Is it Better to Fertilize in the Spring Rather Than the Fall?

Jeana Cadby
March 20, 2020

Is there a best time to fertilize landscaping trees?


As flowers enthusiastically unfurl, a flurry of diverse colors and silhouettes open up with the bright new season. Budding leaves have patiently awaited their turn to bravado and amaze. Spring is indeed the time that signifies growth.

For the best and brightest spring shows, it is important to support healthy growth by fertilizing landscaping trees effectively. Good fertilization practices help give plants nutrients during the growing season, and productively support vigorous growth throughout the life of the tree.

Fertilizer provides trees with the essential nutrients needed for healthy growth. Stress from nutrient deficiencies in landscaping trees often manifests in the form of poor or slowed growth, decreased flower and fruit set, and even increased susceptibility to pests. Some may wonder if it really is better to fertilize in the spring rather than the fall.

Spring is the best time to fertilize landscaping trees.

To support healthy growth, providing trees with much needed nutrients is good general practice. However, it is important to avoid pushing growth late in the year when plants need to be shutting down for winter. In addition, when trees are not actively growing, excess nutrients that are not taken up by the tree can be lost to the environment and pollute waterways.

Most landscaping trees push flowers and new growth in the Spring Season
Most landscaping trees push flowers and new growth in the Spring Season, making it necessary to fertilize in order to feed the new growth of the plants.

For most landscaping trees, a period of vigorous growth occurs throughout the spring season. Spring flowers offer an exciting seasonal show, as new leaves emerge for a flush of verve. Fertilizing trees in the springtime can support this growth period, which is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy summer foliage.

Spring Fling

Colorful and bountiful flowers are undoubtedly some of the most exciting products of the spring growing season. In order to produce flowers and fruits, trees will require a sufficient supply of potassium. Potassium supports more resilient plant growth, by thickening cell walls and helping to transport water and sugar throughout the plant.

Thicker cell walls can also help protect plants against disease and improve the overall quality of the flowers. While potassium has also been identified as an important nutrient to support healthy root growth, oftentimes, potassium availability in the soil can be low. When fertilizing to support a healthy flush of spring flowers, be sure to take note of potential potassium needs.

Flushes of verdant leafy growth are supported by nitrogen, one of the most well-known nutrients for healthy tree growth. Non-seasonal yellowing in leaves can indicate a lack of nitrogen or other nutrients. Trees absorb nitrogen in larger quantities than most other nutrients. Trees that are deficient in nitrogen often respond quickly to much-needed applications, with a burst of growth or change in leaf color.

Establishing a Program

Deciding what kind and how much fertilizer to use for the life stage of the tree and local climate conditions can be overwhelming. Landscaping trees can also have diverse needs, so asking a local nursery about fertilizer recommendations will be helpful.

Developing a fertilization program can also help in creating a consistent routine for best nutrient uptake and fertilization practices. Diverse environments demand different needs for fertilizer requirements. Heavily shaded trees may not experience the great spurts of growth of their full-sun counterparts. Try to consider the environment, growth rate, and species of tree when establishing a fertilization program.

Fertilizer requirements can also be better implemented with the aid of soil testing. Testing the soil for potential deficiencies and uptake barriers such as pH or nutrient surplus. For more complicated nutrient deficiencies, leaf tissue analysis can be conducted with landscaping tree leaf samples.


Supplying trees with adequate nutrients can support seasonal spring flowers and lush summer foliage. Finding the best time to fertilize can help to promote a healthy growth throughout the lifetime of the tree. When considering the best time to fertilize, providing important nutrients during the heavy growth period in the spring is ideal, that is why we recommend fertilizing your trees in the Spring, versus in the Fall. Nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen may be especially important to promote flower and fruit set or vigorous leaf production.

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