When growing woody plants, not just any fertilizer will do.
Because of their specific nutrient requirements, you need a product that’s specially formulated for the job.
Our top recommended choice is Miracle-Gro Flowering Trees and Shrubs Plant Food. It produces fast growth, impressive flowering, and an increase in fruit yield and quality.
The best fertilizer for trees and shrubs at a glance:
- Miracle-Gro Flowering Trees and Shrubs Plant Food – Best Overall
- PRO Organic Tree & Shrub Fertilizer by Shin Nong – Overall Best Organic Fertilizer For Trees And Shrubs
- Scotts Evergreen Flowering Tree and Shrub Fertilizer – Best For Evergreens & Acid Loving Trees & Shrubs
- Dr. Earth Natural Fruit Tree Fertilizer – Best Organic Fertilizer For Fruit Trees
- Jobe’s Organics Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer – Best Organic Fertilizer For Citrus Trees
- J R Peters Jacks Classic Citrus Food Fertilizer
- Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Plant Food Spikes
- Fertilome Tree and Shrub Food
- Jobe’s Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes
- Pro Trust Products Plant Tree and Shrub Professional Fertilizer
All links lead to Amazon, where you can find more information & customer reviews
The Best Fertilizer For Trees And Shrubs: Reviews
Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Flowering Trees and Shrubs Plant Food
This version of the popular Miracle-Gro Shake’N Feed fertilizer is designed to give the ideal balance of nutrients for all flowering trees and shrubs. As well as all acid-loving plants.
It has an 18-6-12 NPK formula (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). And also contains important micronutrients that are vital for plant growth.
It’s high in nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient for the growth of trees and shrubs.
And also contains a good amount of phosphorus, encouraging flowers to bloom and roots to grow strong.
A high amount of potassium helps with growth, and fruit production and quality. As well as resistance to drought and disease.
While not a 100% organic product, it does contain natural organic matter. With feather meal, bone meal, earthworm casings, and kelp all part of its ingredients. This feeds the microbes in your soil. Which break it down slowly, resulting in the gradual release of nutrients that’s ideal for consistent growth.
It comes in pellets that you apply to the ground and then water in. When used according to the instructions they provide sufficient nutrients for around 3 months of growth at a time.
Customers report seeing visible results within days. With vigorous leaf and branch growth. Shrubs that are almost dead after the winter quickly revive. And fruit trees that struggle to fruit often start producing an impressive yield.
However, you need to follow the usage instructions carefully. Why?
Because it can burn the plant if you overdo it.
It comes in an 8 lbs bag, that lasts a long time because you don’t need to use much per tree.
You can also buy this product in different varieties, specially formulated for certain trees and plants:
- Citrus & Mango
- Rose & Bloom
- Tomato, Fruits, & Vegetables
- All Purpose
PRO Organic Tree & Shrub Fertilizer by Shin Nong
This 100% natural and organic shrub and tree fertilizer is ideal to use if you’re into organic gardening.
It’s made from rice bran and castor meal, which provide a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, and amino acids. Combined with 17 natural minerals in varying quantities, extracted from rocks.
The NPK ratio is 4.68-3.6-1.4. This might seem low compared to synthetic fertilizers, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Because there are other benefits to using this organic fertilizer.
To start with it’s great for the longterm health of your soil. It encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms and worms that break down the organic matter. Slowly releasing nutrients, and providing good soil structure, composition, drainage, and aeration. This helps your trees and shrubs to grow healthy roots, improve nutrient and water uptake, and stay free from disease.
And you don’t have to worry about over-applying it and burning your plants.
Most customers are impressed by the quick results they get.
It’s OMRI listed for organic use and comes in a 22 lbs bag of granules.
Scotts Continuous Release Evergreen Flowering Tree and Shrub Fertilizer
Scotts is a household name when it comes to fertilizers. And this is a very popular product that’s designed to be used on evergreens, and acid-loving deciduous trees, shrubs, and flowers.
It comes in tiny pellets with an 11-7-7 NPK formula. With slow release nitrogen, and 2.1% sulfur which increases the acidity of the soil. This is especially useful for acid-loving plants, because they often have difficulty in absorbing the essential nutrient iron when the pH of the soil is above 5.5.
Place the pellets directly on the soil, about 8-12 inches away from the tree trunk, and then water them in well.
Customers report robust growth. That in a matter of weeks can transform the appearance of your plants with impressive height and lush foliage.
It comes in a 3 lbs bag that goes a long away.
Dr. Earth Natural Wonder Fruit Tree Fertilizer
This organic product is a great fertilizer for fruit trees. But you can also use it for berries and fruiting vines. Whether your plants are indoors in containers, or outside in your backyard soil.
