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The Best Fertilizers for Healthy Plants

A man holds a bottle of fertilizer with a hose attached to it and sprays a lawn.

Fertilizers are substances added to soil or plants in order to supply them with essential nutrients. Depending on the type and makeup of the fertilizer, it either enhances the soil’s innate fertility or replaces natural chemical elements (such as potassium or nitrogen) that previous plants have leached from the soil. This, in turn, increases the growth and productiveness of the current plant(s). Fertilizers can be made of natural or chemical ingredients. Natural fertilizers include manure and composts, which have been used as fertilizer for the vast majority of human history. More modern fertilizers are mixtures of various chemicals that include nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium, crucial to plant nutrition. A modern synthetic fertilizer can contain only one of these elements or more than one. Many also contain other bonus nutrients, such as sulfur, magnesium, iron, or calcium, which, though not as vital, are still beneficial to plants and their growth. Though most commonly used by farmers and other agricultural professionals, anyone who grows plants at home can benefit from adding fertilizer to their soil. If you don’t have access to or don’t want to use compost or manure, you’ll want to pick a modern chemical fertilizer to use at home or in your garden. Here are a few we recommend.

What Should You Consider in Fertilizer?

Here are a few things to think about before buying fertilizer:

  • Location: Where are you growing plants at home? Do you have an outdoor home garden or indoor plants? Or are you simply looking to fertilize your lawn? Some combination? All three? The type of fertilizer you pick may vary depending on the type of plants you grow and where you’re growing them. There are fertilizers aimed specifically at indoor plants or lawn grass. Others will be more universal. If, for instance, you live in an apartment, dorm, or condo and thus only have indoor plants, you may prefer a specialized fertilizer for indoor plants. If you have both an outdoor and indoor garden, you may want to opt for something more multipurpose.
  • Organic vs. Chemical: Most commercial fertilizers will be synthetic chemical ones. However, some organic models are made with more natural ingredients (such as bone or fish meal), which bear much more similarity to compost. While both will be effective at their intended task, there are benefits and drawbacks to both. Chemical fertilizers are purer in form and are often water-soluble, allowing plants to absorb them immediately. Organic fertilizers take longer to decompose into the soil, and thus your plants don’t get the nutrients as quickly, but they are more environmentally friendly. Depending on the brands and ingredients in question, an organic fertilizer may be less expensive as well.
  • Extras: Some fertilizers can offer more than one benefit besides enhancing or revitalizing the nutritional value of your soil. Some brands come mixed with plant food, which supplies your plants with extra important nutrients. Others are mixed with weed killers or preventers, which can help kill common weeds like dandelions and poison ivy without harming your plants. Others are mixed with insecticides or pesticides to deter or kill bugs and insects that might harm your plants. If you want a fertilizer with the two-for-one deal of weed killer or insect control, make sure you check the listing and ensure that the product will work on the pests you want to get rid of. An insecticide that works on say, aphids and ants may not be effective against slugs, for instance.

Best Organic: Burpee Organic Bone Meal Fertilizer

a bag of Burpee organic bone meal fertilizer

Some gardeners prefer organic fertilizer over a synthetic, chemical-based one. Some want to use manure or compost but don’t have reliable access to either. Some have found greater success with organic fertilizers in the past. Some have never used one in the past but want to make the switch or experiment with it. And some prefer organic fertilizer simply because they’re striving to be more environmentally friendly or conscious. Whatever the reasoning, if you’re in the market for an organic fertilizer for your plants, you can’t go wrong with Burpee’s natural and organic fertilizer. It’s made from a bone meal base that provides organic, all-natural nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium in the soil for your plants: two vital elements to their growth and health and one that is also incredibly beneficial. It’ll help make your plants’ roots stronger, their blooms more vibrant, and fruits and vegetables more abundant. This fertilizer is especially effective for giving young plants a boost throughout the growing season or for planting root crops and other vegetables of all sorts. If you don’t want to use a bone-meal-based fertilizer, there are five other types of Burpee organic fertilizer from which you can choose.

