When you’re raising hydroponic plants, there’s a very thin line between traditional fertilizers, which would usually enrich the soil, and nutrients, which in hydroponics go straight to the roots of your plants and give them all the minerals they need.
There is a world of hydroponic nutrients out there to choose from, most of them with multiple applications and different mixtures of chemical elements that are geared precisely to help your plants at the various stages of their life cycles.
They need different concentrations of different minerals when growing leaves to those they need when growing fruit or flowers, for instance, so getting the right hydroponic nutrients at each stage of their development is crucial.
So, how do you know which of the many available nutrient sets on the market are actually worth picking up? Which will give you the best and brightest blooms, the healthiest plants, the biggest fruits and vegetables?
Don’t panic. We’ve done at least that part of the hard work for you.
Quick glance at the best hydroponic nutrients:
- General Hydroponics GH5100 General Organics Go Box
- Masterblend 4-18-38 Complete Combo Kit
- General Hydroponics Flora Grow, Bloom, Micro Set
- Advanced Nutrients 3-Part pH Perfect Grow Micro Bloom
- FoxFarm Liquid Nutrient Trio Soil Formula: Big Bloom, Grow Big, Tiger Bloom
- Best Hydroponic Nutrients Reviewed
- What To Consider When Buying The Hydroponic Nutrients
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Hydroponic Nutrients Reviewed
There’s a quiet war going on at all levels of agriculture and plant-growing. A war between those who say that chemical fertilizers and nutrients are simply the appliance of intelligent science to increase healthiness and yield, and those who say that only natural, “organic” products should go into the creation of plants, foods, and in fact, almost anything else.
Who wins the war?
Who knows – it’s still going on.
But if you’re not keen on the notion of laboratory chemicals feeding your plants and want to go the organic-only route, then the General Organics Go Box from General Hydroponics is more or less custom-built for your hydroponic needs.
There’s a little wiggle room in that “more or less” – the box doesn’t contain only 100% organic products, but for those who are to organic plant-feed what vegetarians are to vegans, you can use the Go Box with a sense of contentment, as most of it is about as organic as you can get without paying insano-prices for the reassurance of chemical purity.
What’s in the Go Box? You get a 16-ounce bottle of BioThrive Grow and a 16-ounce bottle of BioThrive Bloom.
Just as they sound, the BioThrive is a compound to help your budding plants to… well… thrive in the initial stages of their life cycle, while the BioBloom gives them the mineral boost they need for one of the most intense periods of their life, when they start to put out flowers, fruits or vegetation.
With clear instructions on the how and the when of using the BioThrive liquid nutrients, it’s exceptionally difficult to go wrong with the Go Box.
What’s more of an issue is that the Go Box is a whole box full of different preparations, many of which will not be of particular use to you, like BioMarine and BioWeed. And if you go for the Go Box, you end up paying the kind of price you’d expect to pay for this whole range of organic products, which can be off-putting, despite the quality of the products you will use.
There’s also an issue in that, like most organic fertilizers, there’s also a distinctly organic stench to using the Go Box products. But assuming you’re OK with that, and with the price for the box, what you get in the Go Box is a highly effective, mostly organic solution to providing effective nutrients to your hydroponic plants.
The combination of BioThrive and BioBloom hits your plants with the organic chemicals they need to make the most of their life cycle
The instructions are in plain English and should be understandable by all levels of hydroponic gardeners
The bottles are of a good size, so you’ll get quite a lot of use out of each of them
General Hydroponics is a highly respected brand with a history in the sector
The box contains several other products too, many of which may be irrelevant to you
You still get charged as though you’re using all the products
As with all or most organic products, there’s a considerable, unpleasant smell attached to using the organic nutrients
Because of the nature of hydroponics, people tend to think you can only use liquid nutrients, but that’s by no means the case. In fact, using solid nutrients sometimes makes a lot more economic sense, because solid nutrients take a lot less space to store and ship, so they’re available for significantly less money.
One of the best solid nutrient packages you can find is the Masterblend 4-18-38 Combo Kit, which, like many of the best liquid options, comes with three components.
Where most of the liquid options give you specific blends of chemicals, the Masterblend 4-18-38 Combo Kit gives you one bag of almighty base-nutrients, and then two additional bags with chemical boosters for particular points in your plants’ life cycle.
