How to Pick the Right Plant Food for Your Indoor or Outdoor Foliage

Feed your greenery and watch it grow.

Potted plant
Whether your plants live indoors or outdoors, they need the right food to survive.Pixabay

Like people and pets, plants need regular nourishment. Despite the replenishing properties of water and sunlight, they alone are not enough to keep our green friends growing. Enter fertilizer. The one that’s best for your plants will depend on the soil in which they’re growing and on the plants themselves. Even if they’re growing in top-notch soil, you’ll need to replace the nutrients it loses as the plants consume them. Plants have different nutrient needs at different stages of their life span (for example, nitrogen for green growth, potassium for flowering), and fertilizer containing a percentage of the big three—nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (represented by the N-P-K ratio)—is ideal for healthy growth.

Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food Spikes, Includes 48 Spikes - Continuous Feeding for all Flowering and Foliage Houseplants
These are designed specifically for indoor gardening and must be replaced every 30 to 60 days.Miracle-Gro

The three numbers on fertilizer labels indicate the proportion of nutrients. The first is the nitrogen, the second is the phosphorus and the third is the potassium. If a 100-pound bag has a ratio of 5-7-4, it contains five pounds of nitrate (containing nitrogen), seven of phosphate (containing phosphorus), four of potash (containing potassium) and 84 pounds of filler. The ratio is typically lower for organic fertilizers because they are slow-release and the numbers indicate only the nutrients that are readily available.

Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus Outdoor & Indoor, 8 lbs
One serving of these granules, packed with 11 nutrients, provides six months of feeding for both indoor and outdoor plants.Osmocote

Organic fertilizers are made of natural material like manure, compost and plant-based products, and work slowly and over the long haul. Inorganic fertilizers include chemicals and are good for a speedy garden boost, but aren’t as effective in building long-term health. Nitrogen benefits plants in middle age, while phosphorus strengthens the roots and stems throughout the life cycle. Potassium helps plants grow deeper, stronger roots, and it works like rejuvenating medicine when there’s browning and yellowing at the edge of their leaves.

Miracle-Gro Shake 'N Feed All Purpose Plant Food
No pre-mixing with water is needed for this one, which should be applied only to dry foliage.Miracle-Gro

Fertilizer comes in liquid, powder and granular form. Liquid fertilizer must be diluted with water and can be spread using a hose or nozzle attachment. Its greatest benefit is that it can be sprayed directly onto leaves, which absorbs nutrients more efficiently than roots. Powder fertilizer can be spread by hand with water added immediately for absorption. Granular fertilizer is also spread over soil, but it’s absorbed over time as you water your garden or plants.

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