9 Best Fertilizer For Trees And Shrubs + How To Use Them
Every good landscape’s foundation is made from healthy and vibrant trees and shrubs.
Their colorful natural beauty gives landscaping dimension, interest, and form, preventing it from looking one-note. And their uses don’t end there!
These leafy plants provide handy shade and benefits to the surrounding wildlife, enriching the ecology.
Aside from having adequate water, suitable soil, and sunlight, most trees and shrubs especially appreciate a little additional care to thrive.
If you know what fertilizer to give them, you can boost their health to stay happy and healthy.
But, how do you sift through the similar-sounding fertilizer products out there to find the right ones?
A quick online search often makes people more confused than before, especially when the products mention complicated chemicals.
To help you make sense of the fertilizer world, we have found the best ones and included extra information on what to look for.
Below, we’ve debunked these products’ jargon, explaining each fertilizer’s features and how best to use these for your plants.
If you already know fertilizers’ ins and outs, you can jump to the Best Tree and Shrub Fertilizer section!
What Is The Best Tree And Shrub Fertilizer?
Like all living things, trees and shrubs need multiple nutrients to be at their best. Plants require phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, and a mixture of micronutrients such as boron and calcium.
Without crucial nutrients, plants will experience stunted growth that negatively affects roots, stems, and leaves.
In addition, lacking these essential chemicals makes your trees and shrubs vulnerable to catching diseases and being targeted by pests.
Before adding these life-saving fertilizers to your green landscape, it’s essential to spend a little extra time using a nutrient test kit, otherwise known as a soil pH tester kit on your soil.
This handy pack works out what nutrients your soil lacks and how suitable the earth’s pH is. This method allows you to adjust your fertilizing routine to suit your plants.
N-P-K Nutrient Balance
To help you remember what nutrients fertilizer is made of, many gardeners use the acronym N-P-K.
Each letter stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, respectively. When looking at fertilizers’ packaging, this is useful to decode the ingredients section.
Typically the packaging will say that a product has something like an N-P-K 5-5-5 fertilizer, which means it is composed of 5% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus, and 5% Potassium.
We’ve broken down each element’s use below to work out what this does for your plant.
(N) Nitrogen is used by your plant to grow leaves, otherwise known as foliage. Your trees and shrubs are highly likely to be working with this element during the vegetative growth stages.
(P) Phosphorus – Key for the plants’ general development and producing seeds and/or fruits.
(K) Potassium helps plants with a high blossoming rate or produce fruits. Examples of plants that thrive with potassium are tomatoes and roses.
But, how does this all translate into helping trees and shrubs? Now that we know the basics, we can look at a few tree types and what chemical combination suits them best.
These shrubs are famed for their bold blooms, so they need a lot of Potassium.
However, it’s important to note that the hydrangea also has vegetative features, so the fertilizer won’t work well if it’s only potassium. This means that Phosphorus and Nitrogen are still needed.
An example of an excellent N-P-K hydrangea fertilizer is 8-4-12.
This ratio provides much Nitrogen for growing powerhouse leaves and Potassium aplenty for producing the voluminous blooms that hydrangeas are so well known for.
Arborvitae grows super fast, producing evergreen and leafy foliage, perfect for making up hedges.
As a result, this plant doesn’t need specialist fertilizers. However, they require you to choose a high-in-nitrogen product to keep up with the arborvitae’s enormous appetite.
So, N-P-K fertilizer with a 13-3-4 ratio would satisfy this plant. It has loads of nitrogen yet still has some Potassium and Phosphorus to grow the buds or cones seen on this tree.
However, as this plant doesn’t create blooms, it doesn’t need as much Phosphorus and Potassium as the hydrangea.
But, what is soil pH, anyway? The soil pH is all about the acid or alkaline amounts in the earth.
Every soil type has a pH level, which depends on the minerals and nutrients present in the landscape in a particular area.
Although most plants grow in soil between 5.5-7.5 pH, every species in this bracket has an ideal range that they thrive in.
There are exceptions to this rule; some plants love pH levels as high as 8.0 and at only 4.5 pH.
It’s essential to determine a soil’s pH so that you can understand how many extra nutrients your plant needs to thrive.
