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Is Plant Food The Same As Fertilizer?

Discover the key differences between plant food and fertilizer, ensuring optimal growth and health for your garden plants.

Every gardener and caretaker of plants wishes to have a beautiful garden with all blooming flowers and trees. But most of the time, they confuse the term plant food with fertilizer. Though both of these are equally important for the health of plants, there is a line between them.

Plant health is an important thing to consider. They should have proper nutrition so they can glow and bloom differently. So, in order to provide information regarding their requirements, this article will cover all the necessary information about plant health and the main difference between plant food and fertilizer

Let’s get started.

Plant Food & Fertilizer

Yellow can with plant growing inside symbolizing growth and care

Plants require proper nutrition, like human beings, to survive and grow. Both plant food and fertilizers are very crucial for them to consider. Apart from their role as food providers, they are also necessary for the entire ecosystem as they are linked to different birds and animals.

Let’s have a brief look at both of them.

What Is Plant Food?

Though our food comes from plants and stores collectively, and it might sound similar in reality, plant food is created by plants themselves. Plants make their own food with the collective help of sunlight, air, and water. This entire process is called photosynthesis. 

Further, this food is mixed with plant nutrients to create protein, enzymes, nutrients, vitamins, and other elements necessary for plant growth. 

Here, sunlight is a power source for plants, water helps carry the process forward, and air provides raw material for food preparation. 

What are Fertilizers?

Plants are natural producers of food. They are self-sufficient for their growth, but problems arise when the nutrients present in the soil get depleted over time. Here, fertilizers play an important role in filling the space of nutrients.

Fertilizers provide all the necessary nutrients to the soil, which are important for plant growth. So, even if plants lack basic nutrients, they are covered by fertilizers at times.

They are mainly of two types:

  • Natural Fertilizers: These are made from natural or organic material sourced from waste materials of animals and birds. They are comparatively slower than synthetic fertilizers. 

They are eco-friendly and slowly improve soil health and fertility with the passage of time.

  • Synthetic Fertilizers: These fertilizers are inorganic and are mainly processed. They contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus in concentrated amounts. 

Even though they are comparatively quicker than organic fertilizers, you should always use them in lesser amounts. Excess of synthetic fertilizers can damage the plant’s health and soil.

What is the Difference Between Plant Food & Fertilizer?


Plant Food



Produced naturally through the process of photosynthesis.

Produced synthetically through manufacturing.


Consists of glucose (sugar).

Consists of nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.


Only apply them indirectly. It will be produced if plant and soil health is perfect.

It can be applied directly to soil to further give nutrients.

Important Nutrients for Plants

A person using a shovel to dig in the dirt searching for important nutrients for plants

Human beings and animals need nutrition to grow. Similarly, plants also require different kinds of nutrients to grow effectively; the following are some of the important nutrients of plants.


Macronutrients, as clear from the name, are the nutrients that plants need in large quantities. They are important because they provide important nutrients to plants for their functions, growth, development, and reproduction.

There are six different types of macronutrients:

  • Nitrogen: This nutrient is a very important component of proteins, chlorophyll, and nucleic acids. They are essential for plants as they provide energy for plant growth and metabolism.

If they are given in less quantity, it will cause yellowing leaves in the plants.

  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is a very important macronutrient and is used in fertilizers as well. They are components of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that is responsible for transferring energy within cells. 

Apart from them, phosphorus is crucial for the root development of plants along with fruit and flower production. If provided less, it will affect the flowering and leaves of the plants.

  • Potassium: Potassium helps maintain the proper balance of water in plants and activates enzymes. This nutrient is necessary for better photosynthesis, quality of fruits, and strong immunity against diseases.

Deficiency of potassium can cause weak stems.

  • Calcium: Calcium is important in making the cell walls strong and is also responsible for various kinds of cellular functions. They help in the development of strong roots of plants and the quality of fruits.

Its deficiency can cause stunted growth. 

