You’ve got your hydroponic grow system picked out – what next? Aside from your seeds and grow medium, you’ll probably also need some hydroponic fertilizer.
Today we’re covering our top picks for hydroponic fertilizer (especially ones that are beginner friendly!), how to use them, and what you want to consider when using hydroponic fertilizers.
What is Hydroponic Gardening
Before jumping into our recommendations – lets first define hydroponic gardening.
Hydroponic gardening is essentially a way to grow plants using water in place of soil.
This is often done through a hydroponic system, typically indoors.
The need for a hydroponic fertilizer arises because, unlike plants in soil, there are very few nutrients available to your plant in water alone. A hydroponic fertilizer is needed to help deliver the nutrients your plants need to grow and thrive.
Our Top Picks for Hydroponic Fertilizers
Lets discuss our top picks for hydroponic fertilizers.
Best Overall Pick: General Hydroponics Flora Grow Set
General hydroponics is one of the most well known brands in the industry. Their hydroponic fertilizer set is our top pick for effectiveness, easy of use, and beginner friendly solutions.
With this set you’ll get three bottles of fertilizer, each one tailored to a specific phase of plant growth. You can mix and match to give your plants exactly what they need to thrive in your hydroponic system. With over 5000 reviews and a 4.8 out of 5 star rating, this is one of your best bets for a hydroponic fertilizer for your plants.
Runner Up Pick: Fox Farm Liquid Nutrient Trio
You may recognize the brand Fox Farm from some of our top picks for potting soil. Fox Farm is a brand known for their high quality ingredients and top of the line products. Their fertilizer bundle is no exception!
Similar to General Hydroponics, this bundle from Fox Farm comes with three types of fertilizer tailored to what phase of growth your plant is in. This allows you to customize the fertilizer mix to exactly what your plant needs.
This hydroponic fertilizer mix is simliar to our top overall pick, but with slightly less brand recognition. However, the price is also slightly cheaper on Amazon so it may be the best fit for you!
One important note is that this bundle from Amazon does not come with a recommended fertilizer schedule. If that’s something you’re looking for, you can find it directly on Fox Farm’s site.
Best Budget Pick: General Hydroponics MaxiGro Plant Food
If you’re on a budget, we recommend the General Hydroponic MaxiGro plant food. This nutrient solution is a powder (we’ll cover the differences between powder vs. liquid later on in this post).
The downside of purchasing this nutrient solution may be obvious, but unlike our other top picks this is only one solution instead of 3. This means that you wont be able to tailor your fertilizer specifically to the phase of growth your plant is in.
That being said, the MaxiGro plant food is suitable for all stages of a plants grow cycle, so you can use the same nutrient the entire time. This makes it slightly more convenient, just less customizable.
The main pro for this solution is its a bit cheaper than the other nutrient solutions listed, so you’ll be saving a few bucks by choosing this option! with over 2000 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating, we’re ranking this as our best budget option for hydroponic fertilizers.
Your Organic Option: Planet Earth Organic Based Compost Tea
Organic certified fertilizers for hydroponics can be hard to find. Many fertilizers claim organic material, but are not fully organic certified.
Planet Earth has creaeted a fertilizer specific for hydroponics that is potent, high quality, and 100% certified organic.
You can get a quart of it for under $20 on Amazon, which is in the same ballpark as some of the other options listed.
If you’re keen on staying fully organic, we recommend this option as a good hydroponic fertilizer.
There are several considerations when selecting your hydroponic fertilizer. Keep reading to learn about the top deciding factors!
Quality of Ingredients
The quality of nutrients is key in a hydroponic fertilizer. But what nutrients should you look for? The most important ones (not just for hydroponics, but also other types of gardening) are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
Liquid or Powder?
This is more of a personal preference, however for ease of use we recommend a liquid fertilizer if you’re a complete beginner. Powdered forms are definitely usable, in fact many large scale hydroponic farmers use powdered fertilizers.
Using a liquid formula is easier because its already premixed, and takes out one additional step for new hydroponic gardeners. With a powder, you have to ensure you’re mixing together at the right ratio and ensuring everything is dissolved. Liquid formulas are often ready to go right out of the bottle when using in hydroponic growing.
Keep in mind if you’re using a liquid formula in regular soil growing, you’ll want to dilute the formula before adding to the soil. In hydroponic growing, you’re adding the formula to water in your system which will effectively dilute it without adding the extra step.
Why You Should Consider Growing Hydroponically
Hydroponics has been growing in popularity lately – and we can see why! There are some definite benefits to growing plants hydroponically, and its not just for commercial farmers anymore.
Home gardeners, especially those with limited space, are turning to hydroponic farming more and more. There are several reasons for this that we’ll briefly mention here, however if you’re just getting started with hydroponic growing we recommend checking out some of our other resources, like how a hydroponic system works, and the best hydroponic systems buyers guide.
Pro’s of Hydroponic Gardening
We’ll briefly cover the pro’s of hydroponic gardening, but for a full deep dive check out our hydroponic section for a full list of resources.
One pro of hydroponic gardening is that with a home hydroponic system, you’re no longer tied to the seasons or weather. You can grow indoors year round, and for extended grow cycles. This is major for home gardeners that are looking to grow their own food.
Additionally, hydroponic gardening can be cost effective. While you likely need to purchase a home system to get it set up (or purchase materials to create a DIY system), the fruits and vegetables that your system produces are (usually) much cheaper than store bought produce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my fertilizer come with 3 separate parts?
Hydroponic fertilizer often comes with 3 separate solutions because as your plants grow, they’ll need different fertilizers and nutrients. Each fertilizer should include instructions on when and how to use each one.
Do I have to purchase hydroponic fertilizer?
Short answer – yes. All hydroponic systems will need a nutrient solution added in for the plants to thrive.
A longer answer is – sometimes when you purchase an at-home hydroponic system, a nutrient solution may come with your purchase. Always check to see what is included or built into any seed pods that your buying as its possible that a nutrient solution will come included with your purchase.
How often should I fertilize my plants?
This totally depends on what plants you’re planning to grow. We recommend following a grow scheduled (usually included with nutrient solutions or available on that brand’s website) for a full chart with most plant information included.
Can I use this fertilizer for other plants?
While these fertilizers are intended for hydroponic systems, there are other applications also. We recommend using them when growing plants in leca.
Leca by nature does not have added nutrients in the mix, so its recommended to use a liquid fertilizer for a nutrient boost.