For example, trees and shrubs take in more nutrients when the soil is at its ideal pH level, saving you from buying extra fertilizer.
Quick Or Slow Release Tree Fertilizer
All fertilizers are either quick or slow to release, meaning the speed they dissipate into the soil. Fertilizers are made of macro and micronutrients, which transfer to the plant speedily or slowly.
You can control how quickly or slowly tree and shrub nutrients are put into the ground and used by your plants.
Fertilizers come in different forms that partially affect how the food is released into the environment and is absorbed by the plants.
For instance, spike and granule fertilizers slowly disintegrate, whereas powders quickly break down. All product types are helpful for different species.
Slow Release Tree Fertilizer Spikes
Slow-release fertilizers help young trees because they give the delicate plants consistent nutrients.
In addition, these steady products help prevent the vulnerable juvenile tree roots from becoming burnt, causing the plant to die.
Fertilizer spikes, otherwise known as fertilizer sticks, provide a way to feed plants controlled amounts over a more extended period than applying the fertilizer by hand.
This allows the gardener to pre-measure nutrients added once rather than keep coming back.
For these reasons, fertilizer spikes are an excellent option for busy landscapers who prefer relatively low-maintenance gardening.
However, these spikes are often not ideal for shrubs because they release too many nutrients at once, overwhelming the plants.
Instead, it’s advisable to use a granular or powder fertilizer to more accurately control chemical levels.
Quick Release Tree Fertilizer
Quick-release tree fertilizers are ideal for mature trees that have established themselves in the environment.
To figure out when to apply some extra nutrients, look at whether the plant appears droopy, tired, or yellow. If they do, these trees often require a fast-releasing nutrient boost.
In most cases, quick-release granular formula or powder can be sprinkled on top of the soil.
Alternatively, this can be applied by digging holes and pouring fertilizer into them.
Sometimes, a liquid feed is helpful. However, this type should be added to the earth regularly, e.g., fortnightly, or as a quick emergency boost for suffering plants.
A helpful way to figure out the best tree nutrients for your trees and shrubs is to think about your plant’s growth stage and work out why you’re introducing fertilizer.
Additionally, you need to consider how you’ll deliver the food without damaging the tree or shrub.
Chemical Or Natural Tree Fertilizer
Bought fertilizers are mainly either mineral or organic. Mineral fertilizers are artificially produced, providing enough helpful food for plants.
On the other hand, organic ones are created from natural substances.
For example, plant residue and manure are organic fertilizers. These food sources contain less exact nutrient amounts than mineral fertilizers. However, they are made without chemical processing.
Both mineral and organic fertilizers can come in granules, liquids, or spikes. Which form you use depends on how you want nutrients for your shrubs or trees.
Organic Tree Fertilizers
These feeds are from plant and animal materials. They are slow-release fertilizers, delicately treating shrub and tree roots. Because they gradually introduce the nutrients over time.
It takes longer than inorganic fertilizers to see significant results after adding them.
Brilliant natural materials for organic nutritional value are crushed shells, manure, and bone meal.
It’s essential to read every product’s label before adding any natural fertilizer to ensure you’re adding the right ingredients in the appropriate quantity to your plants.
Be warned, though, many natural fertilizers smell pretty bad. This smell can entice unwanted pests, such as rats, birds, or insects, too!
Mineral Or Inorganic Tree Fertilizers
Due to the artificial production process, these fertilizers’ N-P-K can be much more easily controlled than organic ones.
In addition, they often have high nitrogen content containing ammonium sulfate and sodium nitrate.
For malnourished shrubs and trees, applying an all-purpose mineral fertilizer with a complete ratio of N-P-K components is best.
Because the manufacturing process can super accurately control the nutrients’ balance, they can benefit your plants hugely. But, they are derived from chemicals, which is not ideal for the overall wellbeing of the planet.
Now that we’ve cleared up the fertilizing ins and outs, it’s time to look at our list of the very best products out there for your shrubs and trees.
We’ve searched the internet, weighing up fertilizing products’ essential details, including chemical components, forms, and value, so that you don’t have to. Below is a list of the best ones we found!
