fertilizer question

dragonfly_field(8)June 22, 2014

I got a rose fertilizer and only have two roses. I was wondering if I can use rose fertilizer on my clematis. Seems like it would be fine but I'm new at this. They are the kind that are little fertilizer spikes you put in the ground if that matters at all.

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Rose fertilizer is great - the spikes not so much :-) Why they bother to sell fertilizer 'spikes' is anybody's guess - plants do not respond to fertilizers in any way that would make the concept of a 'spike' at all practical or efficient.

So don't buy any more fertilizers in this form. But you can use the ones you already have......just grind up the spikes into a powder or dust and apply around the rootball of the clematis.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 5:11PM
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Oh good to know. Why don't they work very well? Do the nutrients just not release into the soil? Thanks for letting me know they aren't great, I'll steer clear from them in the future.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 1:59AM
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Plant feeder roots - the ones that absorb nutrients - spread out in a wide circle. Centralizing all the fertilizer in a single point or even just a couple of points throughout this large circle, as the spikes would do, just does not optimize the even dispersal of nutrients to the root system. The plant is only able to access and metabolize a small portion - the rest goes to waste.

That's why grinding up the spikes and distributing the nutrients more evenly throughout the root system makes better sense. And even better sense to purchase a granular fertilizer to begin with :-))

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 4:23PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the shorter answer...

you cant see where the roots are.. to pound in the spike... so who knows if the plant will ever find it ...

and if you happen to pound it in ... on top of roots.. you might burn those with such intense fert ...

=== now the longer part ..

fert has 3 number ... like 12- 13-14 ... and that is the ONLY important part of such ... you do not need a different formula for different plants ... thats all marketing hype ...

e.g. grass needs nitro to stay green ... thats the first number.. such a fert might be 29-3-3 ... it would NOT be good on any flower plant ...

the second and third number are for roots and the flowers themselves ... grass doesnt need that stuff ...

so a good general fert for the homeowner would be 12 -12-12...

you can buy a bag of 12-12-12 ... and feed everything in your flower gardens... and it is rather cheap.. compared to this for that and brand names.. etc ... 12 cubed is just a good general.. low key product.. that you probably cant go wrong with.. short of dumping the whole bag on one plant ... and if stored dry ... in a sealed bucket.. can last years ...

good luck


ps: if you build a good soil ... thru compost.. and mulching.. etc... most plants dont even need to be fert'd ... they are plants.. not children.. they need good soil ... not FOOD ... if you get my drift ... [BTW .. the hardcore rose growers would argue with that.. but thats not you ...]

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 4:33PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

just substitute clematis.. for wherever i said rose ....

the plant itself.. really doesnt matter ...


    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 4:34PM
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Ok good to know thanks guys! My roses and clematis are potted so i figured I better fertilize them. Granted I'm not huge on fertilizer and just potted them recently so they have good soil but I know the soil can be depleted much faster in a pot than in ground.

I had set out to get the granular fertilizer cause I really don't like mixing in water for whatever reason, just find it annoying, but decided the spikes seemed like a good idea since they go in the ground and I have a rather curious toddler and a dog that licks everything. I thought something down inside the soil would be safer with them than something sitting on the soil, but what you both said about the spikes makes very much sense. Thank you for the input!!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 1:54AM
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Do not pay any attention to Ken's advice on fertilizer :-)) For one thing, he will seldom even acknowledge it is necessary, as his last couple of statements indicate. Many plants are what are known as "heavy feeders" and require nutrients in heavier concentrations that are common in ordinary soil to perform at optimum levels. Clematis are one of these plants, roses another.

And the formulation IS important!! It is by no means just marketing hype!! Certainly you do not need a separate type of fertilizer for every plant but there are very valid reasons why different formulations exist. A balanced fertilizer - one with all three numbers the same - is not a recommended formulation for anything that flowers or fruits. These types of plants need a low nitrogen component and a higher P&K to encourage blooming and fruit development. That's why a rose fertilizer is recommended. A vegetable fertilizer would work just as well.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 4:20PM
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I had read that myself about fertilizing flowers cause too much nitrogen causes more leaves and less blooms. I made that mistake last year (my fist year gardening) I used a miracle grow with too much nitrogen. In addition to an over abundance of leaves the flowers became half the size they had been been and the colors and patterns of my pansies and villas changed drastically. It was sort of interesting actually, but not something I want to do regularly. Haha so vegetable fertilizer works well on flowers as well?

