What is Foliar Feeding?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Foliar feeding is a method of plant fertilization which involves applying fertilizer directly to the leaves in the form of a solution which is sprayed on. The tiny pores in the leaves allow the fertilizer to pass into the plant, providing needed nutrition. One of the advantages to foliar feeding is that it can be very fast acting, which is useful when gardeners are struggling with droopy foliage and dim colors, but it needs to be done carefully to avoid damaging the plants.

Both natural and synthetic nutrients are available in solutions designed for foliar feeding. Typically, the fertilizer needs to be diluted in water before application, to avoid burning the leaves, and it should be applied in the morning or evening, when the pores of the leaves are most likely to be open. The pores will be closed during the heat of the day to prevent water loss, and they will also tend to be closed during extremely cold weather.

This fertilizing practice can be used on indoor and outdoor plants, along with crops which are being grown hydroponically. In all cases, foliar feeding is not designed to work on its own. The plant still needs to be able to absorb nutrients through its roots, which means that the soil needs to be in good condition, and the soil should be tested regularly to confirm the presence of necessary nutrition. Foliar feeding can be utilized to supply missing trace nutrients without overwhelming the plant, and to encourage healthy, rapid cell growth in plants which appear to be struggling.

Gardening supply stores carry foliar feeding solutions, and their staff may have specific recommendations for customers. It's important to test the soil to see which nutrients the plant is getting, and to know about the specific nutritional needs of a particular plant to confirm that the right nutrients are supplied in a foliar feeding session. Gardeners should also be aware that because this technique causes the leaves to get wet, it can promote the growth of harmful fungi, and cause burns from sun exposure.

When foliar feeding is utilized on food crops, it is important to wash the food before eating. Synthetic fertilizers can be harmful to ingest, while natural products can carry traces of fungi and pathogens which may cause harm to people. While natural products are usually treated to reduce this risk, it's impossible to catch everything, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I have become very interested in hydroponic gardening and found it good to know that you can use foilar feeding with this type of gardening.

We visited a farm that had a hydroponic system set up and it is something I would like to try. It does take some effort to get everything in place, but once you do, you can really save you a lot of time.

The produce also seems to grow very well in this type of environment. Adding some good fertilizer never hurts your yield either. As long as you don't add to much and don't burn the leaves, you should get some great yields.


I used foliar feeding on my vegetable garden for the first time, and was really pleased with the results.

I would always spray this fertilizer on first thing in the morning before the day became too hot. My tomato plants really grew fast and tall within just a couple weeks of applying this type of feeding.

I had more tomatoes, cucumbers and squash than I knew what to do with. Because I had such good results, I plan on doing that every year. It was fun to be able to share so much extra produce from my garden.

Many people don't have the time or space to plant a garden, but love home grown vegetables. Anytime I would take a sack load to work, I never had to worry about bringing anything back home.


I use a water soluble plant food that is both a foliar and soil fertilizer. I put a tablespoon of granules in a sprayer manufactured by the maker of the fertilizer and attach it to my garden hose. Then, I spray it on the leaves, blooms, branches, and roots of my flowers.

The label told me to spray the leaves and soil out to the drip line, which is where the drops of rain would fall from the leaves farthest away from the base of the plant. That way, a sizable area of soil around the plant gets the nutrients, and the spreading root system gets fed.


Foliar fertilizers can help stressed plants get nutrients during droughts. Though it is still important to water them frequently, they can absorb minerals through their leaves that might temporarily be lacking in the soil.

Rainwater just does something that no amount of irrigation can do. It seems to give plants a renewed vitality. You could water them with a hose until they are saturated, and they still won’t perform as well as they will in response to a good rain.

So, while your plants are waiting for the next soaker storm to come along, try feeding them with a foliar fertilizer. It will keep them nourished until the soil can be replenished with mysterious rainwater vitamins.


My hands got tired from spraying all my plants with foliar fertilizer in a simple spray bottle, so I bought a sprayer that delivers a steady stream. The label of the product I use says to dilute one tablespoon with one gallon of water. Since the sprayer only holds a gallon, I have to refill it several times to get my entire garden sprayed.

The foliar fertilizer does wonders for my roses and chrysanthemums, so I decided to try it on my strawberries. Plants that had yielded no fruit all month suddenly blossomed, and within a week, they produced several sizable berries.


I have always been told not to water plants in the heat of the day because the sun could scorch the wet leaves, but I did not know that the pores closed in the day. I just assumed the reason for fertilizing early or late in the day was only to avoid scorching. So, fertilizing my plants at noon would be pointless as well as dangerous.

I have noticed that my foliar fertilizer seems to bring about new growth and blooms for about a week. Then, the plants start to perform poorly again. I think it’s time for me to amend the soil by adding some nutrients to the ground.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman with a flower
      Woman with a flower