The base 4-18-38 nutrient pack contains all the elements your plant needs to get started and established. That means it’s rich in nitrogen, phosphate, and magnesium, along with some other micro-nutrients to increase the strength of your plants, like copper and iron.
Separate from that anytime plant meal, you get a bag of calcium nitrate. That’s a combination of calcium for strength and extra nitrogen to really power a growth spurt for your plants.
The calcium nitrate bag is for once your plants have got established, but before they’re ready to flower or put out their vegetation. It’s the equivalent of your favorite coffee during your twenties – the thing that helps get you through and build you up for the business of living.
And thirdly, there’s a bag of an old established favorite in traditional gardening, but one that can also help your hydroponic plants. You’re going to think we’re joking when we tell you what it is. It’s Epsom salts.
Yes, really. Epsom salts, as well as being an olde worlde effervescent bath foamer, includes lots of the elements your plants need in one of the most important stages of their life.
When they’re about to put out flowers, fruits, or vegetation, they need things like extra magnesium, sulfate, and sulfur to make sure they can push out the biggest and brightest blooms, the juiciest fruits and vegetables, and the glossiest of leaves.
Epsom salts can give them exactly the combination they need for that big push, which is why it makes sense to include them in the Masterblend Combo Kit.
The instructions on the Masterblend kit are comprehensive and simple, so you shouldn’t run out of one ingredient before any of the others. And given it’s significantly cheaper than some of the liquid options, it ranks second on our list of the best hydroponic nutrients available.
Masterblend is cheaper than lots of liquid hydroponic nutrients
The three-stage approach to boosting your plants’ growth works well
Unlike many liquid nutrients, Masterblend is relatively hassle-free
“Relatively” hassle-free still involves mapping the life cycles of your plants and knowing when to apply each bag
Yep, it’s another General Hydroponics set, though this one is firmly chemical, rather than organic.
In fact, the Flora series is the company’s leading set of hydroponic nutrients, and as with the Masterblend, it’s a combination of three treatments to boost your plants’ performance at various stages of their development.
Flora Micro is the first layer of the series, and it contains all the things that can help your plants in the first phases of their lives – and indeed, are useful all the way through their growing cycles. That means Flora Micro is packed with elements like calcium and nitrogen, to help your plants grow and thrive.
Flora Grow delivers much more nitrogen, to help your plants with a real growth spurt. Nitrogen to plants is almost like oxygen to us – if you only have a little, you can stay alive, but if you suddenly get a usable increase, you can do a whole lot more.
Added to this nitrogen banquet, Flora Grow brings potassium to your plants’ party to encourage them to use the nitrogen, and to grow sturdy.
Flora Bloom does pretty much exactly what you think it does, adding phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur to your plants’ mineral diet, to help them push out the biggest, brightest and most vivid flowers, fruits, and vegetation they can when it’s time for them to bloom.
You might find the Flora series a little pernickety to use, because its doses of each of the minerals are pretty precise, so they demand a degree of discipline when using them, but there’s no denying the Flora system will give you great results.
The three-stage Flora system gives you great results
The bottles in the flora series are well labelled, so you can’t go wrong
It covers you right from early in your plants’ lives all the way through blooming
The precision required can be too much work for some hydroponic gardeners
The General Hydroponics Flora series is great and gives you reliable results if you’re careful with your dosing, but it can be expensive because General Hydroponics has a longstanding reputation, and part of the cost of its products is based on that.
Advanced Nutrients’ Perfect Grow Micro Bloom range does much the same thing as the Flora series, but is significantly cheaper, so it opens up precise hydroponic nutrition to a wider range of plant-growers.
The Advanced Nutrients Perfect series includes Micro, Grow, and Bloom formulas, and each of those mixtures sticks pretty close to the make-up of the General Hydroponics version.
Micro gives you the base level chemistry to sustain your plants early in their lives, Grow is what you use between the early stages and the time when your plants are ready to put out flowers, fruits, or vegetation, and Bloom is that mixture that helps your plants have the big, bright blooms you love.
There’s some logic to going with the General Hydroponics Flora series if you can. But if you can’t justify the cost, you might be surprised by the results you can get from the cheaper Advanced Nutrients option.
