Plants have evolved and adapted to survive in often very specific conditions. These conditions rarely find a match in your garden, leading to plants not being their best.
For example, ornamental trees often grow to only a fraction of their height, and some plants won’t have as big of a spread.
But plant lovers have found ways to help create a closer match to these conditions, and we’ve learned a lot over the years about plant biology that makes this easier.
Nutrition is one of the biggest considerations we’ve started to understand better.
This has led to an increasing variety of fertilizers, including many different organic options, some of which you can make at home.
But some specialty fertilizer options provide very specific nutrients to plants. One of these is a lesser-known fertilizer called a bulb booster.
What Is A Bulb Booster Fertilizer?
Bulb booster fertilizers are phosphate-rich fertilizers (usually 0-40-0 NPK) used to boost your bulbs (hence the name).
Of course, there’s some debate on whether bulb boosters are worth it, so let’s begin with the arguments and then discuss proper usage.
The Benefits Of Bulb Booster Formula
Phosphorus is not only crucial for a plant’s overall health, but it also plays a key role in flowering.
But there’s a good reason for starting plants with a boost of phosphorus, as this vital nutrient does the following:
- Boosts the plant’s immune system
- Improves stalk or stem strength
- Increases the size and health of flowers and seeds
- Speeds up crop development while improving quality
- Stimulates the development of a healthy root system
Also, since phosphorus doesn’t absorb as easily into the soil, mixing bulb booster fertilizer into the soil before planting bulbs can make absorption easier.
Those who argue for bulb boosters claim they get much stronger, healthier plants using their regular fertilizer regimen.
The Drawbacks Of Using Bulb Boosters
It’s hard to say if there are more people against bulb boosters for scientific reasons or personal reasons. However, it’s safe to say both groups have some good arguments.
Scientifically speaking, overfertilization is a very real problem that can lead to health problems down the road.
Too much phosphorus will actually leach potassium from the soil, creating a deficiency.
In addition, an excess of phosphorus can create deficiencies in two important micronutrients – iron and zinc.
However, diluting a bulb booster to better match an individual plant’s needs will generally alleviate this problem.
It’s also important to remember that frequent use of a bulb booster can cause phosphorus buildup since the nutrient doesn’t leach properly.
But what about personal arguments?
A lot of this comes down to the cost vs. benefit argument.
Bulb boosters can be rather expensive, whereas bone meal is cheap and can even be made at home.
Bone meal also provides calcium in addition to phosphorus, although it’s harder to give a proper dosage since bonemeal is organic and, therefore, the nutritional content may vary.
Other arguments involve whether bulb boosters are even necessary.
Some potting mixes already contain phosphorus, and compost may provide enough for your plants, making the need for a phosphorus-specific fertilization moot.
How To Use A Bulb Booster Fertilizer?
So let’s say you want to use a bulb booster for your plants.
The first thing you should always do is test the soil to see if there’s a phosphorus deficiency.
You will want to dilute the booster based on the test results and the target plant’s nutritional needs.
Mix the diluted booster into your garden’s soil in the fall, especially if you’re about to plant a spring bloomer.
This ensures the phosphorus is well distributed and gives your plants a head start in healthy root growth.
Once spring arrives, you can sprinkle a little more on top of the soil just as the plant is about to begin budding.
The phosphorus will take a long time to soak down into the soil, but it’s believed that placing it on the surface will also help deter some pests (although this has yet to be scientifically proven).
Another benefit to placing it on top at this time is that it will act almost like a slow release, absorbing a little bit at a time down into the soil.
When using a liquid-soluble fertilizer, the results tend to be self-apparent, with better blooms and sturdier growth.