Kitchen Tips

Plant Food Is Not Fertilizer, Heres the Difference

The most important difference between fertilizer and plant food is that fertilizer is used to help plants grow, while plant food provides nutrients for the plants.
Plant food vs fertilizer

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you’re presupposed to fertilize your plant each on occasion, or wait, does that imply you need to give it plant meals? In spite of everything, they’re type of the identical factor, proper? That’s what you’ve all the time believed, and now you wish to know in the event you’re appropriate. We did quite a lot of analysis to offer you the reply.

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What’s the distinction between plant meals and fertilizer? The primary distinction is that plant meals is a naturally occurring kind of sustenance whereas fertilizer will not be. Crops make their very own meals for survival. Fertilizer delivers vitamins for survival as properly, however commercially, not naturally.

Plant meals will not be the identical factor as fertilizer and vice-versa.

If you happen to’ve all the time thought that plant meals and fertilizer are two interchangeable phrases, that’s okay. So too did a number of gardeners, a minimum of at first of their journey. On this article, we’ll assist appropriate any misconceptions, defining each plant meals and fertilizer. Then we’ll dive deeper into the variations between the 2.

What Is Plant Meals? What Is Fertilizer?

As we mentioned, let’s get began with some definitions. This can clarify a bit extra about how plant meals and fertilizer aren’t the identical.

Plant Meals

Your houseplants get watered usually, however they want greater than H2O to outlive. In addition they require plant meals.

Your indoor vegetation are fairly good, in that they’ve the flexibility to make meals themselves. One other time period for this? Photosynthesis. Properly, it’s one perform of photosynthesis, anyway.

Your plant will start making meals by means of a mix of daylight (which offers vitality), carbon dioxide, and water. You give them solar and water, and the houseplant will get carbon dioxide by means of the air in your house or condominium.

The carbon dioxide will get throughout the plant by way of its leaves and interacts with chlorophyll or leaf pigment. The result’s a meals consisting of carbohydrates and sugar, with the latter made by the chlorophyll’s chloroplasts. Once you water your houseplant, soil minerals and the newly-made sugar journey, protecting the plant wholesome.

When the plant combines the vitamins it already has with its meals, it could actually make nutritional vitamins, enzymes, and protein.


Macronutrients and micronutrients maintain a houseplant alive. (We’ll discuss these later within the article, so maintain studying!). To fill in any nutrient gaps your plant has, there’s fertilizer. This will additionally complement sure vitamins within the houseplant’s soil so there’s no danger of a deficiency.

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Fertilizer is available in each pure and artificial kinds. Because the identify would possibly indicate, pure fertilizer solely derives its elements from pure sources. These might embody poultry manure, fish waste, seaweed, blood meal, bone, feather meal, and cottonseed meal. A very powerful trait of this fertilizer is the microorganisms inside.

These microorganisms might embody organic compounds, fungi, algae, or micro organism, any of which helps your plant thrive. The microorganisms want a soil temperature of a minimum of 50 levels Fahrenheit, usually larger, to work their magic.

Your different possibility is artificial fertilizer. This has no pure elements; actually, it’s largely fabricated from liquid ammonia. The remainder of the product might include filler or ballast. More often than not, in the event you have a look at the label, you may see the ratio of vitamins contained in an artificial fertilizer. Relying on which nutrient your houseplant wants essentially the most, you’d wish to store fastidiously to purchase a fertilizer with a great amount of that nutrient.

The Variations Between Plant Meals and Fertilizer

Now that you’ve got a greater understanding of each plant meals and fertilizer, let’s discover extra variations between the 2.

Plant Meals Is All the time Naturally Occurring Whereas Fertilizer Is Not

That is the purpose we introduced up within the intro. Houseplants will make their very own meals. They want water and daylight from you to kickstart the method, however that course of itself is completely pure. It’s photosynthesis, bear in mind? You don’t have to make use of any chemical compounds or overseas merchandise to set off your houseplant into making plant meals. It is going to do it when crucial. If by likelihood it doesn’t occur, that may seemingly imply there’s one thing mistaken together with your plant.

