Understanding the Numbers on Bags of Fertilizer

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Bags or bottles of plant food always have three numbers

What do they stand for?


What do they do for the plants?


The numbers tell you what percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium it contains – in that order. In the bag shown in the picture above the numbers 8-4-5 tell you  the package contains 8 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorous and 5 percent potassium.

An easy way to remember what each number represents is to think of them as “up, down and all around.”

Vector Illustration Of Beanstalk

The first number stands for Nitrogen which promotes upward growth of healthy green stems and leaves and is important when plants have taken root and are starting their vigorous growth stage.

The second number stands for Phosphorous and does two things…stimulates downward root development and lots of big beautiful blossoms (think huge flowers hanging down. Phosphorous is essential for starting new plants to get them off to a deep rooted start and then again later in the season to promote those

Small charming garden gate.

The third number, potassium, helps plants stay strong all around.