Whether you’re growing cannabis or lettuce, tomatoes, or onions, these plants all need the same basic inputs: light, CO2, water, and perhaps most importantly, nutrition. All of these are equally important as optimal plant growth won’t occur with one piece of the puzzle missing.
However, the most complex and convoluted topic for novice growers and seasoned green thumbs alike is plant nutrition. That’s why today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the best hydroponic fertilizer. Armed with the best hydroponic nutrients, you’ll be able to push your plants to their full genetic potential and produce potent yields you’re proud of.
But unlike most resources online, we’re not just going to show you the best hydroponic nutrients for growing plants.
You’re going to gain invaluable insights into what separates the best nutrients for hydroponic growing from the rest. You’ll learn what you need to look for while shopping to ensure you get the quality nutrients your plants need to reach their full genetic potential.
Of course, you’ll also learn which brands are the most trusted in the hydroponics industry – and where you should spend your hard-earned money.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this discussion, let’s set the stage by talking about the importance of only feeding your plants the best hydroponic fertilizer available.
The Importance of Feeding Your Plants the Best Hydroponic Fertilizer Possible
You might be wondering why it’s so important to only use the best hydroponic fertilizer for your plants. Why can’t you just buy any old nutrient mix from your local garden store and feed your plants willy-nilly?
First and foremost, not all nutrients are created equal. In fact, many of the cheap, generic nutrient mixes you’ll find at your local big box store are nothing more than glorified water with a few minerals added in.
These nutrients might be fine for houseplants or other annuals that don’t require much in the way of nutrition, but they won’t cut it when growing bigger plants like tomatoes or cannabis.
And the unfortunate reality is that these days, most plant nutrients fall short of expectations. There are very few brands that you can trust in this game – but fortunately for you, we’ve got the scoop.
You’ll learn all about the best fertilizer for hydroponic plants later on. First – we’re going to touch on a few key benefits that come with feeding your plants quality nutrients.
- Fewer Crop Issues: When you use high-quality nutrients, your plants will be better equipped to fight off pests and diseases. This is due to the fact that healthy, well-nourished plants are less likely to experience deficiencies that make them more susceptible to these issues in the first place.
- Bigger Yields: Healthy plants also tend to produce bigger yields. This is because they have access to all of the minerals and trace elements they need to reach their full genetic potential.
- Improved Flavor: Have you ever noticed how fruits and vegetables from the grocery store never seem as flavorful as those you grow in your garden? That’s because most commercial growers prioritize yield over flavor. However, when you feed your plants quality nutrients, they’ll be able to develop a more complex flavor profile.
How to Shop for the Best Hydroponic Nutrients: Buyers Guide
Shopping for the best hydroponic nutrients for growing can be tricky – especially for new growers. That’s why we’re not just going to tell you what the best hydroponic fertilizer is, we’re going to teach you why it’s the best.
This way, you can head into your local hydroponics shop or visit your favorite online retailer with confidence. You’ll know exactly what to look for. The first step is considering your own plants’ unique nutritional needs.
Start By Considering Your Plants’ Unique Nutritional Needs
Not all plants are created equal – and that includes their nutritional needs. While some plants might need more nitrogen to thrive, others might require more potassium. Our advice is to look up your specific plant type online and see what its biggest nutritional needs are. Once you know what to look for, you can start narrowing down your options.
Most plants need varying levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The only difference lies in how much of each of these primary nutrients the plant needs. Keep in mind, though, that plants also need secondary nutrients like calcium and magnesium, along with micronutrients.
Further complicating matters is the fact that nutritional needs change over the course of a grow cycle. That means an early veg fertilizer will be much different from a late bloom fertilizer. That’s why purchasing a complete nutrient package that encompasses a plant’s nutritional needs from seed to harvest is so beneficial. More on that later.
Decide Between Organic and Synthetic Nutrients
There are two main types of plant nutrients – organic and synthetic. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand the difference before you make a decision.
Organic nutrients are typically made from natural sources like bat guano or fish emulsion. They’re often considered more “eco-friendly” than synthetic nutrients because they come from renewable sources.
More importantly, they’re all natural – and since you typically consume whatever it is you are growing, this is probably important to you.
However, organic hydroponic fertilizers can also be more expensive and harder to find than synthetics. In addition, organic nutrients are often less concentrated than synthetics, which means you’ll need to use more of them to get the same results.
Synthetic nutrients, on the other hand, are man-made in a laboratory setting. They’re generally more affordable than organics and easier to find. They’re also more concentrated, so you’ll need to use less of them.
However, some growers believe that synthetics can be harder on your plants – and since they’re not naturally derived, they might not be as “eco-friendly.” You’ll also have to determine how willing you are to eat or ingest plants that have been grown from synthetics. It’s worth noting that with a proper flush, you shouldn’t have to worry about residual nutrients by the time you harvest.
