Plant Fertilizer Basics: NPK Explained! Easily Choose Fertilizer For Your Plants

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Fertilizer is all the vitamins and nutrients that your plants are going to need. It is often referred to as plant food. However, it is really not a food for the plant but it is something that is very crucial and absorbed by the plant. That helps the plant do a whole bunch of different functions. The essential functions come from photosynthesis, which is when the plant is absorbing light and that is what actually feeds them.

Additionally, all of the extra nutrients and building blocks come from fertilizer. Fertilizers come with 3 basic necessities. It is known as an NPK ratio. NPK stands for the different nutrients that are in there. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Each of these nutrients serves a specific function.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen

 Nitrogen provides healthy new leaves and happy new cell growth. You have a healthy-looking plant because of the nitrogen. This also enables your plant to push out a lot of new growth and form healthy new leaves. So, if you are trying to get your plant to grow more foliage, this is generally the nutrient that you really want to look at. Consider adding a little bit more of this to your plants if that is the case.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is really great for root growth and photosynthesis. So, Phosphorus is a key ingredient for the plants being able to absorb nutrients, absorb minerals, and absorb that light. It is also critical for plants to utilize it to complete their functions and push out that new growth.  If there is not enough phosphorus available then none of the other nutrients will be absorbed by the plant properly and the plant will not be able to utilize them to push out that new growth.

Potassium

Potassium

Potassium helps with the disease resistance of plants. So if you have plants that are continually getting diseases they might need more Potassium. Also if you are trying to get your plants to bloom or to produce a large amount of fruit then Potassium is going to help with that. Potassium also helps plants to photosynthesize and better absorb nutrients through the air and the aerial roots as well. Making it really good for asteroids or epiphatic plants.

NPK Ratio Breakdown

NPK Ratio Breakdown

 NPK is a standard the across-the-board because they are very crucial to the development and production of all plants. It does not matter what fertilizer you use. They will have all 3 of these in there. Unless you select just one ingredient intentionally. NPK ratio seems very complicated but it is really just the amount of these threw different nutrients broken down into your fertilizer.

For Example, you added

 1 cup of nitrogen

  1 cup of potassium

  1 cup of phosphorus

That is a 1:1:1 ratio.

 You can also have it be a 10:10:10 ratio. It is just equal parts of those 3 things mixed into the mixing bowl that becomes this fertilizer.

Fertilizer Adjustments

Fertilizer Adjustments

 So where fertilizer gets a little bit more complicated when they start changing up that ratio. They might have 2 parts nitrogen one part potassium and 1 part phosphorus. That nitrogen is going to be focusing more on plant growth and plant foliage so if you feel that your plants are already getting enough of the other 2 and they need a little more help to grow. This might be a better mix. 

Maybe the plants are in different stages than others or starting to bear fruits and blooms. Once you know what each of these specific things does and how it’s broken down on the label you can choose the fertilizer that’s going to work best for you or even mix your own.

Fertilizer Strength

Fertilizer Strength

When the NPK number is higher that just means that there is going to be more concentration of those specific ingredients in that little bottle. It means you are giving more of those specific ingredients to your plants at once.

If you have a 10:10:10 ratio then it is going to be giving 10 times the amount (instead of one time the amount) of each of those ingredients. This is going to be for heavier feeding plants.

For example, if you have a Monstera Deliciosa they are a very heavy-feeding plant. If you have fruit trees they are going to need a little bit more heavy feeding especially if they are in the fruiting season as well.

 What you do if you have a 10:10:10 ratio and you have a smaller plant is dilute that fertilizer water so that way you are giving a smaller amount of these same equal ingredients to your plant. This prevents fertilizer burn and is not going to cause any issues for your smaller plants. This allows you to still have that same really strong fertilizer for your bigger more robust plants that need more.

Fertilizing Methods

Fertilizing Methods

Fertilizer comes in 3 different distribution methods.

You can get some type of dissolving material that you mix it in with water and you water your plants with that.

There is also a slow-release fertilizer for that that dissolves slowly giving your plants nutrients over months. This is most widely used by growers all across the board. So, if you end up getting a plant from a big box store or a nursery, the majority of the time, it will have a slow release on it.

Lastly is a foliar spray which is basically a fertilizer that you can spray on your plants. This is great for epiphytic plants and aroids because they like to take in nutrients from the air around them with their roots and they like it in any misting form. This is one of the very few times where they recommend misting your plants in order to get them fertilizer.

Hopefully, this answers some of your questions enabling you to go forth and have healthier happier plants and understand fertilization a little bit more. Hopefully, this de-mystifies some of the NPK stuff that is out there and made it a little less intimidating to go shopping for these things.

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