Quick Comparison: Top Picks For Fertilizer for Trees and Shrubs[wptb id="508112" not found ]
AT A GLANCE: Our Top Picks for Fertilizer for Trees and Shrubs
- Our Top Pick: Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Plant Foot Spikes
- Jobe's 01661 Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes
- Miracle-Gro All Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food, 24 Pre-Measured Packets
- J R Peters 52024 Jacks Classic No.1.5 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer
- Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer Wiggle Worm Soil Builder
- Schultz All Purpose 10-15-10 Plant Food Plus
- Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food
- Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus Outdoor & Indoor
- SUPERthrive The Original Vitamin Solution Liquid Concentrate
9 Best Fertilizer For Trees And Shrubs
For trees and shrubs, no one fertilizer ratio is exactly right for every species.
Some gardeners prefer to feed their plants with a general fertilizer, which is multipurpose and suitable for indoor and outdoor greenery, trees, shrubs, and smaller plants.
Whereas other plant carers seek out a super precise fertilizing ratio, for one purpose, like those products solely for evergreens or citrus trees.
Picking the wrong fertilizer can damage your beloved plants. Even worse, using inadequate nutrients on a tree or shrub can cause them to die, leaving your garden looking depressing.
That’s why we’ve made a list below to save you from hurting your plants.
To save you precious time when you could be looking after your plants, we evaluated each product’s compounds.
And we considered overall customer satisfaction based on reviews, the product’s benefits, and how easy it is to use.
Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Plant Foot Spikes, 12 Spikes/Pack
The point comes with a cap to cover the top when hammering into the ground; this prevents you from shattering them when you’re putting them in.
The spikes release nutrients pretty slowly, meaning they are ideal for new plants and only need to be used once in the Spring and Fall.
So, for busy gardeners, you can leave these little fertilizers to do their thing without having to re-feed your plants every fortnight.
The N-P-K composition is 15-5-10, which means it’s excellent for fruit-bearing plants, such as apple trees.
If you put this spike in the drip zone around your apple tree, your plant will produce an abundance of apples.
Installing the product is very convenient and easy to use. So, even if you’re a novice gardener, you can look after your trees and shrubs well with this fertilizer.
The chemical composition will work so well on the surrounding area, making any grass near them super dark green, growing fast.
So, you really do get great value for money that benefits much more than the trees and shrubs you’re targeting.
How To Use
Firstly, identify the plant’s drip line if you want to put the spike in for a tree.
The drip line is the area below the outermost tree branches. It is likely to be roughly circular, surrounding the tree trunk. For shrubs and trees put spikes 2 feet from the trunk center.
It’s super important to make sure the ground is wet. Preferably, you can wait until there’s been a very decent rainfall that has seeped into the ground.
Wet ground ensures that the spikes won’t snap when you’re trying to put them in and will mean you expend much less effort than if it’s dry.
After checking the soil’s moisture levels:
- Place the plastic cap on the part of the spike that won’t be going into the ground.
- Hold the tip vertically against the ground, ensuring your fingers are clear of the top.
- Take a hammer and drive the spike at least 2 inches below the earth.
And Voila! You can now leave the spike to do what it does best!
- 15-5-10 composition – Meaning you can use this for fruit trees and get a massive fruit yield. It’s perfect for apple trees; however, it can be used on a wide variety of plants.
- Slow-release – Allowing you to install it into the ground and leave it be. So, you won’t have to keep coming back regularly to fertilize your tree or shrub.
- Plastic cap – Stopping you from accidentally breaking the spike when you hammer it into the ground.
- Spike shape – Ideal for quickly putting into wet soil.
- Value for money – You can put one in twice a year during Spring and Fall. So, you can save time and money.
- Prone to snapping when put in the dry ground – To solve this, make sure you hammer it into the earth after a good rainfall or after you’ve watered it.
Jobe’s 01661 Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes, 15
So they’re ideal if you want to look after your shrubs and trees but don’t have a lot of time to do so.
The pack comes with 15 included, making them great value for money.
Also, because there are so many in a container, the product is perfect for buying bulk. And, you can easily store the feed for years until you want them.
The spikes come with a plastic cup for helping you hammer them into the ground, allowing you to easily install them into the wet earth.
