Fertilizing Fothergilla

Fothergilla is a genus of plants native to the southeastern United States. Members of the witch hazel family, these shrubs are easy to grow and low maintenance, including when it comes to fertilization. Fothergilla can be fertilized to supplement soil nutrients and encourage lush, healthy growth. As relatively slow-growing shrubs, applying fertilizer can result in a faster rate of growth. Both newly planted and established fothergilla benefit from fertilization in soils lacking organic matter. When grown in soils that are particularly rich in organic matter, fothergilla will rarely need to be fertilized. 


How to Fertilize Fothergilla

Fothergilla should be grown in acidic soil with a pH of 5-6.5. Before fertilizing your fothergilla, grab a soil testing kit from your local extension office. If a soil test determines that your soil is neutral or alkaline, amend the soil with pH-reducing products such as aluminum sulfate. This will ensure that the plant will be able to uptake all essential nutrients, as pH affects the bioavailability of plant nutrients. Apply fertilizer to the drip line of the plant, which is where most of the feeder roots are located. The drip line is the area that is directly beneath the circumference of the outermost branches. Always water your fothergilla immediately after applying fertilizer to prevent fertilizer burn and distribute the nutrients to the roots. 

Best Time To Fertilize Fothergilla

The best time to fertilize fothergilla is in spring. One application of slow-release fertilizer in mid-spring will suffice. If using a liquid fertilizer, apply once per month starting in April and ending in July. Fertilizing too late in the season, such as late summer or fall, can result in quick bursts of weak growth that may be more susceptible to winter damage. 

Best Fertilizer For Fothergilla

The best fertilizer for fothergilla is a granular, well-balanced formula suitable for acidic soils. Select an organic, slow-release fertilizer such as Espoma HollyTone 4-3-4, which is made for plants that thrive in acidic soil. Liquid formulations will also work but may require additional applications. Generally, if a fertilizer is formulated for acidic-loving plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries, it will be a safe choice for fothergilla. 

Fothergilla Fertilizing Tips

  • Fothergilla needs a soil pH of 5-6.5 to properly take up nutrients
  • Use a fertilizer made for acidic-loving plants 
  • Fertilize once in mid-spring with a slow-release fertilizer 
  • For liquid fertilizers, make monthly applications from spring through mid-summer
  • Fothergilla will rarely need to be fertilized in soils rich in organic matter 


-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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Lauren Youngcourt - Published 06-13-2023