What Fertilizer Should I Use?

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Many gardeners are familiar with the three numbers labeled on the front of fertilizer, which represent the N-P-K ratio, or the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content in the fertilizer. These three elements are essential for plant survival, along with fourteen other essential nutrients for healthy growth. All seventeen essential nutrients are naturally found in soils, but not always in the amounts your plants need. That’s why many gardeners apply fertilizers, giving their plants an extra boost.

Many perennials, shrubs, trees, and vegetables can thrive without extra assistance, while others may need a little help for more vigorous growth and colorful blooms. But with an array of fertilizer options on the market, you may wonder: Which fertilizer is best for my plants?

Here, we'll outline the top Espoma organic fertilizer types and list which plants could benefit from regular applications.

Hand applying fertilizer in a garden
Espoma Flower-tone Organic Fertilizer

Espoma Flower-tone Organic Fertilizer

(NPK 3-4-5)

Perfect for flowering perennials & annuals.

Espoma Flower-tone fertilizer is perfect for helping provide long-lasting nutrients to promote healthier, more vibrant, perennial flower blooms. While there are a variety of perennial flowers that have vibrant blooms without extra assistance, some of the following could use an extra boost during spring:

Espoma Plant-tone Organic Fertilizer

(NPK 5-3-3)

All-purpose, especially useful for trees, shrubs, & vegetables.

The Espoma Plant-tone organic fertilizer is best suited for nearly every plant! It can help speed up the growth of your trees or keep your vegetables vigorous and disease-free during the growing season. We don’t have any specific Plant-tone recommendations because its use is quite broad. However, consider applying it to any flowering perennial once a month during the growing season or to your shrubs once during the spring and fall.

Espoma Plant-tone Organic Fertilizer 4lb. Bag
Espoma Bio-Tone Starter Fertilizer 4lb. Bag

Espoma Bio-Tone Starter Organic Fertilizer

(NPK 4-3-3)

Newly planted annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, or vegetables.

Espoma Bio-tone Starter fertilizer is great for when you need to establish large root systems quickly! While some plants don’t need much care when they are first being planted, the following plants could benefit from some extra help during establishment:

Espoma Rose-tone Organic Fertilizer

(NPK 4-3-2)

Great for woody plants & reblooming shrubs.

To keep your woody shrubs disease-free and long-blooming, consider giving them extra nutrients from Rose-tone fertilizer. The following could especially benefit from yearly rose-tone applications:

Espoma Rose-tone Organic Fertilizer 4 lb. Bag

Common frequently asked questions about fertilizer for plants:

What does the NPK ratio mean for my plants?

The NPK ratio is the proportion of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the fertilizer. Each of these 3 essential elements serves a different function. Simply put, nitrogen promotes leafy growth, phosphorus encourages healthy roots and more blooms, and potassium supports disease resistance and water uptake.

  • Flower-tone fertilizer has a ratio of 3-4-5, which means it contains more phosphorus and potassium for more flowers and vigorous growth.
  • Plant-tone has a ratio of 5-3-3, which promotes leafy green growth with high nitrogen but still offers plenty of phosphorus and potassium to be balanced.
  • Bio-tone Starter fertilizer is very balanced with a ratio of 4-3-3 to encourage healthy shoot and root growth in young plants.
  • Rose-tone fertilizer has a ratio of 4-3-2, which supports healthy foliage production and big blooms in shrubs.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for evergreens?

Evergreen plants could benefit from a fertilizer with a balance of complete macronutrients of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) can be found in Espoma Plant-tone fertilizer. Consider applying if new spring growth is sparse or the soil site is less than desirable. Be sure not to use fertilizer late in the season as new growth could soon die off after temperatures.

What fertilizer will make a hydrangeas bloom?

Using Rose-tone fertilizer and timing your applications properly should help give your hydrangeas an early-season boost. One of the biggest things to remember is to avoid fertilizing your hydrangeas in the late summer and early fall; this will promote new growth just before colder temperatures set in, which could damage susceptible flower buds.

For more tips on fertilizing your hydrangeas, check out this Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs video!

How much fertilizer should I be using?

The amount of fertilizer you apply entirely depends on the plant species and cultivar. Some plants like Rudbeckia, poppy, or yarrow may only require a light application of all-purpose fertilizer in the spring, with too much creating weaker floppy growth and doing more harm than good. At the same time, other plants like roses, astilbe, daylily, and hydrangeas are finicky with soil. About once a month, they could use consistent applications to keep diseases at bay and growth vigorous.

The fertilizer application frequency is included under the “How To Grow” tab on all of our plants. If you have specific fertilizer questions, contact us HERE.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.