The advantage of being underground is that they also deter underground vermin from attacking the roots. This makes this product particularly brilliant for new trees and shrubs with tender roots.
These little spikes can even be used for substantial pine trees and smaller shrubs. So, buying these, you wouldn’t have to rush out and get specialist fertilizers for each plant species in your care.
The composition according to the N-P-K formula is 13-3-4. This makes it ideal for spruces, junipers, and other evergreen trees when installed within the drip line.
How To Use
First, check that the ground is pretty wet on the drip line where you’re planning on fertilizing. This is crucial to ensure your spike doesn’t burst when you’re putting it in.
If the water isn’t wet enough, pouring water from a hose for a few minutes will soften the earth.
Once you’ve checked that the moisture levels have created a soft enough place to put the spike, place the plastic cap on the product.
Then, hold the spike vertically with a hand at its base. Hammer the end with the plastic cap onto it lightly, pushing the product into the ground.
Ideally, the spike needs to be at least 2 inches underground to do its job. After you’ve done this, you can leave the product to slowly release its nutrients.
- Plastic cap – Allowing you to quickly hammer the spike into the ground without damaging the product.
- 13-3-4 N-P-K formula – Letting you feed your evergreens safely, without damaging them
- Spike design – Meaning you can easily install them into the wet earth.
- Slow-release – You don’t have to fertilize your plants regularly, and you can use this on baby trees. This product has the added benefit of deterring underground vermin from attacking roots.
- 15 pack – Letting you bulk-buy and save money, so you don’t have to spend time renewing your fertilizer collection.
- Needs the ground to be wet – So, you will have to water the soil if it’s dry before hammering in to prevent the spike from bursting.
Miracle-Gro All Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food, 24 Pre-Measured Packets
In addition, the pre-packaged sachets mean it’s straightforward to use, reflected by customers highly recommending.
The formula causes hugely positive differences in plants that get fed with it versus those that do not.
In addition, the product comes in a blue powder, allowing you to easily see when you’ve added it to a watering can.
This helps stop you from accidentally adding more nutrients than your plants want or forgetting that you haven’t added the fertilizer yet.
Each sachet can be used for a 4 liter watering can of water, too! So, it’s a value for money way to feed your shrubs and trees.
All you have to do to make up the formula is add water. This is another reason why it’s so easy for beginner gardeners to introduce important nutrition to their plants.
How To Use
Simply fill a watering can then tear open the convenient sachet. The blue formula can be effective in up to 1 gallon of water for outdoor plants in pots and greenery growing in the ground.
However, using 1 packet for up to 2 gallons of water for indoor container plants is best to keep them healthy.
Once the sachet has been mixed into the water, pour the substance over the plant’s base.
You can also sprinkle the water over the upper leaves, but you won’t get good results.
If you’re watering small shrubs, making sure the can’s rose is attached will stop the surrounding soil from washing away and disturbing the plant.
To benefit your trees and shrubs the most using this fertilizer, sprinkle it every 1-2 weeks.
- Just add water – Allowing you to easily feed your plants the nutrients you need with only water, a sachet, and a watering can.
- Pre-measured – Letting you quickly fertilize without spending time measuring formulae and potentially accidentally damaging your plants by using the wrong amount.
- Blue powder – Making it easy for you to see when you’ve added it to water and when you haven’t.
- Powerful formula – So, you’ll see a significant difference in your plant’s growth and health after you’ve applied it.
- Highly recommended by customers – Showing you that it’s been independently tested so you can be confident that it truly works on your trees and shrubs.
- Plastic packaging – Each sachet is individually wrapped, allowing you to measure how much you’re feeding your plants. But, this packaging is bad for the environment.
J R Peters 52024 Jacks Classic No.1.5 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer
It has a 20-20-20 N-P-K formula, which suits most trees, shrubs, and indoor plants, provided they don’t want especially acidic solutions.
The non-organic solution isn’t made for plants such as hydrangeas, gardenias, hibiscus, camellias, or jasmine because these plants require high soil pH.
However, it’s an excellent general fertilizer that will make flowers on other plants gorgeous.
The formula is water-soluble, dissolving quickly, allowing you to quickly spray it on your plants.
