Fertilizers can be confusing as you look at shelves of the stuff at a store. Which one do you need? This guide discusses 10-10-10 and when to use it.
What Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer?
Triple 10 fertilizer is ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium. The other seventy percent is made up of inert fillers and, in some formulations, other nutrients and proprietary ingredients to help your plants grow. Triple 10 is considered a balanced fertilizer because all the numbers are the same.
Briefly, here is what each mineral in the fertilizer is for. Nitrogen is used in every cell of the plant and helps it grow. Phosphorus helps plants bloom. Potassium helps plants develop vigorous roots and a healthy plant. For more information and to understand the numbers on the front of the fertilizer bag, see this article.
What Is 10-10-10 Fertilizer Used For?
Triple 10 is a good general fertilizer used for virtually any plant you grow.
Why Use 10-10-10?
Triple 10 gives plants enough of the major minerals they need for the plants to grow well without being so strong it burns them. Triple 10 is often used to fertilize plants in the absence of a soil test.
Types of Fertilizer
Fertilizer comes in several general types. Knowing what they are and what the pros and cons of each are will help you pick the correct fertilizer for your plants.
Liquid fertilizer comes in two types: ready-to-use and concentrate.
- Ready-to-use fertilizer can be applied to the plant without any mixing.
- Concentrates have to be mixed with water to make the solution you put on the plants.
Concentrates are initially more expensive but are cheaper per application because you are not paying for and shipping the water in the solution. Ready-to-use fertilizer is cheaper to buy but more expensive per application. Both types of liquid are the same strength when the concentrate is properly mixed.
Liquid fertilizers are often used in place of watering the plant weekly or every two weeks. Liquids work immediately and you can see results as soon as twenty-four hours.
I have experienced problems with liquid fertilizers being washed out of the soil when it rains extensively. The frequent reapplication needs can be tedious, as well.
Most liquids will not burn plants if mixed according to the label directions.
Water-soluble fertilizer is granules that will dissolve completely in water. Using these fertilizers is just like using a concentrated liquid; you mix the fertilizer with water before using it. Like a liquid, water-soluble fertilizers work fast but often have to be reapplied every two weeks.
In my experience, they also wash out of the soil when it rains extensively.
Fertilizer for Hydroponics
Hydroponics uses a solution of water and nutrients to grow plants. Either liquid or water-soluble fertilizer will work in a hydroponic system.
Granular fertilizer looks like small pebbles. Some granular fertilizer is fast-release, some is slow-release, and some is a combination of the two.
I prefer granules that are half slow-release and half fast-release. In my experience, granular fertilizers are usually applied to dry plants and then have to be watered in to activate the fertilizer and make it available to the plants.
Granular fertilizer will burn plants if not watered in adequately.
Organic fertilizers are fertilizers made solely from natural ingredients. Synthetic fertilizers are made of ingredients made in a laboratory. Certified organic fertilizers are made of organic ingredients that are on a list of allowed substances and are submitted to a certification organization. In the United States, this may be the Department of Agriculture or a recognized private organization like Oregan Tilth.
Organic fertilizers work by feeding the microorganisms in the soil. These organisms break the fertilizer into substances the plants can readily use. Synthetic fertilizers are already broken down and feed only the plant, not the microbes. For this reason, some people feel organic fertilizers are better for the soil.
Slow-release fertilizer has a coating on the granules that gradually breaks down, releasing the contents of the granules slowly. Slow-release fertilizer takes about a week to start working on the plant, but the fertilizer may only need to be spread monthly to once every three months.
Methods of Application
Fertilizers are applied to plants in different ways depending on the form of the fertilizer and the plants being fertilized. Here are some common ways fertilizers are applied.
Liquids and water-soluble fertilizers are usually applied by drenching the soil around the plant. Pour the fertilizer into a ring around the plant without actually touching the plant, which would burn it. This is often done instead of watering the plant once every week or two, with normal watering in between. Some drenches, for example on lawns, are followed by watering.