It has a 5-5-2 NPK ratio and contains a wide range of micronutrients. Probiotic soil microbes are added to enrich your soil. And a special type of fungi, called mycorrhizae, help your tree roots take up a greater quantity of nutrients, oxygen, and water. Leading to a healthier tree with a greater yield of fruit.
Nutrients are released slowly, and it continues to fertilize your trees for up to 2 months.
Customers report fast and impressive results. With even old trees that had stopped bearing fruit suddenly perking up, putting out new flower buds, and producing once again.
It’s Non-GMO Project Verified, OMRI listed, and made in the USA.
And comes in a 4 lbs bag that can be used to fertilize a 60 sq. ft. area.
Jobe’s Organics Fruit & Citrus Fertilizer
This OMRI listed product is ideal for organic gardening. It’s specially formulated for both new and established fruit trees. Including fig trees, apple trees, pear, plum, and cherry trees. With an emphasis on citrus fruits such as lime, lemon, and avocado. It’s also good for using on all varieties of nut trees.
It’s made from bone meal, feather meal, and composted poultry manure. And has a 3-5-5 NPK ratio. It also contains 8% calcium, an element that citrus plants need a lot of. With deficiency stunting growth and reducing fruit yield.
Also included are bacteria that are good for the soil, and mycorrhizal fungi that increase plant nutrient and water uptake.
It also contains a special type of microorganism called Archaea. These break down complex materials in the soil to release a greater quantity of nutrients for your trees to use.
People report visible improvements within a few days. With increased fruiting and blooming in the weeks that follow.
The main drawback is the animal manure it contains. Unfortunately, it smells. But this disappears a few hours after it’s watered into the ground.
It comes in a 16 lbs bag of granules that’s easy to pour. You can also get it in 2 other sizes, 4 lbs and 1.5 lbs.
J R Peters Jacks Classic Citrus Food Fertilizer
This 20-10-20 NPK formula has a high level of the primary nutrients required for strong growth, flowering and fruiting of citrus trees.
It also contains a range of micronutrients. But doesn’t contain the important secondary nutrient calcium, unlike the organic fertilizer above. Although your soil will often contain enough for this not to be a problem.
The powder is mixed with water before use, and has no real odor. So it’s a good fertilizer for citrus trees, such as a lemon tree growing indoors, where the unpleasant smell of organic plant fertilizer can be a bit much.
Customers report new growth, flowering, and fruiting, within months. Even on trees that were previously struggling.
It comes in a 1.5 lbs plastic tub.
Miracle-Gro Tree & Shrub Plant Food Spikes
These tree and shrub fertilizer spikes come in a 15-5-10 NPK formula.
One of the great things about them is how easy and convenient they are to use. Apply just once in the spring and once in the fall. Hammering them into the ground around the drip line of the tree or shrub. Which is easy to do if the ground is wet.
They release their nutrients into the root zone to kick start growth and flowering.
There’s another advantage of using spikes over most synthetic fertilizer liquids or granules. The nutrients are released slowly over time, and aren’t leached from the soil as quickly.
The vast majority of customers are very happy with the results they get from using these spikes. With vibrant color and lush foliage visible on all deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.
But be careful to follow the instructions when using them. Because there are reports of people killing their plants, especially with very young shrubs and newly planted trees.
They come in a 3 lbs box of 12 spikes. There’s also a specially formulated Fruit & Citrus version available.
Fertilome Tree and Shrub Food
This 19-8-10 high nitrogen fertilizer is great for use on most types of shrubs and trees. Including evergreens, citrus, nut trees, shade trees, and tropical trees.
The granules are easy to use, you just apply to the ground on the surface and water them. And it’s recommended to use them twice per year, in the spring and the fall, to encourage quick and strong growth and maintain good health.
There are a couple of drawbacks, however:
Firstly, the same as many other synthetic chemical fertilizers you have to be careful when using it so that you don’t overdo it and damage your plants.
Secondly, it’s not a good idea to use it for trees that are being grown in pots.
It comes in a 4 lbs container that can feed about 10 4” in diameter trees.
Jobe’s Tree & Shrub Fertilizer Spikes
These fertilizer spikes come in a 15-3-3 NPK formula. They’re specifically designed to be used around deciduous trees and shrubs such as birch, oak, elm, maple, dogwood, poplar, etc.
But you can also get spikes by the same company that are specially formulated for evergreens, fruit and citrus plants, and palm trees.
You only need to use them twice per year, in early spring and late fall. Just hammer them into the ground about 3-4 inches around the drip line of your trees. Make sure the soil is wet. Because it can be difficult to hammer them in if it’s too hard.
They provide a slow release of nutrients to your trees and shrubs. With the advantage over most synthetic fertilizers that there’s less wasteful runoff. Which means you don’t have to apply them as often.
This packet contains 9 spikes. With 2 spikes needed per tree of 1-2 inch trunk diameter. Or 1 spike per shrub for every 3 ft of height.