Best Organic

Burpee Bone Meal Fertilizer | Add to Potting Soil | Strong Root Development | OMRI Listed for Organic Gardening | for Tomatoes, Peppers, and Bulbs, 1-Pack, 3 lb (1 Pack)

An organic fertilizer that promotes plant growth and health in an all-natural and environmentally friendly matter.

Best for Lawns: Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Fertilizer

a bag of Scotts Turf Builder Starter

Proper lawn care is a great way to give your home a more vibrant, organized, and put-together look. But a well-grown and well-tended lawn doesn’t just provide a lovely visual. A healthy lawn helps to prevent erosion, helps with the breakdown of organic chemicals, and provides the local wildlife with a habitat. And you can’t have a well-cared-for lawn without properly fed grass. Scott’s Liquid Turf Builder fertilizer and plant food combination will revitalize and nurture your lawn and is equally effective for re-seeding your current grass or growing brand new or developing grass. No matter the type of grass you grow, it’s safe and beneficial for your use. It’s also effective on sod and grass plugs. Grass will grow both thicker and quicker with this fertilizer. This bag will cover up to 1,000 square feet of lawn and is available in a pack of two if you have an extra-large lawn or want to keep extra fertilizer on hand.

Best for Indoor Plants: Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Fertilizer

a bottle of Riddle Leaf Fig Tree Fertilizer Liquid Plant Food
Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

Indoor plants benefit from fertilizer just as much as garden plants or lawn grass does. Fertilizer helps ensure that their growth doesn’t slow or become stagnant. If you have houseplants that flower, such as African violets or begonias, fertilizer is especially beneficial. Fiddle Leaf’s liquid fertilizer is designed specifically for use on houseplants when applied properly, especially ficus and all other species of fig trees, which are notoriously fickle and tricky to keep healthy. The natural formula is safe to use and contains all three of the key elements to promote plant growth. The nitrogen will help ensure leaves grow strong and healthy, phosphorus will stimulate the plants’ roots and flowering, and potassium promotes overall growth. To use, mix one teaspoon of liquid fertilizer with two cups of water just before watering your plant. Conveniently, the cap of the bottle holds 1 teaspoon of liquid, so you always have a small measuring cup right on hand. An 8-ounce bottle can last anywhere between six months and a year, depending on how often you water your plant. You can also buy a 16-ounce bottle that will last you even longer.

Best for Indoor Plants

Best Weed Killer: Scotts Liquid Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed Control Fertilizer

liquid fertilizer with a yellow lid and wide handle.

Fertilizer with weed killer provides you with excellent value. You essentially get two different products for one price. It also saves you time since you accomplish two chores at once, instead of having to fertilize your plants in the morning and then pluck or spray weeds in the afternoon. Scott’s Liquid Turf Builder fertilizer and weed killer in one is effective on a wide variety of major lawn and garden weeds. It kills a whole range of broadleaf weeds, from dandelions to clover, buckhorn to ground ivy, knotweed to poison ivy, and more, without harming your lawn. Depending on the type of weeds you’re dealing with, they’ll start to clear up within a few days or a few weeks. It’s most effective on actively growing weeds rather than preventing them. And as you spray weeds, you’re also giving your lawn a boost of growth-enhancing nitrogen. This liquid fertilizer is incredibly easy to use as well. All you have to do shake the bottle well, connect the sprayer to your hose, turn on the water, and spray, then switch off the sprayer, turn off the water, and disconnect from the hose when finished. The bottle label contains more detailed instructions if you need some extra guidance. The 32-fluid-ounce bottle is capable of covering up to 6,000 square feet with fertilizer.

Best Weed Killer

Scotts Liquid Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed Control, Liquid Weed Killer and Fertilizer, 32 fl. oz.

A liquid fertilizer that allows you to grow your lawn and kill a wide range of weeds at the same time.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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