Some liquid and water-soluble fertilizers are designed to be sprayed on the plant’s foliage. It is important to get all the foliage damp to the point that the fertilizer is dripping off the leaves. This type of fertilizer is often used to deliver specific nutrients, such as when applying zinc to pecan trees. Foliar sprays can be difficult to apply to large trees because the spray will not reach the top of these trees. However, foliar sprays are absorbed quickly and start working immediately.
Granular fertilizer is often spread by broadcasting it. Toss the granular fertilizer over the area to be fertilized so that it is spread evenly over the area. This is often used in pre-planting fertilization or in landscape beds. Generally, it is a good idea to work the fertilizer into the top two or three inches of the soil after spreading it.
Use A Spreader
Granular lawn fertilizer is often spread with a spreader. This can be a push spreader or a handheld spreader. Both have a dial or slot gauge that you set to release the fertilizer at the appropriate rate for that fertilizer. Spreaders come in many brands and many bags of lawn fertilizer include settings for various spreaders. Scott products only include Scott spreader settings.
When you side dress fertilizer, you place it in a band parallel to the row of plants and three to six inches to the side. Scratch the fertilizer into the top two to three inches of soil. This places the fertilizer far enough from the plant to avoid burning it but within reach of the roots.
This is usually done with trees and shrubs. Place a band of fertilizer around the dripline of the tree. The drip line is the farthest extent of the canopy of branches and foliage on the tree. Be careful not to get any fertilizer on the tree.
Drill Hill Application
The amount of fertilizer required for large trees is so great that spreading it on the surface of the soil will kill any grass or plants growing there beside the tree. I drill holes that are one and a half to two inches in diameter, 12-18 inches deep, and every two feet in concentric circles starting one foot from the trunk and extending a foot after the branches end. I divide the necessary fertilizer evenly into each hole. After putting the fertilizer in the hole, I fill in the dirt on top of the fertilizer, making a small mound or hill, hence the name drill hill.
When and How Do I Apply 10-10-10 Fertilizer?
Triple 10 fertilizer is used differently when fertilizing different plants. Below are some ways to use triple 10. However, I always check the label before I use a fertilizer to make sure I use the right dose for each plant. Always water after spreading granular fertilizer.
There is no one dose for houseplants. Some concentrates suggest using 1/8 tsp of fertilizer in a gallon of water, while others suggest using one to two ounces per gallon of water. However you mix the fertilizer, I use it in place of water every two weeks. I drench the soil in the pot. I discard any fertilizer that runs into the saucer beneath the pot. It will become too concentrated and burn your roots if left in the saucer.
For the best annual flowers, I broadcast one pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed at planting. When the blooms come out, I switch to a 5-10-10 and spread one pound per square foot of flower bed.
Existing Ornamental Plants
For my existing ornamental plants, I broadcast one pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed in early spring and then again in mid-summer.
For grand covers, I broadcast one pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet in early spring. If the foliage is dry, I use a broom and knock any fertilizer off the leaves and toward the ground, so it does not burn the foliage.
Bulbs and Tubers
Prior to planting my bulbs and tubers, I broadcast one pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. When the plants start to flower, I side dress one pound of 10-10-10 and two pounds of bonemeal per 100 square feet.
A common recommendation for 10-10-10 is to apply one pound of fertilizer per 100 feet of row. This is usually done before planting.
Spread the fertilizer into the dirt and work it into the top two to three inches of soil. Water the soil well to activate the fertilizer. Plant your seeds or transplants.
Triple 10 is not usually used after planting because it has too much nitrogen. In my experience, too much nitrogen makes the plant grow excessive foliage but few or no fruits.
Plants like cucumbers will do this. Onions suffer physiological damage from too much nitrogen, especially near harvest. In addition, some plants need additional nutrients that 10-10-10 doesn’t provide. Tomatoes, for example, need calcium. Beets may need boron, a micronutrient.
For these reasons, I use a fertilizer lower in nitrogen after the initial fertilization, like a 5-10-10 at a rate of one cup per ten feet of row.
You can read my article if you are looking to fertilize vegetable gardens in detail.
