Plant food vs fertilizer! So, what is the difference? The major difference between plant food and fertilizer is that plant food is the by-product that plants make using air, sunlight, water, and nutrients absorbed from the soil. A fertilizer is a blend of natural or chemically prepared nutrients added to the soil around the plants to boost their growth.
Soil is made up of many different things, including organic matter, clay, sand, and other minerals. If the soil in your garden contains the proper nutrients needed for healthy plant growth, that means it provides plants with everything they need to make their own food. Still, as good as your soil is, there will be times when your plants need a little bit of help. And that’s where fertilizers come in.
The best way to understand the differences is by comparing them head-to-head. In this article, we will answer what the difference between plant food and fertilizer is. So, dive in to know the details.
In This Article
What Is The Difference Between Plant Food And Fertilizer?
There are many different types of fertilizers, and they all have their benefits. However, it’s important to remember that fertilizers are not the same as plant food. They are two different things.
The major difference between plant food and fertilizer is that plant food is the by-product that plants produce from air, sunlight, water, and nutrients absorbed from the soil. In comparison, fertilizer is a blend of natural or chemically prepared nutrients added to the soil around plants to boost their growth.
Fertilizers are made commercially, and fertilizing is not a natural process. On the other hand, proper plant food making is a natural process. Fertilizers enrich the soil, while plants use the nutrients found in the soil and the environment to create their own food called plant food.
Some commercial packages might claim that it is plant food. In fact, these are just fertilizer packs  . That said, there is nothing wrong with using organic or mineral fertilizers to replenish your soil with nutrients. But, you should choose the right one based on the type of plants and soil you have.
What Is Plant Food?
Plants prepare their own food by utilizing nutrients in the soil. The essential nutrients are absorbed through roots reach different plant parts.
The food-making process of plants is called photosynthesis. Plants produce sugars and oxygen using sunlight, carbon dioxide, minerals, and water.
Oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and plants use sugars (glucose) for energy. Glucose is also used to make substances like starch and cellulose. Starch is a complex carbohydrate stored in seeds and other plant parts as a food source. Cellulose is a natural material that’s used in building plant cell walls.
What Is Fertilizer?
Plants are grown for their leaves, stems, roots, fruits, and flowers. They need major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow and reproduce, often referred to on fertilizer labels as N-P-K. When the soil lacks nutrients, fertilizer is the key to healthy plants, so it is vital to apply it correctly and in the right amounts.
Plant fertilizers are composed of three primary macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Some plant fertilizers are comprised of equal amounts of these big three macronutrients. 
The numbers signify the percentage of each nutrient in the fertilizer. The first number is for nitrogen (N), the second for phosphorous (P), and the third for potassium (K). For example, general use fertilizers N-P-K 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.
Other fertilizers are more targeted to specific plants or soil conditions. For example, 20-5-5 contains more nitrogen than phosphorous and potassium.
In addition to the macronutrients, some micronutrients are also crucial for plant growth . Micronutrients are required in small amounts, but they can be vital to the health of plants. For example, some trace elements of micronutrients help plants fight disease, while others help plants resist insect pests.
Synthetic fertilizers are usually made from a combination of multiple chemicals. They may also have some filler or ballast. You can check the label to find the actual ratio of nutrients and calculate the amount. For example, 5-10-10 fertilizer would have 5% N (nitrogen), 10% P (phosphorus), and 10% K (potassium). Other ingredients are known as fillers or ballast, and usually, they have no value to plants.
During the stages of plant development, the soil becomes depleted of some nutrients. So, adding fertilizers to enrich the soil and promote the healthy growth of plants is necessary.
You can use different types of fertilizers to meet the diverse needs of various plants. Still, the N-P-K will always be the main label on fertilizers.
Finally, the conclusion is: plants make their food through photosynthesis, and gardeners provide fertilizers to enrich the soil and boost plant growth.
So, plant food and fertilizer are not the same. Confusion arises when different brands claim that they sell plant food, which is actually fertilizer. Gardeners should not apply fertilizers and commercially labeled plant food simultaneously to avoid overdose.
Hopefully, your question about the difference between plant food and fertilizer is answered.
What To Do Next
Check out our Growing Guides to learn more about how to grow plants of your choice. Learn and help your plants by reading these guides.
Also, check out other similar articles in our Soil and Fertilizers section.
Want to share your thoughts, or have you read something you disagree with? Please send us an email! We would love to discuss it 🙂