Consider the Type of Fertilizer You Want to Use
Hydroponic fertilizers come in two main forms – powder and liquid. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to understand the difference before you make a decision.
Powdered nutrients are typically more affordable than liquids – especially if you’re buying online. They’re also easier to store and transport. However, they can be harder to dissolve and might not be as evenly distributed when you mix them into your reservoir. In addition, some growers believe that powder form nutrients can be more difficult for plants to absorb.
Liquid nutrients, on the other hand, are typically more expensive than powders. They’re also more difficult to store and transport. However, feeding your plants liquid nutrients is far more convenient. In addition, some growers believe that liquid form nutrients are more easily absorbed by plants.
Purchasing a Complete Hydroponic Nutrient Regimen vs Building Your Own
There’s no doubt about it – buying a complete hydroponic nutrient package can get a bit pricey. But, getting all the various primary, secondary, and micronutrients you need at once is worth it. Trust us. You don’t want to deal with deficiencies down the road or end up having to buy additives after the fact.
Now, another option besides buying a complete hydroponic nutrient regimen is to build your own. Assuming you know your plant’s unique nutritional needs and have a good understanding of plant nutrition, you can build your own feeding schedule using a different combination of base nutrients and additives.
If you feel up for the challenge, go for it – but just know that you’re making more work for yourself than is necessary.
These days, fertilizer companies employ nutritional scientists to formulate their products and their feeding charts. Do you really think you know more about plant nutrition and science than they do? Probably not – so just stick with a complete hydroponic nutrient package and make life easy on yourself! Here are the main components of a well-rounded nutrient regimen:
- Base nutrients (separate nutrients for vegging and flowering usually)
- Cal-Mag supplement
- Silica supplement
- Root stimulators (like Mycorrhizae or Beneficial Bacteria)
- Micronutrients, amino acids, vitamins
- Bud hardener
- Flushing agent
What to Look for on the Label to Find the Best Nutrients for Hydroponic Growing
When you’re shopping for the best hydroponic nutrients for growing plants, it’s important to look at the label to see what’s actually in the product. The three main things you want to look for on a hydroponic fertilizer label are the NPK ratio, micronutrients, and pH.
The NPK ratio is short for nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium and is typically listed as three numbers separated by dashes. These are known as macronutrients because plants need them in large quantities. In general, you want a fertilizer with a higher N content for vegetative growth and a higher P content for flowering/fruiting.
Then, you have secondary nutrients – which include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. These are important nutrients that are needed in slightly smaller increments than the primary nutrients.
As for micronutrients, these are nutrients that plants need in very small quantities. They include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and boron – just to name a few. Most complete hydroponic fertilizer packages will contain all the micronutrients your plants need, but it’s still good to double-check the label to be sure.
So – What is the Best Hydroponic Fertilizer Currently Available to Growers?
At this point, you should know just about all there is to choose the best hydroponic fertilizer possible. So – what is the best hydroponic fertilizer for cannabis (or any other plant for that matter)?
Instead of just leaving you to guide yourself towards the right decision, though, we want to provide you with a few of what we deem to be the very best hydroponic nutrients for growing plants – particularly, cannabis. However, you can use these nutrients for plants with similar nutritional needs – like tomatoes. We’ll start with one of the most trusted brands in the hydroponics industry: General Hydroponics.
General Hydroponics Flora Series: Best Hydroponic Nutrients Overall
The Flora Series from General Hydroponics is a three-part nutrient system that contains everything your plants need to thrive – from vegetative growth all the way through flowering and fruiting. It’s a pretty popular choice among cannabis growers, as it produces great results with minimal effort. But, it can be used for fruits and veggies in your garden as well.
The regimen is very simple and easy to follow – and when followed correctly, produces remarkable yields, potency, flavors, and aroma.
The only downside is that it can be a bit pricey – but, as we said before, you get what you pay for when it comes to nutrients! You can find the complete GH Flora Series feeding schedule online and grab any necessary additives and supplements along with the three-part base nutrients.
Botanicare Pure Blend Pro Hydro Nutrient Package: Best Organic Hydroponics Fertilizer
Botanicare is another brand that dominates the hydroponics space – and it should come as no surprise that they make some of the best hydroponic plant nutrients in the game. Their Pure Blend Pro Hydro Nutrient Package is an excellent choice for hydroponic growers. Those who are seeking the best organic hydroponic nutrients can consider this one – as all inputs are organic-based.
The folks at Botanicare did an excellent job producing a formulation that provides optimal nutrition at each stage of growth. And, the one-part base nutrient formula makes it super simple to follow the regimen from seed to harvest. For best results, we recommend you add some additives to the Pure Blend Pro Grow and Pro Bloom base nutrients, though.