The rates for different kinds of berries vary.
At planting, I broadcast two pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of bed.
Four to six weeks after planting, I broadcast one to two pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet and then again in late summer.
In the spring, I do not apply fertilizer because it makes the berries soft. After they finish bearing for the year, I broadcast four pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet.
You can read my article for an in-depth guide about strawberry fertilizers.
Before planting, I broadcast one-half pound of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. In the spring of each year, I broadcast three to four pounds 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.
Do not fertilize blueberries when planting.
Four weeks after planting, I use one-half to one ounce 10-10-10 in a band around the base of the plant. Do not let the fertilizer touch the plant.
Each year, I increase the fertilizer by one to two ounces until the blueberry bush is mature. At seven years and after, I use one-half pound 10-10-10 in the early spring. I add ammonium sulfate at year 3, starting with 1.5 ounces that year. I increase the amount of ammonium sulfate by half an ounce each year until year seven. I use four ounces of ammonium sulfate per plant from then on.
You can consult my article for the best result on fertilizing your blueberries.
Do not fertilize the blackberries at planting. After new growth appears, I use three to four ounces of 10-10-10 around the base of the plant. After that, I use three to four ounces of 10-10-10 per plant in early spring.
Ornamental, fruit, and nut trees are fertilized differently. However, do not fertilize the trees or shrubs at planting.
In my experience, putting fertilizer in the planting hole burns the roots and can kill the tree. Most nurseries say that their warranty is void if you put fertilizer in the hole at planting.
There are several types of ornamental trees and shrubs. When measuring trees to determine how much fertilizer to put out, I measure the diameter of the trunk about four feet above the ground.
Here are some ways to fertilize them.
I fertilize evergreens in the early spring. I use one pound of 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter. If the diameter is over six inches, I use two pounds of 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter. Spread the fertilizer in a band around the evergreen or use the drill hill method.
I use two pounds of 10-10-10 per inch of the trunk in the early spring. If the trunk diameter is over six inches, I use four pounds of 10-10-10 per inch. I spread the fertilizer in a band at the dripline of the tree or use the drill hill method.
Flowering Trees and Shrubs
I use a one-half pound of 10-10-10 per inch of trunk diameter. I fertilize in the early spring by spreading a band of fertilizer at the dripline of the tree. Crape myrtles are an example of a tree that does well with this fertilization program.
Apple, Plum, and Cherry Trees
The first year, I wait to fertilize until growth starts on the tree. I spread ½ pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer per year of tree growth in a band within a foot of the tree trunk until the tree is five years old. I use five to eight pounds of 10-10-10 at year five and after and start to spread the fertilizer on the surface from the dripline to three feet from the trunk.
I fertilize my pear trees the same way I fertilize my apple trees except I start with ¼ pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer and increase that by ¼ each year until the tree is five years old. I then use five to eight pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer and spread it the same way I do for my apple trees.
Peach trees are a little different. The first year I plant them, I use one pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer when new growth starts and increase that by one pound a year until year five. After that, I use fifteen to twenty pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring. You may need to drill in this fertilizer if you grow grass or other plants under the dripline to avoid excessive growth of the grass or burning it.
The first year, I spread one pound of 5-10-15 fertilizer in a 25-foot area around the tree when growth starts. Do not put fertilizer within twelve inches of the trunk.
The following year and until year five, I apply one pound of 10-10-10 around the tree in early spring and again in midsummer.
If the tree grows less than two to four feet in a year, I apply one pound of ammonium nitrate per inch of the tree trunk with the fertilizer in midsummer. I spread one pound of zinc sulfate with the fertilizer with the early spring fertilization for the first three years the tree is in the ground.
Once the pecan tree is mature, I apply four pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter up to a maximum of 25 pounds per year. Do not apply fertilizer within twelve inches of the trunk. I also apply one pound of ammonium nitrate per inch of trunk diameter up to a maximum of eight pounds. This is applied in early spring. In late summer, I apply three to five pounds of zinc sulfate around the tree.