  • Magnesium: Magnesium is important for seed production and activating enzymes. It is an element of chlorophyll and is very important for the photosynthesis process.

A lack of magnesium can cause the yellowing of leaves.

  • Sulfur: Sulphur is an important component of amino acids and proteins. In order to have better chlorophyll production and much better enzyme activation.

If it’s smaller, it can affect the growth of plants and cause pale leaves.

Now, let’s have a look at micronutrients.


Micronutrients are the nutrients that are needed by plants in smaller or lesser amounts. They are as important as macronutrients. Following are the types of micronutrients. 

  • Iron: Iron (Fe) is used in the photosynthesis process and is responsible for the whole respiration process of plants.
  • Manganese: Manganese (Mn) is important for chlorophyll production in plants, and it is also used for nitrogen metabolism.
  • Boron: Boron (B) is an important micronutrient that is used in seed production and to improve the metabolism of calcium.
  • Zinc: Zinc (Zn) is beneficial for the functions of enzymes and chlorophyll.
  • Copper: Copper (Cu) is highly involved in photosynthesis and respiration.
  • Molybdenum: Molybdenum is important for nitrogen fixation

Ratio of NPK

NPK are the most important nutrients for plants. Their desired ratio should be 10:20:10. Which means the amount of phosphorus should be double the amount of nitrogen and potassium. 

So far, we have seen nutrients and their importance for plants. But can they be added anytime? Most of the time, gardeners need clarification about the right time and method of feeding their plants. Let’s have a brief look at the right time to feed plants.

What is The Right Time to Feed Plants?

Growing vegetables in pots Learn when to feed plants for optimal growth

Plants should be fertilized or fed whenever they are growing actively. This usually happens during the spring and summer, which is their fastest-growing season.

Avoid doing sp during late summer or fall. Also, remember to have a look at the plant type. Every plant needs different nutrients; therefore, you should always look at their needs and requirements before giving them food.

Lastly, extreme hot climates should be avoided because they will burn the plants and cause damage to them.

Maintaining your Garden

We have read about all the important nutrients the plants need to grow and develop. Further, we will have a glimpse of how we can maintain a garden and look after our plants well.

Give Importance to Soil Health

The health of soil is as important as plant health, as it is responsible for providing a base for plant growth. Add organic manure and leaves and practice crop rotation. Make sure that you are providing all the necessary nutrients to the plants for better growth.

Test Your Soil

Remember to test your soil. Testing of soil is now considered an important aspect because it highly contributes to making important decisions related to agriculture. It will further give you a clear picture of your soil needs and what nutrients are required or not. After all, every process in plants is interlinked with each other.

Choose the Right Food

Make sure to know your plants and their requirements well. This will help you in choosing the right food for them. Also, you will be aware of their needs at different stages of growth and development.

Apply Correctly

Their chemical needs should be fulfilled if you stay within the application rate. Remember to follow the necessary guidelines given by the manufacturer and try to follow them step by step correctly.

Focus on Long Term

Use an organic and sustainable approach for your plants. This will reduce the need for fertilizer that harms the plant’s growth and development and provide you with eco-friendly solutions to keep your garden updated.

Remember that your plants require a great solution for growing well. Avoid using harmful chemicals.

The above are some of the crucial points that every gardener should use to ensure their plants’ healthy growth and development. Overall, these things should be combined with the plants’ nutrition requirements.

A road stretching into the distance with a clear blue sky above

Short Summary

The article clearly shows the difference between plant food and fertilizer. Also, it describes in depth the macronutrients and micronutrients and their importance in a plant’s growth. The necessary information about maintaining the garden and the reason behind their proper and improper growth.

Plant growth is important for Mother Earth’s healthy working; therefore, it is necessary to understand its importance and respect nature. After all, as it is said, ‘Respect Mother Earth, and it will respect you.’

Lastly, please choose the best plant food for the healthy growth of your plants and nurture their growth.

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