The three-stage nutrient plan helps your plants at the vital points in their lives
The Advanced Nutrients plan is cheaper than the Flora series
That opens up hydroponic nutrition to many more plant-growers
You lose out on the sense of certainty you get with a better-known brand
Finally, Fox Farm has a strong reputation in hydroponic nutrients, so the Nutrient Trio is unsurprisingly popular. Containing the Big Bloom, Grow Big, and Tiger Bloom formulations, there’s no ‘base’ formula here, but you get two different formulae that help with your plants’ blooming.
That means all the formulations here have everything you need to keep your plants healthy, but they’re also all formulated to help at specific stages of the life cycle.
Grow Big helps boost the size of green and vegetative growth. When growth has been established, the Tiger Bloom formulation will increase the size and brightness of your blooms.
Big Bloom is actually a formulation that heals and strengthens your plants’ root growth.
Be aware that the FoxFarm hydroponic nutrient set is not, by any means, a friend to your budget. You will feel the pinch in the wallet of using the FoxFarm hydroponic nutrient program. But the reputation the company has for nutrients that deliver for your plants means if you can afford it, you by all means should afford it.
Your plants won’t technically thank you, because lips, vocal cords, and the out-and-out freakiness of talking plants (Why hello, Audrey II), but they’ll be big enough and bright enough that you’ll believe they’re grateful anyway.
FoxFarm’s reputation in the hydroponic nutrient business is well deserved
There are three types of nutrient mix here, to help build roots, deliver big blooms, and maintain strong and vibrant plants
It’s the only nutrient system on our list to specifically strengthen and repair your plants’ roots
There’s a gasp of sticker-shock associated with the FoxFarm system
What To Consider When Buying The Hydroponic Nutrients
When you’re buying hydroponic nutrients, you should ask yourself a handful of questions before you click the “Buy” button.
Organic – Is It Worth It To You Or Not?
While it’s true that the majority
of the nutrient solutions on the market involve highly precise laboratory
chemistry, there are a handful of organic options that make the grade for
high-quality hydroponic nutrients.
The question is whether they’re worth it to you. Worth it in terms of cost, because in most cases, organic solutions will cost you more than inorganic solutions. And worth it in terms of the ethical conviction that organic is best, even if it does cost you more.
Ask yourselves these questions before you click the wrong “Buy” button, and end up with nutrients that either cost you too much or that don’t sit right with your conscience.
New Or Old?
Here’s a question. Given a choice between two products with similar results, do you go for the product that comes from the company with the long reputation for excellence in the field, even if the cost is higher? Or do you give a chance to a relative unknown if they can shave a decent fraction off your regular outlay?
This is more important than you might think, because there are companies even within our list that do both things. In particular, the dichotomy between companies like General Hydroponics and Advanced Nutrients shows the difference between a long-established stalwart and an up-and-coming competitor. Know enough about yourself before you click that you can be confident about the product you’re buying.
Hydroponic plant-growing can be an expensive business if you don’t keep an eye on the costs. So before you get seduced by the all-out platinum-plated three-phase hydroponic nutrient solutions, be sure you can afford to see it through. More than that though, be sure you feel it’s worth seeing it through. Balance the joy of seeing your blooms come through big and bright and vibrant with the cash you’re both willing and able to spend on your hydroponic nutrients.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Must-Have Hydroponic Nutrients?
While newcomers to hydroponic plant-growing can get by with a single base mixture of hydroponic nutrients, if you’re more serious and experienced at it, you’ll know that your plants need different nutrients at different stages of their life cycles.
Look for preparations that start off with some nitrogen, and then build up to increase the nitrogen dosage throughout your plants’ lives, adding in the likes of phosphorus and magnesium as you go, to result in bigger, brighter blooms.
How Much Should I Pay For Hydroponic Nutrients?
Honestly, as much as you can comfortably spend. Don’t put yourself in any kind of financial shortage for the sake of getting the best of the best hydroponic nutrients, and if you find a cheaper alternative that still gives you the results you want, go with that.
But at least once, when you can afford to do so, try one of the more expensive treatments and see if it makes a tangible difference in the beauty of your blooms or the size of your vegetation.
How Long Do Hydroponic Nutrients Last?
This often depends on the quality and balance of the nutrient combination, but usually, you can get 7-10 days between applications. You will probably need to rinse through your water on a more regular basis than that to keep the plants at their peak of health though.