I broadcast the fertilizer for shrubs over the ground where their roots are and water it in.
Individual Specimen Shrubs
I broadcast one half to one pound of 10-10-10 per plant in the spring.
Groups of Shrubs
I broadcast two to four pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet in the spring.
I side-dress four pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 linear feet of hedge in the spring. I make sure I put half the fertilizer on each side of the hedge. Arborvitae hedges are an example of a hedge that does well with 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Broadleaf Evergreen Shrubs
I use two to four pounds of 10-10-10 100 square feet in the spring. I split the amount into an early spring application and one when the shrub starts flowering. Boxwoods and gardenias are examples of plants that do well with this fertilization schedule.
Triple 10 is good for all lawns, including St. Augustine, Bermuda grass, centipede grass, and zoysia grass. I apply three to four pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn in early spring and in the fall. I spread the fertilizer on a dry lawn and then water the lawn at least 0.2 inches afterward.
I don’t pick up the clippings for one mowing, so I don’t pick up all the granules. I don’t recommend using triple 10 on new sod. Wait until the roots are established and new growth appears. At that point, you can fertilize as usual.
Where Do I Buy 10-10-10 Fertilizer?
You can buy 10-10-10 fertilizers in a number of places, including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart. Most nurseries have 10-10-10 fertilizer as well.
Top Brands for 10-10-10 Fertilizers
Many manufacturers make a 10-10-10. Here are some of the best.
Brooks Pennington Sr. Founded Pennington as a small feed store in Madison, Georgia in 1945. They have expanded and now sell grass seed, soil amendments, fertilizers, and wild bird seed. Pennington has prided itself on breeding fine grass seed for over 70 years. A more recent product line provides seed for food plots to attract wildlife such as deer, turkey, and quail.
Pendelton Turf Supply
Pendelton Turf Supply was established over 30 years ago as a local distributor to golf courses. They are still family-owned. Pendelton has expanded its offerings and now provides products to commercial customers as well as homeowners. They now sell aquatic & turf pesticides, granular & liquid fertilizers, grass seeds, turf adjuvants, golf course accessories, bird seeds, and disinfectants.
Bonide was founded in 1926. In 2019, it was sold to the ADAMA Group under the Syngenta Global organization. Bonide produces both organic and synthetic products for homeowners in Oriskany, NY. These products are now sold worldwide.
Southern Agricultural Insecticides, Inc.
Hans Diem started Southern Ag in the 1930s and incorporated it in 1947. His family still owns Southern Ag. Originally producing pesticides to be dusted on plants by hand, Southern Ag has expanded the products it offers and produces fertilizers, potting soils, pesticides, and horticultural supplies in Florida and North Carolina and sells them worldwide. Southern Ag sells products for homeowners and licensed professionals.
Covington Naturals was founded by “Papa” Zeep Covington to provide products that are safe for people and pets. All of their products are made in the United States. Covington Naturals provides products to large farming operations, golf courses, to residential lawns.
Best 10-10-10 Fertilizer
Here are my recommendations for the best 10-10-10 fertilizer. I was unable to locate an organic 10-10-10 so all of these products are synthetic.
Best Liquid Fertilizer
Triple 10 All Purpose Liquid Fertilizer 10-10-10 with Amino Acids (5.5%) & Seaweed Extract is my recommendation for the best liquid fertilizer.
This fertilizer includes amino acids and seaweed extract to feed the plants. microbes that make fertilizer more available to your plants. It is suitable for indoor and outdoor use. The bottle includes a measuring cup in it for easy measuring and dispensing of the fertilizer. This is not an organic product.
I mix one to two ounces of Triple 10 All Purpose Liquid Fertilizer 10-10-10 with Amino Acids (5.5%) & Seaweed Extract in a gallon of water and use it as a drench to water my plants every two weeks. I use it on houseplants and ornamental plants.
Best Lawn Fertilizer
Covington Liquid 10-10-10 Fertilizer for Lawns, Plants, Vegetables is my pick for the best lawn fertilizer.
