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zoli

I looked and then looked some more and was unable to find any definitive resource on when it is best to start fertilizing seedling palms. Some people claim that seed nutrients are exhausted approximately 2 months after germination, but this may be species dependent or just plain wrong altogether.

I think a little background is warranted.

I started fertilizing some of my seedlings about 3-4 weeks ago, many of them single leafers, roughly between 3-4 months old. I generally use 180-day Nutricote on all my palms. Most of my seedlings are in 2.5" Anderson pots and are doing well. Or so I thought. As of last week, I lost about 10 seedlings, none of which were recent transplants or in any kind of obvious stress. Among the lost species, there were Areca macrocalyx, Pinanga caesia, Dypsis leptocheilos, and a single Cryosophila stauracantha. All were recently fertilized. At the same time, many other species are seemingly unaffected (e.g. Ptychosperma spp, Areca vestiaria, Calyptrocalyx spp.), as well as some of the aforementioned. At least so far.

To be fair, I may have overfertilized and some just couldn't handle it. So I did what any sane palm freak would do and started meticulously removing some of the fertilizer balls from my plants over the weekend. Great project, by the way.

Anyway, enough history. So what do you guys think? When should one start to fertilize? And how much? Are some species really more sensitive than others?

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HtownPalms

I am also very interested to hear what everyone has to say. Most of my seedlings are around 4 months old. Some are getting yellowing of the leaves making me wonder if they need fertilizing. I haven't fertilized them yet because everyone says not to with seedlings, but no one says when it's ok to start. 

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kinzyjr

Some of the potting soils commercially available contain fertilizer that is advertised to feed for 6-9 months.  While there are others on the forums that do fertilize very early, I'll say that I rarely fertilize anything unless it has some sort of deficiency.  Here in central Florida, that is usually potassium (K) after a cold spell or Magnesium (Mg) for date palms.  I'm unsure why a small seedling would need it to be honest.  If the potting medium is so poor that it requires additional fertilizer to sustain a seedling, why not just change mediums?

Just my $0.02 for the day.

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Darold Petty

 I concur with Kinzyjr about  potting mediums.  I use a potting mix with a broad spectrum of organics, including greensand (glauconite) for potassium.   I  would not use synthetic salt fertilizers on such small plants.  I have grown hundreds of palms from seed.  They often struggled, from the eophyll  to the third or fourth leaf.  A friend, Troy Donovan (TassieTroy) recommended kelp extract.  His garden in Hobart is so vibrant it was featured on television. Now I irrigate these tiny palms with fish emulsion and kelp extract every watering cycle.  My seedlings have greatly improved, and  are mostly a very healthy, dark green color.  Photos later today if I can find a a bit of spare time ! 

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Rickybobby
1 hour ago, Darold Petty said:

 I concur with Kinzyjr about  potting mediums.  I use a potting mix with a broad spectrum of organics, including greensand (glauconite) for potassium.   I  would not use synthetic salt fertilizers on such small plants.  I have grown hundreds of palms from seed.  They often struggled, from the eophyll  to the third or fourth leaf.  A friend, Troy Donovan (TassieTroy) recommended kelp extract.  His garden in Hobart is so vibrant it was featured on television. Now I irrigate these tiny palms with fish emulsion and kelp extract every watering cycle.  My seedlings have greatly improved, and  are mostly a very healthy, dark green color.  Photos later today if I can find a a bit of spare time ! 

I concur With fish emulsion the first year 

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zoli

Great tips, guys, thank you!

14 hours ago, Darold Petty said:

Now I irrigate these tiny palms with fish emulsion and kelp extract every watering cycle.  My seedlings have greatly improved, and  are mostly a very healthy, dark green color.

That does sound a lot more reasonable than full blast mature palm fertilizer. I will check it out and start using that instead.

 

14 hours ago, kinzyjr said:

If the potting medium is so poor that it requires additional fertilizer to sustain a seedling, why not just change mediums?

I used to do off-the-shelf mediums, but since I must grow most of my stuff in pots, a well-draining medium seems to do wonders for healthy roots and near optimal growth. I could never quite get that type of drainage with any store bought mix, even the cactus ones that do tend to drain somewhat better.  That said, I did notice that many people seem to grow palms successfully in what seems like muck, but then I always realize that most of these guys are either in Singapore, Hawaii, or any place really that gets hot enough to dry out these mixes consistently. Poor soil is actually a misnomer in some ways. You can probably grow anything in any media as long as the mix can dry out sufficiently so that the roots can breathe and aren't drowning. Most heavy, peat-based Miracle-Gro mixes just can't do that well enough in places that consistently cool down or just get plain cold for half of the year. 

 

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Phoenikakias
3 hours ago, zoli said:

Great tips, guys, thank you!

That does sound a lot more reasonable than full blast mature palm fertilizer. I will check it out and start using that instead.