This no-fuss design will save you time if you’re a busy landscaper who doesn’t have tonnes of time to spare feeding your trees and shrubs.
The customer reviews indicate that generally, it’s surprisingly hard to find a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
However, this product is everything you need if you’re looking for one! In particular, it’s known for helping fuchsias grow big and strong.
In addition, orchids, tomatoes, and roses have benefitted from this 20-20-20 composition.
How To Use
Take out a scoop of pellets and put them in a container with water in it. Set in the pellets and shake until they dissolve if you want to spray your plants.
Once the pellets have completely dissolved, pour or spray the solution onto your plants.
To benefit your plants the most, use this fertilizer once every 7-14 days during a particular watering session.
- 20-20-20 composition – Meaning you only have to buy this one product and can use it on a wide range of shrubs and trees.
- Water-soluble pellets – Saving you time spent mixing up fertilizer solution, letting you easily feed your plants.
- Excellent customer reviews – So you can be confident that it’s tried and tested, so you won’t waste your money.
- Adequate nutrition – Lets you look after your plants well and show you visible positive changes.
- Slightly expensive – Not suitable for those on a budget. However, you do get what you pay for. This is brilliant, essential old-fashioned fertilizer, and the cost reflects that.
Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer Wiggle Worm Soil Builder, 15 Pounds
The fertilizer is made from earthworm castings, which are excellent for getting rid of spider mites and stopping diseases from attacking evergreens.
The product is lightweight, making it brilliant for those with mobility issues, too.
In addition, the non-toxic and odor-free mix works well on plants other than evergreens, including organic vegetables.
This means that you won’t have to rush out and buy separate formulas that will take up precious space in your garage or potting shed.
The worm castings act as natural pest control. In particular, this fertilizer will stop aphids from getting at your roses and even lettuces.
In addition, the formula is rich in nitrogen, adding micronutrients to the soil with natural goodness.
This means that long after you’ve applied the food, you’ll reap the benefits through seeing your beautifully healthy plants.
How To Use
For best results, work the worm castings into the soil as much as you can, then top them in mulch. The formula needs to be mixed into the ground if you want it to work deep down.
If you’re using the product to deter pests, simply sprinkle a thin layer to the top of the soil and around the base of trees or shrubs. Mix the castings into the ground for potting plants and then add the plant.
If you already have a potted plant and want to boost its health, lay some castings around the base.
After you’ve mixed in and/or sprinkled the castings, make sure you water it over to give your plant the best care.
- Non-toxic and odor-free – Allowing you to use the fertilizer without sniffing in gross smells. The non-toxic element makes it ideal for adding to your organic vegetable patch. This is an excellent option for the environmentally conscious who don’t want to put more harsh chemicals into the soil.
- Lightweight – Letting you safely carry it when you need to. Ideal for those with mobility problems.
- Pest deterrent – Perfect for sprinkling at the base of trees or shrubs to prevent aphids and diseases from damaging them.
- Rich in Nitrogen – Meaning adding this product to your soil will release micronutrients, which are great for keeping the plant life and earth healthy.
- Ugly looking – The worm castings aren’t made for squeamish gardeners.
Schultz All Purpose 10-15-10 Plant Food Plus, 8 Ounce
Putting 7 drops of this solution into a watering can go a long way, meaning you can quickly and easily feed your plants.
It has excellent reviews, too, with customers saying it leaves plants noticeably perkier and healthier. In addition, many people have said that flowers love it, as it helps make lots of blooms in vibrant colors.
This all-purpose plant food is remarkably odor-free so that you aren’t put off from fertilizing due to a stinky product.
How To Use
This is a super simple product to use, ideal for beginner gardeners. You only need to add 7 drops of formula per quart of water.
For efficiently watering plants, we recommend putting the solution in a watering can and sprinkling it on your greenery from there.
- 10-15-10 formula – Meaning it’s super versatile and can be effectively used on multiple plant species.
- 7 drops method – Allowing you to easily add fertilizer to your watering can.
- Positive reviews – Giving you the confidence that customers vouch for it.
- Chemical content – Ideal for growing flowers in vibrant colors on shrubs.
