We always want to get the best out of our plants. When they’re not in bloom, we want great foliage; when they flower, we want the biggest and brightest blooms.
Even with produce, we want them to be big and full of flavor. This is why we fertilize our plants regardless of whether they’re in a pot or the ground.
But with so many fertilizer choices out there, how do you know which one to use?
Best Fertilizer For Annuals
Choosing the best fertilizer for your annual isn’t difficult, but it takes some consideration.
Here’s everything you need to know to choose the best possible fertilizer for any annual plant.
Warning: There Isn’t A One-Type Fits All Answer
Plants are like people: no two are exactly the same, and their heritage can play a big role in their nutritional needs.
This is why you can’t just use the same fertilizer for every plant.
We’re presenting a way to make an educated choice in the type of fertilizer you buy, but the exact NPK ratio and dosages will require you to do a little research on each plant to find out its specific needs.
On every package of fertilizer, you’ll find a series of three numbers. These numbers are known as the NPK and tell how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is present in the fertilizer.
These three nutrients are the heart of plant nutrition, and while all are needed for general health, each has its own special benefits.
- Nitrogen is essential for healthy foliage and will encourage new stems and leaves.
- Phosphorus is essential for healthy blooms.
- Potassium ensures strong stems and boosts the plant’s immune system.
These three nutrients are often balanced, such as 10-10-10, while some may be high in nitrogen (ex: 4-2-2), phosphorus, or potassium.
There are even fertilizers that only provide one nutrient, such as a 4-0-0 nitrogen fertilizer that’s most often used for lawns.
It’s important to know the exact NPK ratio your plant needs, as some species or even cultivars can differ slightly compared to their close relatives.
When in doubt, people often stick to a balanced fertilizer, but this isn’t always the best option.
Another consideration is that you can also often begin with higher nitrogen fertilizer in spring and switch to a high phosphorus recipe when bloom time nears to get the most out of your plant.
Other Important Nutrients
But nitrogen is just one of many nutrients your fertilizer should contain. It can be difficult to find what other micro and macronutrients are present because they aren’t considered important.
These nutrients include:
Note that only trace amounts of these nutrients are necessary, so the exact amounts aren’t usually given. In most cases, these additional nutrients will be listed on the back or side of the package.
Liquid Soluble vs. Slow-Release
This is one of the great ongoing debates among plant enthusiasts.
Slow-release granules break down over a longer time, meaning you don’t have to apply them as often.
However, the nutrients contained within break down at different rates, meaning your plant won’t be getting the same balance of nutrition throughout the period between applications.
Meanwhile, liquid-soluble fertilizers can be given when it’s time to water the plant, and the nutrients are immediately available to your plant in an easily absorbed form.
You will need to apply these fertilizers more often, but diluting them to specific percentage strengths is much easier, allowing you far more flexibility.
Organic vs. Synthetic
This is another sticking point for a lot of plant enthusiasts.
Synthetic fertilizers can be stored for years, and some can even be stored indefinitely. However, there are a few drawbacks to using them.
Synthetics have a higher chance of causing chemical burns if they come in contact with your plant.
They can also leave behind more mineral salts, eventually making the soil toxic if not flushed out occasionally.
Finally, it’s not as easy to absorb as organic fertilizers, so the effects are slightly weakened (although this difference can often be too small to notice in an annual plant).
However, this doesn’t mean synthetic fertilizers don’t have their uses, and when used properly, they can still produce great results.
Organic fertilizers are quite different. Some organic options out there have a shelf life of several years when properly stored.
They closely mimic how the soil absorbs nutrients in nature, meaning they’re more easily absorbed by your plants and have a smaller chance of causing burns if it comes in contact with the plant.
Of course, you can also make many types of organic fertilizers at home, which can save money or address specific nutritional deficiencies.
A Few Recommended Fertilizer Brands For Annuals
Finally, let’s take a look at a few brands on the market that are known to be good quality.
It’s important that you never buy cheap fertilizer from a company that doesn’t have a great reputation.
These companies usually save money by cutting corners, and the fertilizer will likely be poor quality or have a drastically reduced shelf life.
All three of the following brands are well-known for their quality, affordability, and ability to use their products on both indoor and outdoor plants.
Miracle-Gro is one of the most trusted names in plant care. They offer a huge range of plant foods balanced for specific types of plants, such as a wonderful liquid-soluble rose food.
Both organic and synthetic options are available.
Another popular brand is Jobe’s Organics, sometimes a little more expensive than Miracle-Gro. What makes this brand great is that all of its fertilizers are 100% percent organic.
They offer both slow-release and liquid-soluble options for a wide range of plants, from the smallest houseplants to citrus trees.
A third option is Osmocote, made by the same company that makes Miracle-Gro.
Osmocote offers a handful of slow-release fertilizers that use a special coating to help regulate nutrient release.
This innovation helps to eliminate one of the biggest problems with slow-release fertilizers, making it a great choice for those who are often on the go and need something that lasts longer.