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Adding Fertilizer when Misting: Foliar Feeding Explained

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Misting with fertilizer is a quick way to get that much-needed nutrition to your plant in order to feed your plant and combat nutrient deficiencies.

Adding fertilizer when misting plants can quickly feed plants the nutrients required for healthy growth while curbing nutrient deficiencies. Foliar feeding of fertilizer should be applied to the top and bottom parts of the leaf during mornings and late evenings for the plant to efficiently absorb the nutrients.

Misting is a common technique for keeping plants happy. In fact, many people will mist their plants every day to ensure they stay hydrated and healthy. 

In this article, we are going to explain the benefits of adding fertilizer when misting, how plants can have quick access to fertilizer through misting, and how to effectively mist plants with fertilizer.

Adding Fertilizer When Misting

Misting Plants

The amount of fertilizer a plant needs is usually very small. We may often see in fertilizer packaging that the (NPK) nutrient count ranges somewhere between 10 and 30, for example, 10:10:10 or 10:20:10 or 20:30:20. In reality, they really need somewhere between 2 and 5.

These three numbers you see on the label of every bagged or bottled fertilizer represent the product’s N-P-K ratio. They represent the macronutrients that plants use in their everyday functions.

Now we look at soluble fertilizers and how they work.

(N) NitrogenProduces green leaves, is part of chlorophyll, and used to promote photosynthesis.
(P) Phosphorous Energy transfer, photosynthesis, the transformation of sugars and starches, nutrient movement within the plant
(K) PotassiumGrowth and fruit production. Affects enzyme activation within the plant, which affects protein, starch, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production.

There are also other minerals and nutrients in the fertilizer called micronutrients. They also play an integral role in plant nutrition and development although they are not widely mentioned.

These nutrient concentrations can be found on the back of the fertilizer packaging, under ingredients, and are expressed as a percentage.

What we recommend when adding fertilizer to plants is to dilute or weaken the fertilizer when applying. 

Very often what we find is that plant owners over-fertilize their plants which may lead to leaf and root burns which in turn can kill the plant.

Sadly, everyone does it from time to time, but caring for plants is a learning process and we are here to help.

Different plants will require regulated amounts of NPK fertilizer depending on their needs or nutrient deficiencies. 

I have had the best results when growing healthy plants by using this Miracle-Gro fertilizer on indoor and garden plants. It’s excellent value for money and will last a long time.

Miracle Grow Soluble Fertilizer

What Type of Fertilizer to use When Misting?

Fertilizers come in two forms: soluble and insoluble. In order to use a fertilizer when misting, it must be soluble in water for it to fully dissolve in water.

Applying fertilizer when misting takes the form of foliar application. This means dissolving or diluting the fertilizer in water and applying it to the leaves of the plant.

Foliar fertilizer is a fertilizer product that is designed to be applied directly to the leaves of a plant with foliar feeding. The nutrients are absorbed directly through the leaves of the plant.

Plants are able to absorb essential elements through their leaves. The absorption takes place through their stomata and also through their epidermis. Transport is usually faster through the stomata, but total absorption may be as great through the epidermis. Plants are also able to absorb nutrients through their bark [Wikipedia]

I have used this misting spray bottle from Amazon when misting my plants, and it works really well. It is durable and comes at a great price.

Spray Bottle

How to Add Fertilizer when Misting? Foliar Feeding

The best way to apply foliar fertilizer to a plant is through misting which gives the plant quick access to nutrients as it is absorbed easily through the leaves.

When fertilizing during misting a water-soluble fertilizer must be used. 

The fertilizer should be fully dissolved in the water so that it will coat the leaves as the mist is applied.

Note: the soil should be watered partially before adding so that whatever amount of fertilizer leaks onto the soil can have a chance of getting to the roots of the plant. 

  1. Add a ¼ teaspoon of water-soluble inorganic fertilizer to a gallon of water or the recommended amount of organic fertilizer. 
  2. Mix until all the fertilizer is dissolved
  3. Thoroughly clean the sprayer/mister of any residue.
  4. Add the dissolved solution into the sprayer or mister.
  5. Optional: Spread absorbent paper towels around the plant to prevent wetting the floor.
  6. Spray all the leaves on the top sides
  7. Raise the leaves or direct the sprayer to the underside of the leaves and apply
  8. Allow excess fertilizer to drip unto the soil
  9. Gently spray fertilizer unto the soil for absorption via the roots.

These are some of the recommended misters we have found on amazon that does the job of misting very well.

See our detailed article on applying fertilizer when bottom watering.

How Efficient is Adding Fertilizer when Misting: Foliar Feeding?

Applying fertilizer to the leaves of the plant has been proven to produce more efficient crop and plant growth with increased fruit production while at the same time warding off pests.

