One of the essential ways you need to take care of your Pilea is by feeding it with fertilizer. The following guide will help you understand the whys and whens of feeding a plant that lives indoors.
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Why You Need to Feed Your Pilea
Why does Pilea need to "eat" fertilizer in the first place?
There are several reasons why indoor plants need to be fed, all of which are related to a plant's need to absorb nutrients in order to grow, thrive, and stay healthy.
The following are the main reasons why you need to add fertilizer to your Pilea's diet.
1. Your Pilea Needs Nutrients
Plants need six macro-nutrients to survive. They get carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen from air and water, but they also need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That is why we need to feed them with fertilizer.
On every fertilizer label, you can notice three numbers, such as 20-20-20. These numbers may vary depending on the fertilizer and show you what proportion of each macro-nutrient the fertilizer contains. The first number is always nitrogen, the second is phosphorus, and the third is potassium.
2. Your Pilea Doesn't Get Enough Microbes
Soil mixes designed for indoor plants are often sterilized in order to reduce the risk of plant disease organisms. The downside of this is that these potting mixes don't contain any microbes, which are an essential part of plant nutrition absorption.
In regular soil, microbes break down fertilizer into absorbable nutrients that plants can then absorb and benefit from. If the planting mix is sterilized, these microbes are not present, which creates the need for additional nutrients that can be provided via fertilizers.
3. Your Pilea Is Likely Planted In A "Soilless" Potting Mix
In many cases, "soil mixes" for houseplants actually include little soil. They contain peat, perlite, and coir instead.
This kind of potting mixes is surely beneficial for indoor plants growing in containers, such it's not heavy as regular soil, drains more readily and allows air circulation around the roots. However, it doesn't contain many (if any!) nutrients for your plant. For this reason, providing additional food can give your Pilea the nutrients it needs.
4. Your Pilea's Roots Are Confined
Imagine your Pilea planted in the garden, where roots can have the ability to stretch out over a longer space in order to find water and essential nutrients.
Now think about your plant planted in a planter. Roots are confined to limited space, which means they can't stretch out to find more water and nutrients on their own. They rely on you to provide them with the right amount of water and nutrients, which means you'll need to supplement those nutrients in order to see your plant thrive.
When You Should Feed Your Pilea
Now that you know why your plant needs food, one question remains: when should you be feeding it?
For humans, three meals a day is standard – but for plants, it can get a bit tricky. "When" you should feed your plant will depend on a number of different factors.
Generally, feeding your Pilea once a month will help your plant to stay healthy. For your Pilea, we suggest using an all-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Since Pilea needs a liquid fertilizer, you may want to feed your plant when you water it.
Remember not to overfeed your plant. Too much fertilizer can be just as bad as too little fertilizer. Every plant is different and may have different feeding needs, so you may want to start with a more sparse feeding schedule until you figure out the perfect feeding schedule and ratio.
As a rule of (green!) thumb, larger Pileas will require more feeding than others. On the other hand, smaller plants may do best with a more sparse feeding schedule.
Also, keep in mind that, in the winter, your Pilea is doing everything at a slower pace: give it a break. It still needs food, but less is more. Observe your plant and see if it's better to cut the doses in half. Never feed more than once a month!
A Note on Macronutrients
Nitrogen is necessary for healthy foliage growth; potassium is essential for healthier and larger blooms, and phosphorous is essential for healthy root growth.
Nitrogen deficiency, for example, will make your bottom leaves curl and get yellow. In this case, you can give your Pilea a high-nitrogen nutrient formula. You may consider adding a regular dose of an amino-acid supplement to your monthly feeding program: it can help the plant to get all the nitrogen it needs.
Some higher-end fertilizers usually contain addition micronutrients that will give your plants a boost, such as manganese, magnesium, and boron. If you check the label of your fertilizer (think of it as a "Nutrient Label," exactly as you might see on food from the grocery store), you will see a list of the nutrients included.