You can also get them in packets of 5, 15, and a massive 160.
Pro Trust Products Plant Tree and Shrub Professional Fertilizer
This granular fertilizer has a 21-5-12 NPK ratio and is good to use on all shrubs, trees, landscape plants, and flowers.
This contains both fast and slow release nitrogen. So that you get results quickly, but it also continues to fertilize for 12-16 weeks after application. The high potassium improves plant resistance to drought, cold, and disease and increases fruit yield.
They also contain a range of micronutrients including calcium, iron, sulfur, and magnesium.
It’s recommended by the company to feed deciduous trees with this fertilizer in late fall. And apply it to evergreens in the spring for the best results.
It comes in a 15.6 lbs bag.
Choosing The Best Tree And Shrub Fertilizer
With so many different fertilizers available on the market, how do you choose the right one?
Here are some important things to consider:
What Nutrients Does It Contain?
When you look at the available products you’ll see they usually have 3 numbers written prominently on the bag or container, such as 13-10-10.
These numbers are the NPK ratio. They tell you the percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) contained in the fertilizer. So in a 20 pound bag of 13-10-10 there would be 2.6 lbs of nitrogen, 2 lbs of phosphorus, and 2 lbs of potassium.
These are the essential primary nutrients that are required in the greatest quantities for plant growth. For trees and shrubs, nitrogen is the element that gives the biggest growth response, and it’s often present in the largest amount in fertilizers.
Although your soil usually contains all 3 of these nutrients, adding them to the soil can increase growth, flowering, and fruit yield. In particular, it’s important to supplement these nutrients if your soil is suffering from a deficiency in any one of them.
Here are some of the benefits the primary nutrients have for your woody plants:
- Required in large quantities for adequate growth
- Deficiency causes pale green or yellow leaves, because it’s required for chlorophyll production
- Helps plants to grow strong roots
- Promotes the blooming of flowers
- Deficiency can slow growth
- Required for the production of fruit
- Plays a role in making the plant more tolerant of drought and cold, and resistant to disease
- Deficiency affects tree growth and fruit quality
The best tree fertilizer will have at least some of the nitrogen as slow release. This results in a slower and continuous fertilization over a period of months, with steady growth.
Quick release nitrogen can produce fast results. But as it’s water soluble it’s quickly leached from the soil and requires regular re-application.
Different types of trees and shrubs sometimes have different nutrient requirements. So if you can, it’s a good idea to get a fertilizer that’s formulated for your plant’s needs.
It’s also a good idea to test the nutrient content of your soil to find out if it has any deficiencies. You can then select a fertilizer with the right profile to enable the best growth.
Some fertilizers also contain important secondary nutrients. These include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Your soil usually contains a high enough amount, but deficiencies can occur.
Particular types of woody plants often have special requirements. For example, citrus plants require a lot of calcium.
Organic Tree Fertilizer vs Synthetic
Organic fertilizers and synthetic fertilizers both have advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between them largely comes down to personal preference.
Synthetic fertilizers usually have higher quantities of the primary nutrients. And as they are easily water soluble, they are fast acting, producing impressive results in a short period of time.
They often contain fast release nitrogen, that’s lost from the soil quickly. But they sometimes also contain slow release nitrogen that will fertilize over weeks and months.
Organic fertilizers have some big advantages as well. To start with, they’re better for the environment.
But they also improve the long term health of your soil by providing organic matter, allowing microbes and worms to thrive. The breakdown of the organic material slowly releases nutrients, which never overwhelm and damage your trees, a problem that can occur when chemical fertilizers are over-applied.
The result is fertilized soil that’s built over time to have better composition, texture, structure, drainage, and aeration. Encouraging the growth of healthy roots that can easily obtain nutrients from the soil.
Organic fertilizers sometimes come with added microbes to boost the activity in your soil. And mycorrhizal fungi that form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots. Stretching out into the soil to obtain nutrients over a greater area for the tree or shrub to use.
In a nutshell:
For fast and impressive results at an economical price synthetic fertilizers are hard to beat.
But if you’re trying to build your soil for the long term, or you’re into organic gardening, then organic fertilizer is the way to go.
So, what’s the best fertilizer for trees and shrubs?
Well, it kind of depends. Choosing a fertilizer for woody plants involves thinking about the nutrients you need, the type of plants you’re growing, and whether you prefer synthetic or organic.
Our top recommendation for tree and shrub fertilization is Miracle-Gro Flowering Trees and Shrubs Plant Food. It contains high levels of the essential primary nutrients. With fast and sustained results that can even bring struggling plants back to full life.
If you want to go organic, our top recommendation is PRO Organic Tree & Shrub Fertilizer by Shin Nong.
For specific types of trees and bushes, see our recommended list and product reviews above.