In nature, houseplants live in a tropical forest where their roots grow in a combination of soil, decaying leaves, and animal droppings. A virtual smorgasbord of nutrients!
Live bacteria, enzymes, and microbes break down this organic matter into minerals the plants can absorb.
This process is almost impossible with potted plants. Potting materials are sterilized, killing the bacteria, enzymes, and microbes needed to transform organic matter into a form your plants can use.
Potted plants rely on you, the grower, to provide nutritional elements.
If your plants aren't getting the real food they use for growth - air, light, and water - your choice of fertilizer won't matter.
Fortunately, manufacturers are required to follow a set of rules and when listing the ingredients inside the package.
Comparing fertilizers isn't difficult when you know how to read the label.
All fertilizers contain three main ingredients - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potash (K) - called macro-nutrients
The numbers on the front panel describe what percentage of each element is in the fertilizer. This is called the "NPK" ratio.
The first number is percentage of Nitrogen (N) - for growing leaves and stems. The second number is Phosphorus (P) - for flower production, and the third is Potash (K) - for stronger roots.
For example, if your fertilizer has 8-9-5 on the front panel, it contains 8% nitrogen, 9% Phosphorus, and 5% Potash.
The back panel lists all the ingredients in the package.
The first 3 elements are the macro-nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash) followed by the micro-nutrients. There are 11 micro-nutrients plants use for growth. Are they in there?
Choosing the right fertilizer for your plants can make your head spin! Don't get overwhelmed - this doesn't need to be complicated.
There are 2 things to look for when choosing a fertilizer.
1. Does it contain Urea?
2. Are all 14 elements plants use for growth in there?
Look on the back panel. The first ingredient will be nitrogen. If you see the word "urea" as the source of nitrogen, you don't have a quality fertilizer.
Houseplants can't use urea! Urea is a cheap form of nitrogen that many fertilizers use to cut costs. Urea can't be absorbed by your plants until it is broken down by enzymes or bacteria. The problem is sterilized potting mixes don't contain the enzymes and bacteria needed to convert urea into something your plant can use!
Unused urea eventually turns to salt which can damage the plant's roots. So if you're using a plant food that has urea on the label you might actually be harming your plants!
Look for "nitrate nitrogen" or "ammoniacal nitrogen" as the source for nitrogen instead of urea. That's the good stuff.
You should see 14 elements listed on the back panel. Most fertilizers skimp on these because they rely on the growing media to supply them.
If your fertilizer doesn't have 14 elements listed on the back panel, you're taking a hit-or-miss approach and your plants are missing important minerals.
Don't think there's a difference in fertilizers? Ask your plants!
Organic means "the nutrient contained in the product is derived solely from the remains of once living organisms". Living organisms include animal waste, crop residue, compost and numerous other byproducts.
Organic fertilizers sound good but most are incomplete in nutritional value. They usually contain only one or two nutritional elements so blending different products is necessary. The result is uncontrollable, difficult to measure, and usually carries an odor. You never really know what your plants are getting.
Earthworm castings, seaweed, and bat guano head the list of organic remedies. Do you really want to put this stuff on your plants, and in your home?
Why take a chance when complete, balanced nutrition is so easy with other brands on the market?
Hydroponic Advantage: Hydroponics doesn't rely on the growing media for any nutrition value. That means "hydroponic nutrients" will always have all the elements your plants need for healthy growth - in a form your plants can use - immediately.
A complete, balanced nutrition program is easy. Just add a couple of drops of nutrients to the water and your plants will be getting everything they need.
The nutrients you add to the water go directly to the plant - without the soil getting in the way.