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Fertilizing evergreens

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Quick facts

  • Foliage color, lack of flowering or overall vigor can be signs of when fertilizer is needed.
  • If growth rate and needle color are normal for a particular variety, fertilization is not necessary.
  • It is not unusual for newly transplanted evergreens to exhibit slow growth until they're re-established.
  • In many landscapes, evergreens also benefit from fertilizer you apply to the lawn.
An evergreen shrub next to a creek with rocks, trees and a bridge in the background.
Evergreens add year-round interest to landscapes.

Like all landscape plants, evergreens require nutrients to grow well. While evergreens generally require less fertility than deciduous trees and get some nutrients from soil, at some point you might need to fertilize your evergreens. 

A soil test will provide a base of information about your soil and the fertilizer analysis you will need for your plants.

When to fertilize

  • New growth is sparse or slow.
  • Needles are not a healthy green color, or are shorter than normal.
  • You are trying to grow evergreens in a less than ideal site, such as very sandy or heavy clay soil.
  • The plant has suffered significant damage from insects or disease.
  • You wish to encourage more rapid growth in relatively young evergreens.

Evergreens provide great variety in form, color and size.

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Deborah Brown and Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, Gary Johnson, Extension forester and Beth Jarvis, horticulturist

Reviewed in 2018

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