Plant Food Vs. Fertilizer: Which One is Better?

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By Ashley Hanson

Updated: Mar 29, 2024

8 min read

Plant Food Vs. Fertilizer
Photo: @instantplantfood

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    A common confusion arises in the mind of gardeners as to whether plant food and Fertilizer are the same thing or different because both terms are interchangeably used by many. Plant food and fertilizers are used for plants for robust growth. Fertilizers are often called plant food, but these are not plant food. Plants naturally prepare their food using water, carbon dioxide and energy from the sun, which combine with plant nutrients to produce elements needed by them to thrive.

    Fertilizers are chemical substances that contain the essential nutrient which is added to soil and water to help plants grow in a healthy way. Let’s know if both terms are same or different and what are the differences between them.

    What is Plant Food?

    Plants make their own food using the natural process using water and sunlight. Plants get essential nutrients from the soil, which is provided by using fertilizers.

    What is Fertilizer?

    It is a chemical substance added to soil to promote their growth, which is an essential element of modern agriculture. Most fertilizers are available in combination with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, along with other components such as calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.

    Plant Food Vs. Fertilizer: Know the Difference

    It’s essential to know the difference between both in terms of their composition, method of application, and other factors. Though both help plants to grow, they work differently. In this article, we’ll take you through the differences in depth of plant food vs fertilizer for indoor plants.


    Both differ in occurrence. Plants make their own food through the natural process of using water and sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. There are plant food products available commercially, too, containing macronutrients( nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous and micronutrients (iron and zinc) that help healthy growth in plants. The process of making food is fast and helps plants to prepare food many times and is usually useful for indoor plants.

    Fertilizer is a commercially available product in solid, liquid, and powdered form.


    Plant food and fertilizers have different compositions. The nutritional content in plants is derived organically or through synthetic processes.

    Fertilizer consists of multiple products used as supplements to enhance the fertility of soil. It actually replenishes the essential nutrients for the robust growth of plants.

    Method of Application

    You can directly apply plant food on the soil or plant foliage. Plant food is available in liquid and granules, both. Liquid can be mixed in water and used for spraying whereas granules are mixed in the soil during planting or applied around the base of plants.

    Indoor Plants
    Photo: @mypeacefulmoment

    Fertilizers are applied to the plant’s soil to balance the nutritional deficiency. It is available in granules, liquid, or powdered form. Granules are applied around the plant’s roots, liquid is diluted in water and applied directly on the soil, and powdered Fertilizer is mixed in the soil during planting.

    Environmental Impact

    Some fertilizers contain synthetic chemicals, which may lead to water pollution if not used properly. Organically derived fertilizers release nutrients, slowly boosting soil health.

    Organically derived plant foods from natural sources like compost or manure are environment-friendly.

    Presence of Micro and Macronutrients

    Micronutrient and macronutrients are essential for the growth of indoor and outdoor plants. Plants have more micronutrients ( zinc, chlorine, copper, and manganese) than macronutrients that help plants fight diseases. When plants get these nutrients, they are able to prepare their food.

    Fertilizers have macronutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, which most plants need for robust growth.

    Rate of Absorption

    Absorption of plant food is slow but very effective. Fertilizers have faster absorption.

    Side Effect

    The extended use of plant food and fertilizers can have a negative impact on the plants. Try to measure the nutrient requirement of plants before applying Fertilizer or plant food.


    Plant food and fertilizers tend to confuse you, but you need to understand the primary difference between them. Plant food provides vital nutrients needed by plants to grow, whereas fertilizers cater to the specific requirement of a plant’s nutritional deficiency.

    Knowing all these differences will make you a well-informed gardener, and you can cater to all the nutritional needs of the plants.


    Difference Between Plant Food and Fertilizer?

    Plant food caters to all the essential nutritional needs of the plants, and fertilizers provide particular nutrients to the plants.

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