 

I used to do off-the-shelf mediums, but since I must grow most of my stuff in pots, a well-draining medium seems to do wonders for healthy roots and near optimal growth. I could never quite get that type of drainage with any store bought mix, even the cactus ones that do tend to drain somewhat better.  That said, I did notice that many people seem to grow palms successfully in what seems like muck, but then I always realize that most of these guys are either in Singapore, Hawaii, or any place really that gets hot enough to dry out these mixes consistently. Poor soil is actually a misnomer in some ways. You can probably grow anything in any media as long as the mix can dry out sufficiently so that the roots can breathe and aren't drowning. Most heavy, peat-based Miracle-Gro mixes just can't do that well enough in places that consistently cool down or just get plain cold for half of the year. 

 

You have said it all and I can not agree more with you, I keep however a small and locally restricted reservation, when issues of water conservation are involved. Otherwise the recipe of pure pumice as substrate combined with slow releasing fertilizer has always worked fine for me regarding palms with strong root system.  Here is a recent example of three Hyphaena coriacea sprouted and growing in pure pumice. Dripping system works daily and I have placed a saucer beneath the pot! 

20190830_083418.thumb.jpg.2095120c00694eef806123943bc0b6a3.jpg20190830_083427.thumb.jpg.8b8c38aa1af43d02eb4ece11ba84020c.jpg

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zoli
9 hours ago, Phoenikakias said:

pure pumice as substrate combined with slow releasing fertilizer has always worked fine for me regarding palms with strong root system

Thanks for your insight! That also sounds like a great and simple recipe. Mine is a bit more complex, but I am toying with the idea of simplifying it. 

I'm starting to think that low doses of slow-release may be harmless, but as always, they should never be applied to seedlings that are weak, recently transplanted or otherwise in some form of shock. The fish emulsion idea also sounds like a good supplementary addition, especially for low-nutrient soil-less mixes.

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Merlyn2220

I'm glad I ran across this thread, this might explain why one of my seedlings suddenly went white-spear-leaf and died.  Unfortunately it was a Butia Yatay x Jubaea seedling from Patric, and I had recently tossed a few beads of Osmocote into the top of the deep treepot.  An autopsy showed no root rot or apparent fungus, but it went from normal to having a nearly white spear in about 2 weeks.  At the same time all the open strap-leaf fronds died from the oldest towards the newest, until the spear browned too.  All the leaves went crispy and dry like it wasn't getting any water, but it could easily have been fertilizer burn.  I guess Osmocote and Nutricote release relatively quickly when it's hot and rainy, and it's been above 90 every day here for months.

So...lesson learned!  Don't put granular fertilizer in your seedlings, regardless of what type!  Fortunately I have 1 more BY x J and 2 more J x BY from Patric, hopefully they'll all live if I don't mess with them!

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OC2Texaspalmlvr

@Merlyn2220 That is a very unfortunate lesson you have learned , but thanks for passing it on to the rest of us so we can skip that lesson =) 

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NOT A TA
1 hour ago, Merlyn2220 said:

I had recently tossed a few beads of Osmocote into the top of the deep treepot. 

Seems kinda unlikely that a few beads of fertilizer in a deep treepot would cause a quick demise. Which Osmocote was it? Have a dog that might have peed on it by any chance?

 

1 hour ago, Merlyn2220 said:

Don't put granular fertilizer in your seedlings, regardless of what type!

May not necessarily be true for all types of palms. I'm currently testing Pamgain on Cocos, Adonidia, Roystonea, and Syagrus seedlings, no definitive results yet but haven't killed anything yet either. Will add others to the menu as I have batches of seedlings sprout, Caryota mitis will probably be next. This pic shows how much fertilizer the Cocos gets each time (before being scratched into soil) starting 5 weeks from sprouting. It's been fertilized twice now, no detrimental effects noticed. This is the recommended volume of fertilizer for this size pot. Note that it looks like a lot of fertilizer which is why I said just a few granules probably didn't kill a seedling. Particularly with the Osmocote being slow release while the Palmgain is not.

20190718_161445_zps0vwsk5l6.jpg

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zoli
2 hours ago, Merlyn2220 said:

Don't put granular fertilizer in your seedlings, regardless of what type! 

A little update from me since I started this thread. I've lost another 5 or so Pinanga caesia, 3 Dypsis procera, and 2 more Cryosophila stauracantha seedlings.  I'm pretty sure it is fertilizer related, as no other cultural variables changed. 

I have gone through all 150+ seedling pots and manually scraped out most of the granules that I could find. I'm hoping that will stop the bleeding. We shall see...

I will say, it appears that some species respond differently than others. Areca vestiaria and Clinostigma savoryanum seemed unaffected. Chambeyronia macrocarpa and Hyophorbe lagenicaulis also seem immune.  The same amount of slow-release fert (Nutricote 180 day) had been applied to all of them at around the same time.

So as of today, the conclusion I am drawing from this is experience is this. If you are growing seedlings in fast-draining, mostly inorganic mixes, where your watering habits are fairly regular due to hot weather and/or the general nature of fast-draining media, then even slow-release fertilizers in regular doses can be detrimental and cause severe root damage or death in young seedlings. If seedlings truly do require supplementary nutrition two months after germination (a totally unsubstantiated claim I've heard multiple times), then I would recommend adding a couple of granules to your mix to play it safe. Otherwise go with fish emulsion or something far less invasive until your plant is better established, not stressed in any way, and is at least two years old.