Fertilizing isn’t a naturally occurring course of. Sure, you should purchase pure fertilizer, however houseplants don’t fertilize themselves. It’s one thing you must do for them.

Fertilizer Is Commercially Accessible

On that be aware, you can’t purchase plant meals commercially. Okay, in the event you did a Google search proper now for plant meals, you’d get a number of merchandise that declare they’re plant meals. Are they? Greater than seemingly, these merchandise act as a kind of fertilizer.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter what a product label says, the plant meals we’re speaking about on this article is the naturally occurring type that houseplants make on their very own. It’s not one thing you may label and promote, not like fertilizer.

Houseplants Will Make Plant Meals Extra Typically Than You Have to Fertilize

How usually does a houseplant produce its personal number of plant meals? It relies upon, however it needs to be semi-often since vitamins deplete, so possibly each couple of weeks and possibly much more usually than that. You’ll not fertilize your houseplant almost that usually, or a minimum of, you shouldn’t.

Admittedly, it does differ by houseplant, however for essentially the most half, you need to fertilize on a three-month schedule, possibly even 4 months. We’ll speak extra about overfertilizing later, so ensure you don’t miss it.

Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients

Okay, we’ve talked about micronutrients and macronutrients a couple of occasions all through this text, however what are these?

As we mentioned earlier than, your houseplant depends on each micronutrients and macronutrients for its survival. These vitamins can promote progress and maintain your indoor plant wholesome, sturdy, and glad. There are quite a lot of each nutrient varieties, with as much as 16 macronutrients crucial to your plant’s well being.

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Let’s speak first about micronutrients after which macronutrients.


The next micronutrients must be part of your houseplant’s “diet:”

  • Cobalt: If you happen to simply settled your houseplant someplace, then it could want extra cobalt than it should at different occasions in its life. This micronutrient will permit for nitrogen fixation and aide in institution in a brand new pot or surroundings.
  • Zinc: To manage sugar consumption and guarantee carbohydrates change into meals, make sure that your houseplant will get zinc. This will embody zinc chelate, zinc sulfate, or zinc oxide. By these sources of zinc, your plant might expertise progress because the enzyme programs get fed.
  • Molybdenum: With out molybdenum, your houseplant can not regulate nitrogen utilization. This micronutrient additionally permits for sulfur and oxygen to cycle.
  • Manganese: To keep up your houseplant’s nitrogen metabolism, it wants manganese. This nutrient causes carbs to interrupt down at the side of the plant’s enzyme programs as properly.
  • Iron: We talked concerning the significance of chlorophyll in relation to a houseplant producing its personal supply of meals. Properly, with out iron chelate or iron sulfate, your plant lacks the chlorophyll it wants.
  • Chlorine: One other main plant course of that any wholesome houseplant ought to do is photosynthesis. Because of chlorine, photosynthesis is feasible.
  • Copper: With copper, your indoor plant can use its proteins to the fullest potential. Moreover that, the micronutrient boosts the metabolism of the roots and helps the plant in reproducing.
  • Boron: As a nutrient regulator, boron performs an enormous function in your houseplant’s well being. From borax to natural matter, boron promotes the expansion of fruit and seeds (solely in houseplants able to producing these, in fact) and helps you plant make carbs and sugar.

If you happen to’re utilizing the appropriate kind of soil on your indoor plant, then it ought to get all of the micronutrients it wants from that soil alone. There are exceptions, resembling in the event you combine your potting soil or soil media by hand.


