Fertilizing shrubs will vary in terms of what kind of soil you have – good soil or lousy soil.
If you have “good” soil -
most shrubs will need no fertilizer after the second year they are in place. It is a good idea to fertilize a newly planted shrub during the year after the year in which it was planted. No fertilizer in the year in which the shrub was planted. Most shrubs prefer to be fed in the fall, though some are spring feeders; each shrub file will tell you when it is the best time to fertilize a particular shrub. Otherwise, most shrubs need no supplemental fertilizer when growing in good soil and are properly mulched with organic material of some kind.
If you have “lousy” soil -
You really should take the time to fertilize your shrubs once a year, usually in the fall. Sprinkle some granular fertilizer with a slow release form of nitrogen on the soil under the shrub out to 1 1/2 feet beyond the tips of the branches (drip line) for the rain to soak in. Consult the package label for the amount to use (usually a handful or two depending on the size of the shrub).
For more information fertilizers see the file for Fertilizer Products
Consider Making Your Soil "Good" Soil
There are on the market a growing number of products that will help improve the soil in which your shrubs are growing. Go to our section on building and maintaining good soil.