It is for established plants only. Do not use until plants are over two inches tall or the lawn is at least one year old. This fertilizer promotes green growth in lawns and other plants, builds strong roots, and is made of natural ingredients. It is not, however, certified organic. The product is manufactured in the United States.
For my lawn, I use two to four ounces of Covington Liquid 10-10-10 Fertilizer for Lawns, Plants, Vegetables per gallon of water and spray it on the lawn. For ornamental and house plants as well as vegetables, I use 0.5-1.5 ounces of concentrate per gallon of water, depending on how sensitive my plants are. I water the lawn or plants with a gentle spray of water within a few hours of applying the fertilizer.
Best Granular Fertilizer
PENNINGTON ULTRAGREEN All Purpose Plant Fertilizer is my pick for the best granular fertilizer.
In addition to nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, it also has iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Plants need these minerals to grow strong and lush and have a lot of blooms. In addition, the mixture of fast-release and slow-release fertilizers helps your plants immediately and can keep feeding them for up to four months.
When I am transplanting flowers and vegetables, I dig the hole a little deeper and put two tablespoons of PENNINGTON ULTRAGREEN All Purpose Plant Fertilizer in the bottom, then cover the fertilizer with dirt so it doesn’t touch my plant’s roots before putting the plant in the hole.
For established plants, I use 1/4 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 25 square feet. For shrubs, I use ½ cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 16 square feet of area. I work the fertilizer into the top inch or two of the soil. For containers, there is a table on the back of the fertilizer bag that tells how much to use for each pot size.
Best Houseplant Fertilizer
Bonide Houseplant Liquid Plant Food 10-10-10 is my pick for the best houseplant fertilizer.
It is uniquely formulated just for houseplants. Each drop of concentrate has the same nutrients while granular fertilizer has different nutrients in each granular.
I use Bonide Houseplant Liquid Plant Food 10-10-10 concentrate on my houseplants. I mix 1/8 teaspoon of concentrate into one quart of water and use it every time I water my plants.
Best Overall Fertilizer
Southern Ag All Purpose Granular Fertilizer 10-10-10 is my pick for the overall best fertilizer.
It has magnesium, boron, zinc, iron, and manganese in addition to the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for bigger, more lush plants. It has uniform, homogeneous granules so every bit has all the nutrients.
For flower beds, I add one cup of Southern Ag All Purpose Granular Fertilizer 10-10-10 per 25 square feet four times a year. I put in the first application in early spring.
For roses and large shrubs, I use one cup per four feet of height four times a year.
For trees, I use one cup per inch of the trunk with a maximum of five cups. I fertilize my trees twice a year. I use one cup of fertilizer per 25 feet of row monthly for my vegetables.
What Are the Ingredients in 10-10-10 Fertilizer?
Each bag of 10-10-10 contains ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium. Other ingredients vary by manufacturer but typically include micronutrients, formulas to improve the availability of the nutrients to the plant, and inert ingredients to make it easier to use the fertilizer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 1-1-1 the same as 10-10-10?
No, 10-10-10 is ten times as powerful as 1-1-1.
Is 10-10-10 fertilizer good for bananas?
No, bananas need a fertilizer with a ratio of 3-1-2 such as a 6-2-12.
In conclusion, 10-10-10 fertilizer is a good general-purpose fertilizer for all plants, including lawns. Most nurseries and big box stores carry 10-10-10. In addition, triple 10 is widely available online. I recommend Southern Ag All Purpose Granular Fertilizer 10-10-10 as my favorite formulation of 10-10-10. I think Bonide Houseplant Liquid Plant Food 10-10-10 is the best houseplant triple 10. The best granular formulation is PENNINGTON ULTRAGREEN All Purpose Plant Fertilizer. If you are feeding your lawn, I recommend Covington Liquid 10-10-10 Fertilizer for Lawns, Plants, Vegetables. The best liquid formulation is Triple 10 All Purpose Liquid Fertilizer 10-10-10 with Amino Acids (5.5%) & Seaweed Extract. As always, remember to read and follow the label directions for any fertilizer you buy.