17 Jul 2014

Feeding Your Plants: The Breakdown of Fertilizers

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Fertilizers are an important facet of plant health. Aside from sunlight and water, fertilizers are another key important in maintaining beautiful plants. Let us give you the breakdown of different types of fertilizers and how they affect different plants.

There are several ways to categorize fertilizer, the most basic is whether it is organic or inorganic. It also can be classified according to its ingredients, whether it is solid or liquid and by its particular actions, such as slow-release fertilizers that dissolve and release their nutrients slowly. The choice of fertilizer that is used typically depends on the nature of the soil, such as whether it is acidic or alkaline; sandy, clay or rocky; and weak or rich.

Organic Fertlizers

Organic fertilizers are all natural mediums and includes compost, peat moss, and manure. These are generally used as soil amendments. They will not burn or harm the plants, and generally add a long-term benefit to the composition of the soil. However, organic fertilizers often generally have a lower nutrient content than inorganic fertilizers.

Peat Moss

Inorganic Fertilizers

Inorganic fertilizers are man-made, and generally come as a powder, pellet, granular, or liquid. Inorganic fertilizers are usually chemical additives made for the plant to quickly or slowly absorb. Some plants require more of one nutrient than another, so inorganic fertilizers are often made to be plant (or type of plant) specific, providing the exact formula needed for a particular plant’s health.

NPK Ratios

Most inorganic, concentrated fertilizer is rated based on the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, using a rubric called NPK. The amount of nitrogen will encourage growth of stems and leaves by promoting protein and chlorophyll. More flowers, larger fruits and healthier roots and tubers will result from added phosphorus, which also helps plants resist certain diseases. Finally, potassium thickens stems and leaves by fostering protein development. This means, for example, that vegetables would do better with an NPK ratio that is different from what is best for roses or orange trees.

Acidic or Alkaline Soils

Different plants will require soil that has different pH levels, which are measurements of how acidic or alkaline the soil is. To nudge soil’s pH toward the acidic side, inorganic fertilizer such as aluminum sulfate or ammonium sulfate could be used. Lime changes the soil’s chemistry to make it more alkaline. Sometimes blood meal or other organic matter can also affect acid levels in the soil.


Fertilizer101 Complete! Hopefully now you have a better understanding as to the different types of fertilizers, and how the composition affects the plants. Fertilizers can be used for many different and specific purposes,  and it is always helpful to know which fertilizer should be used for you specific situation!


– Laura Karnes