Results from a test on the efficiency of foliar fertilizer application showed the benefits of foliar applied plant nutrients in treatments with half rates of preplant N fertilization. The maximum increase in marketable yield using supplementary foliar fertilization was 20.3% in cabbage, 10.8% in onion and 7.3% in cucumber. Foliar fertilization significantly decreased the level of cucumber leaf infestation by downy mildew [Source]

Fertilizer when applied to the leaves of the plant becomes easily absorbed into the leaf via the pores in the leaves. 

The rate of absorption at the leaves is faster than the rate of absorption via the roots. This is because the average number of stomata is about 300 per square mm of leaf surface.

Absorption takes place through their stomata and also through their epidermis. 

When the stomata is open, water can pass through. Water loss occurs through leaves in a process called transpiration. Not only can water leave through the stomata, it can also enter. This also allows nutrients to enter the water.

The movement of water into and out of plant leaves is based on the leaf water potential. The greater the difference in leaf water potential the greater the water movement.

When the fertilizer is applied to the leaves in a soluble form, it increases the leaf-water potential which allows the leaves to suck in the fertilizer from the outside.

The nutrients can now be transported via the phloem to the various parts of the plant where it is needed.

Water absorption in plants (2)

How Much Fertilizer to Add?

The amount of fertilizer added to plants should be very small. For example, for an all-purpose inorganic soluble fertilizer such as Miracle grow (24-8-16), you will want to mix half the recommended amount to the mix per gallon of water.

Plants use only a very small amount of fertilizer to carry out their biological functions to grow healthy.

There are many different types of fertilizer out there and their NPK numbers can range between 0 to 30% per volume depending on the fertilizer.

If you use inorganic fertilizer, you should mix half the recommended amount of fertilizer to the mix because the NPK nutrient mix is usually way high up in the (10 to 30) range (eg. 20-20-20) which may be too much for your plant to bear.

This Miracle-Gro Soluble fertilizer has given me some really good results in keeping my plants happy and healthy. It’s great value for money and will last a long time. You can find it by clicking here.

Miracle-Gro 1001233 Water Soluble

How Often Should You Add Fertilizer?

Plants should be fertilized during the growing season which ranges from the beginning of spring straight till the end of fall. The frequency of fertilization is dependent on the particular plant in question. 

Although on some fertilizer packaging you may find it saying to fertilize once a month or some even as often as every time you water. 

You should always follow your plant’s growth cycle and in some cases it nutrient deficiency before adding fertilizer.

Slow-growing plants should be fertilized less frequently than plants with a fast growth rate.

Additionally, when the plants are not growing during the dormant season or the winter months you should not be fertilizing as the plant will not be using much of it. 

What will actually happen is that the soil will build up with salts which will harm the plants.

Fertilizer application is something that has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Plants don’t require much fertilizer and many plant owners often find themselves rushing to add fertilizer whenever the plant shows signs of stress or yellowing of leaves. 

Pro Tip

The first thing you should do when a plant seems stressed, is to get the plant to some natural light, water and monitor its condition before adding fertilizer. More times than not, when fertilizer is added during plant stress, the plant ends up dying.

What is the Best Time to Apply Foliar fertilizer?

The best time for applying fertilizer via misting is during early mornings between 6am to 9am and on late evenings between 4pm and 6pm. During these times, the fertilizer will remain in a soluble form as the temperature of the environment is cool.

During the day between 9am and 4pm the temperature can be hot enough to quickly evaporate the water leaving the fertilizer behind as a salt on the leaves of the plant.

This nullifies the effect of foliar fertilizer feeding on plants. 

Can you Dissolve Granular Fertilizer?

Granular fertilizer can be dissolved in water. It will take between 24 to 48 hours for the nutrients and minerals to fully dissociate and spread among the water molecules. The resulting solution can be used similarly to a soluble fertilizer to foliar feed your plants.

Using this method you can quickly provide essential nutrients for your plants even if the fertilizer is not marked as soluble.

However, one precaution must be taken, the resulting solution must be strained with a fine cloth or strainer to remove any stubborn, undissolved salts from the solution.

Undissolved salts can plug and foul the sprayer’s nozzle rendering it useless until cleared. Additionally, if undissolved salts get on the leaves, it can cause fertilizer burns to the spot that it falls on.

Can you Make your Own Fertilizer for Misting Application?

You can make your own organic fertilizer from kitchen scraps and even compost. Materials such as eggs, potatoes, rice and coffee grounds can be added to water and allowed to leach their nutrients into the water. The resulting nutrient solution can then be applied as a foliar application to feed our plants.

See our detailed article on using rice water on plants.

The Takeaway

Adding fertilizer when misting is an easy way to quickly feed nutrients to your plants. 

The amount of fertilizer a plant may need is often exaggerated and the fertilizer should be diluted or weakened before it is applied to plants to prevent burns and other problems.

Foliar application of fertilizer should be done on the early mornings and in late evenings to ensure that the nutrients are fully being absorbed by the plant.

Fertilizers are also not limited to store-bought ones and you can make your own by using compost or even scraps from the kitchen. 

So the next time you are thinking of feeding your plants with nutrients, consider the foliar application as the results would be quickly seen. Your plants will thank you!

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