Cultured Solutions Premium Hydroponic Nutrients: Best for Commercial Growers
This one is for the commercial hydroponics growers reading, in particular. Cultured Solutions – the sister company to Current Culture – produces some of the most sophisticated hydroponic plant nutrients on the market. They are probably more than what most hobby growers need – but for those who are looking to push the limits of their crop’s genetic potential, Cultured Solutions Premium Hydroponic Nutrients is a great candidate.
This well-balanced, highly-soluble nutrient solution produces explosive growth – especially when paired with the right lighting, ample CO2, and plant training tactics.
When making the switch to Cultured Solutions you’ll notice a difference in the size and yield of your plants – along with the overall taste and aromatic properties. This is partially due to the use of UC Roots throughout the grow cycle – which keeps your reservoir clean and your plants’ roots flushed of excess nutrients.
General Hydroponics Flora Series Basic Nutrient Package: Best Hydroponic Fertilizer for Vegetables
You’re probably thinking to yourself…didn’t I just read about this nutrient package? The basic nutrient package is just a simple 3-part formula – no additives or supplemental nutrients whatsoever.
And, if you’re looking for the best hydroponic fertilizer for vegetables, in particular, this simple solution is for you.
Whether you’re growing hydroponic lettuce or hydroponic tomatoes, the Basic Flora Series Nutrient Package is a great choice. These three highly concentrated plant nutrients address each phase of plant growth for optimal growth throughout.
Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect Sensi Nutrient Package: Best Hydroponic Nutrients for Cannabis
We know that the vast majority of readers are here seeking the best hydroponic nutrients for cannabis. Well, we’ve shared quite a few great options for you. But, Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect Sensi Nutrient Package is perhaps the most effective and efficient of all – for cannabis in particular.
Keep in mind that this formulation consists of quite a few different base nutrients and additives. It can get a bit complicated. As such, we recommend this primarily for seasoned hydroponics growers who are looking to take their crop to the next level.
And because these nutrients aren’t cheap, you shouldn’t waste your money if you haven’t taken the time to optimize other elements of your crop – such as the lighting, seed genetics, and CO2. You won’t get the full value from this revolutionary nutrient lineup unless you go all in on your grow!
Tips for Using the Best Hydroponic Nutrients for Growing Plants
Now that we’ve unveiled the best hydroponic nutrients for growing plants right now, we want to leave you with some tips for getting the most out of them. If you don’t take these considerations into account, you won’t get the full value from your investment.
Follow the Feeding Schedule Carefully Over the Grow Cycle
With any nutrient solution, it’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s feeding schedule carefully. Overwatering and overfeeding are both common mistakes made by new hydroponics growers – and they can be detrimental to your crop.
That’s why following a feeding schedule as it’s laid out is so important – whether your plants are just clones still or they’re just about ready for harvest, you’ll have an exact ratio to feed them.
With that said, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with the feeding schedule. Pay close attention to your plants and make adjustments as needed. Learning the signs of nutrient deficiency – and determining which nutrient your plant is deficient in – is important for growers.
Factor in pH, Water Temperature, and More When Mixing Nutrients
The pH of your water and the temperature of your reservoir are both important factors to consider when mixing nutrients. If the water is too cold, the nutrients won’t be as readily available to your plants. On the other hand, warm water creates similar problems – while also inviting the possibility of root rot and other related issues. With the help of a water chiller, you can prevent this.
And if the pH isn’t properly balanced, your plants will have a harder time absorbing them. A crucial final step before feeding your plants nutrients is to check and adjust the pH as necessary.
This can become a chore – especially for commercial growers. Fortunately, there are automated pH adjustors that can be incorporated into your hydroponic system.
Flush Your Plants Throughout the Cycle & Before Harvest
Last but not least, always remember to flush your plants before harvest. This will help remove any residual nutrients from the leaves and flowers – resulting in a better-tasting, more enjoyable final product. To do this, simply stop feeding your plants for the last two weeks of the grow cycle.
Instead, allow them to feed off the nutrients that are already present in the system. This will help prevent any unwanted flavors or aromas in your final product. And, in the case of cannabis, it will result in a more enjoyable smoke. Unflushed plants tend to be harsher.
Final Thoughts on the Best Hydroponic Fertilizer for Growing in 2022
Now that you know all about the best hydroponic nutrients for cannabis or other fruiting/flowering plants, you should feel confident in your next steps. While all five of these fertilizer packages we’ve shared are great, each is geared towards a specific type of grower. By following the tips we’ve laid out throughout this blog post, you will be well on your way to growing your best crop yet!