes them vulnerable to the cold weather with damaged roots. But, if you fertilize in the fall, use compost or worm casting, which has nutrients that slow growth. But shun from high-powered commercial fertilizers.

The fall season in the US runs from September to around November. So, feed your perennials towards late October or early November; that is in the late fall. Apart from just fertilizing, you need proper care for your plants. 

6 Perennial Flower Care Tips

Perennial flowers make yearly come back –  there is a need to care for them throughout. One significant aspect about their return is that they give your garden a remarkable evergreen appearance.

However, once they grow, you will require less care. 

Below are some exciting tips on perennial flowers care.

  1. Place the stem support early to avoid tampering with the roots. For instance, tie its stem close to the support.
  2. Retain moisture as you arrest weeds by surrounding the plant with mulch and other ground covers.
  3. Water them directly to the soil, mainly during the new growing season, to stabilize the roots.
  4. Divide into smaller chunks every 3-4 years. So, dig them out once they mature for transplanting and prevent overcrowding in one area.  
  5. Get rid of deadheads that boost reblooming. Ugly messes of Veronica, Delphinium, and Coreopsis rebloomers around your garden will be history.
  6. Don’t keep the soil too dry or too wet. Also, the leaves should remain dry to prevent infection. However, you can consult an expert on fertilizing perennials and shrubs should you need help.

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