Fertilizer: Understanding the Numbers

Whether you are trying to grow the greenest lawn on the block or award-winning cucumbers, your plants need food. Have you ever bought fertilizer and wondered what the three numbers found on the front of the package mean? Typically people disregard them, pick up the cheapest option and head to the till. However, these numbers actually have a purpose and understanding them may help you grow healthier, more beautiful plants.

Each number represents a different compound and the amount represented in the fertilizer. These compounds are labelled in order starting with Nitrogen. The middle number represents Phosphorus and the last number represents Potassium. It can be difficult to remember and understand what each compound promotes. To aid in your confusion, all you have to remember is “Up, down and all around”. No this is not the hokey pokey, but it may just shake up your garden game!

Different fertilizers will have a difference in number ratio. This is because each one has a specific target plant or multiple target plants. For example, one fertilizer may be useful in producing bright green foliage, but lack the nutrients to produce fruit. More often than not, those with equal numbers are great multi-purpose fertilizers. However, if you are looking for a specific outcome, being mindful of the numbers will pay off.

Fertilizer chemicals include:


  • Nitrogen (N): Nitrogen is responsible for plant growth above (up) ground. This chemical is important for the beautiful vibrant green colour in plant foliage and is helpful in the growth of lush green lawns.


  • Phosphorus (P): Phosphorus is responsible for the growth below (down) ground. This typically has a higher number in fertilizers made specifically for both flowers and lawns.


  • Potassium (K): This last number is responsible for the overall (all around) health of your plants. It helps to build strong cell tissue ensuring that your plants are able to withstand the harshest of weather and even the most determined pests.


Pro Tip:

For the growth of flowers and fruit: Use a fertilizer with a high level of Potassium

For lush green lawns: Use fertilizers with high Nitrogen and Phosphorus levels.


If you are ready to build your perfect garden, we are offering 15% off on all our Botanika brand fertilizers! Come visit us in store before they’re out of stock!


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