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Phoenikakias
2 hours ago, zoli said:

A little update from me since I started this thread. I've lost another 5 or so Pinanga caesia, 3 Dypsis procera, and 2 more Cryosophila stauracantha seedlings.  I'm pretty sure it is fertilizer related, as no other cultural variables changed. 

I have gone through all 150+ seedling pots and manually scraped The same amount of slow-release fert (Nutricote 180 day) had been applied to all of them at around the same time.

So as of today, the conclusion I am drawing from this is experience is this. If you are growing seedlings in fast-draining, mostly inorganic mixes, where your watering habits are fairly regular due to hot weather and/or the general nature of fast-draining media, then even slow-release fertilizers in regular doses can be detrimental and cause severe root damage or death in young seedlings. 

It is very difficult for me to find a logical explanation.  What do you mean by inorganic mix? What was the composition of the 6 m lasting slow release fertilizer you have used? I have applied this one without ill effects. Potassium gets leached easily.

20190614_104717.thumb.jpg.bd9f68e9bf0c1f7fdb5b8932af7ce0ab.jpg20190614_104522.thumb.jpg.f5c06dc1f58d8c518d724bebe8d25a5b.jpg

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zoli
8 hours ago, Phoenikakias said:

What do you mean by inorganic mix?

Any mix that is inherently poor in nutritional value. Pumice, perlite, even lava rock are good examples.

8 hours ago, Phoenikakias said:

What was the composition of the 6 m lasting slow release fertilizer you have used?

I also used 180-day Nutricote, but my nitrogen ratio is way higher. 18-6-8 for NPK. That could be why I'm seeing differences. Not sure.

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Merlyn2220
16 hours ago, NOT A TA said:

Seems kinda unlikely that a few beads of fertilizer in a deep treepot would cause a quick demise. Which Osmocote was it? Have a dog that might have peed on it by any chance?

May not necessarily be true for all types of palms. I'm currently testing Pamgain on Cocos, Adonidia, Roystonea, and Syagrus seedlings, no definitive results yet but haven't killed anything yet either. Will add others to the menu as I have batches of seedlings sprout, Caryota mitis will probably be next. This pic shows how much fertilizer the Cocos gets each time (before being scratched into soil) starting 5 weeks from sprouting. It's been fertilized twice now, no detrimental effects noticed. This is the recommended volume of fertilizer for this size pot. Note that it looks like a lot of fertilizer which is why I said just a few granules probably didn't kill a seedling. Particularly with the Osmocote being slow release while the Palmgain is not.

The Osmocote that I used is the generic that HD and Lowe's sell.  I probably put in about half as much as you did in the coconut pot, but mine were in 2.5" x 8" deep treepots.  I'm not sure if that would have any effect.  I can understand why coconuts would be unaffected by fertilizer burn, you could probably cut off all the roots from that coconut and it would be able to survive off of the seed.  The BxJ seedling I lost was about pinky diameter "trunk" and 8" long leaves, not yet pinnate.  That's probably 1/10th the size of those coconuts!

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Steve in Florida

Most palm seedlings die from rhizoctonia, fusarium and phytophthora so strict irrigation management is required regardless of the soil medium.  Also high humidity can cause casualties.  If you put only a few grains of 180 day Nutricote in each pot it would be extremely unlikely that the fertilizer alone killed them.

Edited by Steve in Florida
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NOT A TA

Thought I'd update on my seedling fertilizer testing since I was observing today. The Adonidia merrillii, Roystonea regia, and Syagrus romanzoffiana, seedlings I've been testing Palmgain on all showed signs of darker green foliage and increased growth rate compared to specimens in the control groups. In each case I had lots of seedlings of each type in individual 6" pots and used the fertilizer in the recommended rate instructions. I used the fertilizer in one row of pots in each group so 10-20 plants of each type got fertilizer and 20-200 of each type in control group. It's been 5-6 weeks since the fertilizer was applied.  Below are pics where I pulled a fertilized plant and overlapped the leaves of an unfertilized plant of the Adonidia and Syagrus, the Roystonea color difference is similar. Now, this is with typical Eastern S FL sandy soil and watered with collected rainwater or occasionally municipal tap water so everyone in other areas with other soils, water, heat, humidity, etc. may have different results.

20191003_151647_zpscpwhgbwe.jpg

20191003_151533_zps5u7c7jyx.jpg

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OC2Texaspalmlvr

@NOT A TA pretty cool lil experiment you got going. I think alot of us wonder if its safe to give our seedlings the good stuff early on =) keep us posted on how this turns out for yah 

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NOT A TA
2 hours ago, OC2Texaspalmlvr said:

keep us posted on how this turns out for yah

Will do!

Also, forgot to mention that there's still no difference on Coco seedling so far.

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