One of my clematis has horrible red-brown leaves (someone on here said it is a nutrient deficiency) it is still waiting to be potted from it's nursery pot, hopefully in the next few days it will be potted. Do you think the rose fertilizer will be good enough to help it's problem or do I need to get something different?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 4:56PM
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That was me and yes :-)) If still in the nursery pot, a liquid fertilizer will work better and faster than granular. And yes, rose/flower and tomato/veggie fertilizers are very similar in formulation -- lower in foliage producing nitrogen and higher in flower, fruit and root producing phosphorus and potassium.

And the rose fertilizer should work fine. Effect may not be very obvious very quickly but it will do what it needs to do. And make sure you follow all the other clematis planting guidelines - a deep, wide planting hole, well enriched with organic matter; plant the vine 3-4" deeper than in its nursery container; water and then mulch well to keep the roots cool and moist. And always a good idea to prune back hard when first planting (and for two seasons thereafter). This encourages the vine to produce a strong root system and generate multiple stems from the crown, both of which will protect against mechanical damage and possible clematis wilt.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 6:50PM
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I have a question too. I found a new pack of those Jobes tomato fert spikes in a free pile last year or the year before. Brand new and still hermetically sealed in their bright packaging. I figured, hey ... free ! They continue sitting in the garden shed, since I hadn't thought of how in the world to use them.

So, it seems I can grind them up. Great plan. Thank you. Recommended method to do the grinding ? My first thought is two rocks. But on further reflection, I'm thinking that might be an accident waiting to happen. :D

Then once these are in a nice fine grind, how much would one use for a potted clem or rose ? Most are in 18 gallon and up pots, but I'm sure I'll run across a few still crammed in smaller pots once I am out there.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 7:25PM
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MaeT(z5 NL, Canada)

I always fertilize my clematis with rose fertilizer in May and realized that I forgot to do that this year. Guess I will have to add that to the list of things to do in my garden, for next year.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 9:05PM
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Use as many of the spikes as the package recommends per tomato plant. Put the spikes in a heavy sealable plastic bag (like for frozen food storage) and smash with a hammer. Then sprinkle the powder over the top of the container or around the base of the plants. Don't apply too close to where the stem emerges from the soil - more towards the edge of where you think the rootball may be. That's where the feeder roots will be located

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 4:53PM
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Thank you Gardengal,

Later it occurred to me, the recommended per plant dose would probably be right ... duh ! Sorry to bother you with that part. But I was still picturing whacking those spikes and one accidentally shooting out like a bullet and potential innocent bystanders being harmed. What a 911 call that would be. LOL

Plastic bag it is. :)

This post was edited by plaidbird on Sun, Jun 29, 14 at 17:50

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 5:46PM
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Thank you so much gardengal, you've been a big help! You said to prune them back hard, should I do that at planting then? Both of mine are type 2 pruning group so just wondering if I would do that at planting or wait til regular pruning time. I hate to say it's still not potted! Still waiting on hubby to get me soil. :( also if I prune at planting, should I then wait to prune the other one til regular pruning time since I potted it a while ago? Sorry about all the questions, I appreciate the help! :)

This post was edited by dragonfly_field on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 2:09

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 1:11AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Only good use for spikes: pond plant fertilizer. I buy Jobes Tomato spikes for my waterlilies and water iris. They work great and cost less than half of what Pond Tabs do....

You can't use liquid or granulars on plants when the pots are submerged and the spikes don't release too much at once to cause an algae bloom.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 1:34PM
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Buyorsell that's great!! Never would have thought of that! I hope to have a pond one day and I will need to remember that!!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:07AM
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Also I just wanted to update to say I have finally planted my clematis in a nice big pot. I have a wooden fan trellis but tied fishing line on it for it to climb. I will be crushing up the fertilizer spikes tomorrow to feed the poor thing.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 3:10AM
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