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Is Plant Food The Same As Fertilizer? Nutrients Distinguish

Plant fertilizer and plant food both have uses and benefits and are suitable for specific situations. But ‘Is plant food the same as fertilizer?’The quick answer is no. Plant food and fertilizer are not the same thing. Plant food is a source of nutrients for plants, while plant fertilizer is not.

Swipe Garden will help you learn more about their differences!

Plant Food vs. Plant Fertilizer: Same Or Different?

Plant food differs from plant fertilizers in two major aspects.

Plant food and plant fertilizer are not the same. Below are their primary differences:

Plant Food Occurs Naturally

Both plant food and plant fertilizer can occur naturally, but plant food is derived from natural sources while plant fertilizer is not.

This cycle is fully natural and involves photosynthesis. No chemicals or artificial products are necessary to trigger the process. Meanwhile, plant fertilizer can’t occur naturally. Gardeners will need to fertilize their plants on a consistent schedule.

Fertilizer Is Available For Purchase

Plant food provides a range of nutrients, including sugars, for plant growth, and natural nutrients for plants can be found in gardening stores in the form of organic fertilizers.

As stated, nutritious plant food comes from nature, so you can’t treat your herbs with anything other than nutrients from fertilizers, which provide them with simple sugars for their growth, using photosynthesis.

Macronutrients – Micronutrients

What are essential micro and macronutrients?

Houseplants rely on both macronutrients and micronutrients to survive. These nutrients help promote growth and keep indoor plants strong, healthy, and happy. We can name tonnes of macro- and micronutrients critical to all plants.


  • Nitrogen

Nitrogen is part of any living cell, and enzymes, metabolic processes, and proteins are involved in the transfer and synthesis of energy. Apart from that, nitrogen is also an element of chlorophyll, a critical green pigment in charge of photosynthesis. This macronutrient is present in the air, manure applications, and plant fertilizer.

  • Phosphorus

Phosphorus plays a vital role in the photosynthesis process. It contributes to the formation of sugars, starches, and oils.

Phosphorus helps with transforming solar energies into chemical energies, withstanding stress, encouraging root growth, and blooming. It is available in fertilizers, superphosphate, and bone meal.

  • Potassium

Greenery absorbs potassium in greater amounts than other mineral elements except for calcium and nitrogen. Potassium is necessary for lowering the stress level of vegetables caused by temperature extremes, drought, or pest problems.

  • Calcium

Calcium plays an important role in the plant wall structure and provides greenery with normal retention and transport of other necessary elements and strengths. Calcium comes from gypsum, superphosphate, and dolomitic lime.

  • Magnesium

Magnesium contributes to the creation of chlorophyll in green herbs and the photosynthesis process. It helps activate a lot of enzymes necessary for growth. Sources of magnesium are soil minerals, dolomitic limestone, organic materials, and Epsom salt.

  • Sulfur

Sulfur is responsible for protein production and promoting the development and activity of vitamins and enzymes.

It also assists in forming chlorophyll, improving seed production and root growth, and enhancing resistance to freezing weather and plant growth. The source of sulfur is rainwater.


  • Boron: It aids in using and regulating other nutrients. Also, it helps with the production of carbohydrates and sugar, which are crucial for fruit and seed development. Boron comes from borax and organic matter.
  • Copper: Copper is part of reproductive growth, the employment of proteins, and root metabolism.
  • Chlorine: It contributes to the photosynthesis process and plant metabolism.
  • Iron: Iron helps form chlorophyll and comes from iron chelate and iron sulfate.
  • Manganese: Combines with some enzyme systems to contribute to the breakdown of nitrogen metabolism and carbohydrates.
  • Molybdenum: It aids in using nitrogen.
  • Zinc: Zinc regulates sugar consumption and encourages carbohydrate transformation. It has a certain role in enzyme systems, regulating plant growth. Zinc comes from zinc sulfate, zinc chelate, and zinc oxide.
  • Cobalt: New flowers need cobalt to fix nitrogen.

Which Is Better: Plant Food Or Fertilizer?

Essentially, plants will feed themselves with nutrients taken up from the soil. However, they need regular fertilization when lacking nutrients. As a source of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, fertilizers are indispensable for healthy and thriving plants.

Your vegetables use up the above elements very quickly, especially nitrogen. Thus, fertilizers are meant to replenish those minerals.

Without an abundance of necessary elements, your flowers can grow, but they won’t be as fresh and healthy as when they receive all the nutrients they need.

Plants thrive strongly and vigorously only when they receive an ample supply of nutrients, minerals, water, and sunlight necessary for their growth.

However, the soil sometimes lacks some of those requirements, while fertilizers will do a much better job of providing plenty of them.

How Do I Know If My Plants Need Fertilizer?

Plants can’t thrive without fertilizers.

Unlike when houseplants need water (they wilt and turn crispy) and sunlight (their leaves turn lanky and pale). There are signs that indicate when plants need fertilizing, such as stagnant or slowed growth.

There is no obvious sign that they lack nutrients other than stagnant or slowed growth, which many houseplant growers can merely notice.

Therefore, you need to always keep an eye on your flowers’ changes and be well aware of common health problems that they usually have instead of waiting for clear signals. Also, apply fertilizers on a consistent basis based on your plants’ growing cycles.

Organic Fertilizer vs. Chemical Fertilizer: Which One Should You Choose?

As long as you provide your herbs with adequate nutrients, it doesn’t matter if you use chemical or organic fertilizers.

However, while it depends on your preference, it’s still important to pick the correct fertilizers for your type of plant.

Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources, such as animal manure and compost. Also, they provide flowers with essential nutrients and enhance soil tilth.

If you want to buy organic fertilizer products, remember to look for OMRI on their labels. If you’re a severe vegan, you can avoid blood, bone meal, and fish products.

Commercial fertilizers are manufactured using natural mineral deposits as a source of nutrients. Do you wish to encourage blooming? Go for products with a larger content of phosphorus compared to potassium and nitrogen. A balanced food source like 10-10-10 is a perfect option for green vegetables and high-nutrient plants.

More importantly, avoid using lawn fertilizers as they contain an overly high percentage of nitrogen and chemicals for controlling lawn weeds, which could damage your greenery.

Houseplants Will Make Plant Food More Often Than Fertilizer

Houseplants do not produce their plant food, but they may require more frequent fertilization compared to other plants. The average frequency is every two weeks or even more.

Indeed, you shouldn’t fertilize your vegetables that frequently. Ideally, you’ll need to feed them on a three- or four-month schedule, though it varies depending on your types of plants. One critical thing to keep in mind is never to over-fertilize your flowers.


While we’re so familiar with watering and fertilizing, we tend to forget about an important factor: plant food. Is plant food the same as fertilizer? It’s vital to know that they’re two different terms and to learn about their differences.

This way, you’ll precisely know what your plants need, and you’ll be feeding them the right supplements and nutrients. So, you get a suitable answer. Ensure to invest in the proper products for your flowers’ better growth!

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly Lawrence is the CEO of Swipe Garden. Over 10 years in the writing and passion for gardening, she brings a wealth of expertise and creativity to the world of gardening. Kelly Lawrence has cultivated a community of plant lovers, making gardening accessible and enjoyable for all.