Fertilizing Barrenwort

Barrenwort care and fertilization are minimal - healthy productive plants always begin with good soil, and planting Barrenwort is no exception. In fact, the single best thing you can do for your plant is to start with healthy soil and consistently (about twice a year) add organic material to feed your plants naturally.

If you are planting in a new bed, before running to the store and purchasing fertilizer, it’s always best practice to get a soil test to understand what you are working with. You can purchase an at-home soil test at your local garden center, or order a more detailed soil test from your local extension office. This would be most beneficial before planting crops. 

Barrenwort prefers well-amended soil that is rich in organic matter. Although Barrenwort is one of the best plants to tolerate dry soil conditions once it's established, planting it in well-draining, rich soil will get it off to an excellent start. Consider amending your soil with garden compost if your soil is sandy, rocky, or clay. Barrenwort is considered a cool-season plant, which means it will put on most of its growth in the cooler seasons of fall and spring. 


How to Fertilize Barrenwort

Barrenwort will benefit from a top dressing of organic matter such as garden compost twice a year, and that is about all Barrenwort needs to get established and thrive. The light dressing of organic matter will naturally break down over time to improve your soil structure and provide vital nutrients to Barrenwort’s root system. 

In late fall / early winter, depending on your zone, you can apply a 2” layer of natural mulch such as finely shredded leaves to help retain moisture around the root system as well as provide weed suppression once spring arrives. This layer of natural mulch acts as a blanket to protect both the soil and the plants from drying winds and freezing temperatures.

You can reapply a couple of inches of compost around existing plants in early spring to help feed the roots. Try to work the organic matter into the soil a bit with a garden trowel, being careful not to disturb the roots. Do not let compost contact the plant stems as this can promote decay. You can also let the compost sit on top of the soil and allow it to naturally break down over time. 


Best Time To Fertilize Barrenwort

Cut back the previous year’s foliage in early spring before any new growth emerges. Look for and eliminate any dried, brown, or tattered foliage from last year, or simply cut back the entire plant to about 1” tall. The colorful spurred flowers will appear first, followed by fresh bright new foliage. Apply a light top dressing about 2” thick of rich organic matter such as garden compost in early spring and again in late fall / early winter for optimum nutrition and plant protection. 

Best Fertilizer For Barrenwort

Organic matter such as garden compost will break down slowly over time, releasing valuable nutrients into the soil and preserving moisture in the soil. If using garden compost to add nutrients to your soil, use compost that has varying particle sizes, such as 1” chunks to finer particles, so that it breaks down slowly. You can also use either a liquid or granular fertilizer which is generally faster acting. Before purchasing a fertilizer, identify what your plant may need by looking at the leaves, flowers, and overall health of the plant. 

Barrenwort Fertilizer Tips

  • Start by planting Barrenwort in well-amended, well-draining soil rich in organic matter.
  • Apply a light top dressing of organic matter such as garden compost in early spring and/or shredded leaves in late fall / early winter.
  • Cut back the previous year’s foliage, especially if it’s looking dry or tattered in early spring, to allow for the new flower stems to appear. This show of delicate colorful flowers will be followed by fresh new spring foliage. 


-Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.

-Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.


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Author Chris Link - Published 01-12-2023