The massive three macronutrients are potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, however there are many others. Let’s discuss all of them now:

  • Sulfur: Though not one of many three main macronutrients, sulfur does a complete lot on your houseplant. It retains your plant capable of stand up to chilly temperatures (to a level), generates progress, helps your plant make extra seeds and develop stronger roots, and it creates chlorophyll. Additional, with out sulfur, your houseplant can not produce any nutritional vitamins, enzymes, or protein.
  • Magnesium: Discovered throughout the chlorophyll of your houseplant is magnesium. Your plant couldn’t photosynthesize with out it. Whether or not you utilize Epsom salt, dolomitic limestone, natural materials, or soil mineral to get your magnesium, it should set off progress enzymes within the plant.
  • Calcium: By superphosphate, gypsum, and dolomitic lime, calcium can work wonders in your indoor plant. For example, it lets vitamins journey whereas supporting the construction of cell partitions throughout the plant.
  • Potassium: Potassium can safeguard your houseplant from injury attributable to critters and pests, temperature fluctuations, and drought. With much less stress, your plant ought to survive longer. It is going to largely soak up this macronutrient.
  • Phosphorus: Yet one more nutrient that performs a significant function in photosynthesis is phosphorus. Additional, it results in progress within the roots, encourages plant blooming and maturation, and aides within the transition of photo voltaic vitality to chemical vitality. Your plant may even deal with stress higher with phosphorus, be that its superphosphate, bone meal, or fertilizer kinds.
  • Nitrogen: Most significantly, your houseplant wants nitrogen. With out it, your plant can not do something with the vitality it creates. Nitrogen mainly permits photosynthesis to occur, however it additionally lends itself to the manufacturing of chlorophyll and vitality transfers throughout the houseplant.

What Occurs If You Overfertilize Your Houseplant?

Whether or not you want to catch your houseplant up on its micronutrients and macronutrients otherwise you’re involved a couple of deficiency, you might have overdone it on the fertilizer. You definitely fertilize greater than each three or 4 months.

How will you realize one thing has gone amiss? Properly, for one, check out the colour of your houseplant’s leaves. Have they turned yellow? That might be one indicator of overfertilizing. You may additionally discover the houseplant has wilted, the leaf margins look dried or burned, and the plant doesn’t develop as shortly as anticipated. Oh, and your indoor plant might die, too. That’s as clear an indication you want that you simply made a crucial error.

Even when your indoor plant does survive, overfertilizing may cause an accumulation of salt. Your vegetation might not have the ability to soak up water as simply due to all this salt, which settles on the floor of your plant’s soil. If you happen to flush the houseplant by means of with sink water a number of occasions (like three or extra), you may do away with all of the salt buildup. Your plant must be good from there.

Associated Questions

Is compost the identical as plant meals or fertilizer?

Compost will not be fertilizer, and it’s not precisely plant meals, both. That mentioned, you should utilize it as a type of plant meals because it comprises the vitamins your houseplant wants. Relying on what your compost consists of, it might have greater than a dozen of the vitamins that may assist a wholesome houseplant.

You can also make compost your self utilizing supplies you have already got mendacity round at house. For example, attempt dried leaves, newspaper (rip or shred it first, please), kitchen waste, yard trimmings, or grass clippings on your compost. The secret is letting decay happen over one to a few months.

Does soil pH matter in relation to your houseplant getting vitamins?

You most likely discovered about pH in science class, however you won’t bear in mind a lot as of late. That’s unlucky, as a result of regardless of you fertilizing your houseplant solely when wanted, it doesn’t appear to be doing properly. Why is that?

The pH of your soil completely issues when fertilizing your houseplant. First, somewhat lesson. pH is a measure of whether or not an answer is extra fundamental or acidic. The upper up you get on the pH scale, the extra fundamental your answer. The decrease on the size, the extra acidic.

Houseplants want a soil that doesn’t fall beneath 5.5 or above 7.0. It’s that candy spot in between. Going too fundamental or too acidic inhibits your houseplant’s nutrient absorption capabilities. Once you give the plant fertilizer, it’s not getting the total extent of the vitamins promised. Your plant might make its personal meals rather more slowly because of this.

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