Bonsai Fertilizer Basics
Where does one start when talking about fertilizers for bonsai? The one thing I do know is that there is no such thing as “bonsai fertilizer.” Fertilizers come in all sorts of varieties, you can see that when you walk into your local garden center. You have fertilizers for absolutely everything. I bet when you walk into the garden center and walk over to the fertilizer section, you will see 10 or more kinds of fertilizers. What kind do you buy? What do you look for? Do you buy inorganic or do you look for something organic? What are these three numbers on the front of the package mean?
At the end of this article I will compare three different fertilizers that people use on their bonsai collections.
Let’s break it down and answer some of these basic questions. Let’s start with what you should be looking for. When I am looking for a fertilizer for bonsai, I am looking for something that is balanced. Balanced just means that the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) content are all equal. You will see this listed on the package label as three numbers usually appearing as 10-10-10 or 12-4-8 or something similar. That is the NPK rating of the fertilizer. The higher the number the more concentrated that nutrient is. Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong. Phosphorous helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Potassium (Potash) is important for overall plant health.
If you were to stop reading now, you could walk into the garden center, find a fertilizer for under $10, follow the directions on the package and your bonsai would be fertilized and it would grow. However, just as with anything, there is more.
The NPK tells us the concentration of the three main Macro Nutrients, but here is the more I mentioned above. Plants are complex organisms with many different types of cells that require different nutrients to maintain their functions and to keep the plant strong, just like us as humans. If we lack nutrients in our bodies we are able to live, but we won’t be as strong and healthy as we could be. The different types of nutrients that plants require are the main Macro Nutrients, NPK, the three Secondary Nutrients, the Micro Nutrients followed by Vitamins and Minerals.