- Odor-free – Letting you comfortably feed your plants without holding your breath.
- Plastic bottle – Not ideal for the environmentally conscious looking to reduce their plastic waste.
Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, 10 Pounds
According to customer reviews, it can even work well in city dirt. And fertilize plants living in the soil with anything from shards of glass, rusty metal, and plastic straws.
The N-P-K formula is 24-8-16, which means it’s brilliant for gardens, mainly shrubs that flower such as poinsettia.
This product is famed for helping plants create gorgeous blooms, keeping your garden looking lovely.
This fertilizer comes with a double-sided scoop with a small and more significant side.
The smaller scoop end is tiny enough to mix with a 1-gallon jug of water so that you can water houseplants with it.
The bigger side can scoop out the mixture in a watering can with up to 1 ½ gallons of water. This is perfect for watering larger shrubs and trees.
How To Use
Scoop out the amount of product you require for the area you intend to fertilize. Next, mix it into the water, letting it dissolve. For feeding large trees and shrubs, use the more giant scoop to integrate the product into up to 1 ½ gallons of water.
Simply pour the solution onto the area you wish to feed.
- 24-8-16 formula – Perfect for making shrubs bloom with gorgeous flowers, especially poinsettia.
- Double-ended scoop – Allowing you to adapt the formula to feed anything from large trees to small houseplants.
- Positive customer feedback – Showing that it’s a product that will work even on city soil to replenish nutrients.
- Not for bamboo – This product will kill bamboo.
Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus Outdoor & Indoor, 8 Pounds
The handy little plastic scoop helps you quickly spread it, solving any deficient dirt, including clay.
This product is great for beginner gardeners and those that struggle to keep their plants alive because it slowly releases nutrients. So, you don’t have to worry about regularly feeding your greenery.
How To Use
Using the plastic scoop, sprinkle 1 scoopful of the fertilizer per 4 square feet of ground or 2 gallons of water.
Next, mix into the top 1-3 inches of earth. Then, water the plants, making sure you do this regularly as the plant requires. Finally, add in more fertilizer every 6 months.
- Plastic scoop – Allowing you to quickly spread the fertilizer.
- 8-pound bag – Meaning it will last a long time.
- Long-lasting – Letting you leave the plant without re-feeding it with the product for up to 6 months.
- It requires mixing soil with it – So, it’s not ideal if you want to quickly fertilize while you water your plants.
SUPERthrive The Original Vitamin Solution Liquid Concentrate, 4 Ounces
It has B-Vitamins helping damaged plants recover after exposure to environmental stresses such as being too cold or hot.
Additionally, this vitamin gives them the strength to fight off diseases that they come into contact with.
How To Use
Simply add a few drops to a watering can and spread it over the plants. It’s as easy as that!
- B-Vitamins – Allowing you to look after damaged plants that have been exposed to environmental stresses.
- Value for money – Meaning you won’t have to go out and buy loads of fertilizers.
- Liquid solution – Give your flowering shrubs the boost they need to produce brilliant blossoms.
- No dropper – So it’s not easy to measure out the solution.
How Do You Fertilize Trees And Shrubs?
To fertilize trees and shrubs effectively, you must put the food where their roots can easily be absorbed.
The simplest and best way to do this is by covering the entire root zone with granular feed.
Another way to do this is by installing a spike two feet from the tree’s base and fertilizing everything this distance around the trunk.
To figure out how much these plants need, you must calculate the nitrogen required per square foot of root area. This depends on the tree or shrub’s size.
To help you work this out, we’ve created an essential guide below.
These only require small amounts of food using a slow-release fertilizer. Use the organic feed to avoid burning their tender roots.
Increase the fertilization dosage to encourage rapid growth. Follow the fertilizing product’s instructions. Generally, feeding this type of plant twice a year is sufficient.
At maturity, trees naturally slow down in growth. To match this, you need to reduce fertilization, feeding them about once every 3 years.
There you have it, a comprehensive list of the most effective shrub and tree fertilizers. Testing your soil and researching the N-P-K formula you want is an excellent way to work out the fertilizer your plants need.
Please be aware that each tree and shrub species have different needs, affecting what feed you need. Happy gardening!