What Does Fertilizer Do For Plants – Is it Necessary?

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Those new to gardening may be well aware of the steps they need to take to ensure their plants are healthy and growing. But what about the logic behind these steps? Let’s get into what the purpose of fertilizer is and what it can actually do for your plants.      

What does fertilizer do for plants: Fertilizer is simply a substance that contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The fertilizer is applied to the soil around a plant which is then absorbed into the soil. Then, the roots of the plant are able to have access to these nutrients. With all their essential needs met, plants can then thrive and grow to their full potential. You can expect vibrant flowers, larger fruit, and overall healthy plants. Without fertilizer, your plants will become weak and if you have vegetable crops, they can really suffer. So, continue to fertilize your plants, and you, and them, will be happy.  

What is fertilizer?  

There are many questions to understand when it comes to fertilizer and if you are a beginner at gardening, you may be wondering just what exactly it is. Or, you may be an expert gardener that has never really understood what you are feeding your plants.

There are two types of fertilizer but the more common one to use is an inorganic fertilizer that you need to purchase. This comes in containers that are specially formulated for different types of crops.

Inorganic fertilizer will have three numbers on its packaging which refers to nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three minerals are essential to any garden but you will want to choose the ratio that works best with the plants you have.

You can also use an organic fertilizer, which can be found in manure, composts, or other sources like bone meal. While organic fertilizer does have all the nutrients your garden needs, you won’t be able to easily determine what the ratio is of its compounds.  

What does a Fertilizer do to plants?  

The best way to understand what is fertilizer is to think of it as food. Every time you add fertilizer to your plants, you are feeding them.

As we discussed, fertilizer is made up of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, essential nutrients that all plants need. You will have to decide what amounts of each nutrient your plants need, however, so that they get what they need.

The fertilizer is applied to the soil, either as a powder or in liquid form. More water is then added so that the soil can absorb it.

Once the fertilizer is in the soil, the roots of a plant can then absorb it. These nutrients travel through a plant’s root system which in turn strengthens the plant and allows it to expend all of its potential energy in growing.      

Benefits of Fertilizer for Plants

Large blooms  

If you have a flower garden, you want the blooms to be large, full of color, and vibrant. Dull flowers are definitely a letdown.

With fertilizer, your plants have enough nutrients so that the entire plant can thrive. This will include the blooms and you can have gorgeous bouquets from your garden.  

Strong root structure  

Hidden below the surface of your soil is a vast system of roots. You might forget about the roots of your plants but they are steadily working hard.

Fertilizer will nourish your roots, making them strong and healthy. As a result, the entire structure of your plants will be happier and healthier.  

More disease resistance  

An unfortunate part of gardening is when the disease takes over and kills all your hard work. There are some diseases that are more prevalent than others and you won’t be able to avoid everything.

However, with fertilizer, your plants are stronger, healthier, and better able to fight off common diseases. You will lose fewer plants and have less work to do if your plants are healthy from fertilizer.  

Larger fruit  

Those that have fruit trees will understand the importance of large fruit. Not only does a higher yield feed more people but if you are selling your crops, you can make more money from larger fruit.

Fruit trees take a lot of time and energy to produce fruit and if there are not enough nutrients in the tree, then the end growing phase can be compromised.  

How does fertilizer affect plant growth?  

Just like we as humans need food to grow, so too do plants need food. They can harness the power of the sun but without a full complement of nutrients, they won’t really thrive.

Plants are also only able to get nutrients from the soil they are in. If this soil is not provided with more nutrients, then the plants won’t have access to more food.

Some plants need a lot of nutrients to grow and while one crop may be ok, by the following year, that soil will be very weak. Furthermore, if you have plants growing in containers, they have absolutely no opportunity to find other nutrients as they have a limited amount of soil.  

Do plants grow better with or without fertilizer?  

Without a doubt, plants definitely grow better with fertilizer. Plants can grow on their own but you will notice a stark contrast between plants that regularly have fertilizer and those that don’t.

These differences are even more apparent if you have perennial plants that grow in the same area each year. As they grow, they will use up all the nutrients in the soil and while their blooms may be large in the first years, over time, they can fade without fertilizer.

If you are planting new vegetable crops in the same garden without adding new fertilizer, then subsequent years can really suffer. Each year you have crops that will deplete the nutrients in the soil and these need to be replenished for productive yields in subsequent years.  


Fertilizer is an essential step when growing just about anything. It provides plants with important nutrients so you can have a large yield, gorgeous blooms, and strong plants.

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