Is Lawn Fertilizer Good for Shrubs?

Manufacturers create lawn fertilizer to treat grass, so it’s usually high in nitrogen. Grass and shrubs are both green plants that benefit from fertilizing, so you might wonder if you can use lawn fertilizer for shrubs.

You can use lawn fertilizer for shrubs if it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, such as herbicides. However, many lawn fertilizers contain high nitrogen levels, which can damage shrubs. Before using lawn fertilizer on your shrubs, it’s best to check all the ingredients thoroughly.

This article will discuss the pros and cons of using lawn fertilizer for shrubs. It will also discuss the primary nutrients shrubs need to thrive and the best fertilizers for shrubs.

Pros of Using Lawn Fertilizer for Shrubs

Chances are, you already have lawn fertilizer and don’t want to spend money on a different fertilizer for your shrubs, so you’re wondering if you can use it for everything. But it’s important to realize that there are pros and cons to consider. 

If you want to learn about some of the pros of using lawn fertilizer for shrubs, be sure to read the following section:

Lawn Fertilizer Is an Excellent Source of Nitrogen

First and foremost, lawn fertilizer is an excellent source of nitrogen. Thankfully, nitrogen is essential for the health of shrubs, so they must receive enough of it. Lawn fertilizers have different nitrogen strengths, so you can generally choose one with the appropriate amount of nitrogen.

You Can Save Money on Fertilizer

Using lawn fertilizer for shrubs saves money because you don’t need to buy a different fertilizer. So, you can fertilize your grass and shrubs without worrying about finding another product.

This savings aspect is helpful because fertilizer can be costly, as you probably know. You should take any opportunity you can to make some savings.

You Only Need To Apply Lawn Fertilizer Twice a Year

Generally, you’ll only need to apply lawn fertilizer to your shrubs twice a year. So, it’s low-maintenance. However, it’s the same principle for many other kinds of fertilizer, which isn’t specific to lawn fertilizer. 

Even still, it’s a significant benefit if you want to save money and use a low-maintenance product.

Cons of Using Lawn Fertilizer for Shrubs

I’ve discussed the main pros of using lawn fertilizer for shrubs, so now, I want to discuss the main cons. While lawn fertilizers are often helpful to shrubs, you should remember that the manufacturers did not design the ingredients to suit them. Therefore, the components can sometimes be too potent, which can cause harm to your plants.

To learn more about the cons of using lawn fertilizer for shrubs, be sure to read the sections below:

Some Lawn Fertilizers Contain Harmful Chemicals

The grass is hardier than shrubs and can withstand more potent chemicals. Because of this, you will often find harsh chemicals in lawn fertilizer. You must know this because certain ingredients can severely harm your shrubs. 

There are certain strong chemicals in lawn fertilizers that you would never find in shrub, plant, and tree fertilizers, such as pesticides and herbicides. Herbicides are some of the most detrimental chemicals found in lawn fertilizers because they can kill shrubs and many other plants.

So, you should avoid using lawn fertilizers that have these ingredients. Any fertilizer that contains strong chemicals will have it printed on the packaging, so there’s no way you won’t know about it. Always examine the ingredients before using fertilizer on your shrubs and other plants.

The Lawn Fertilizer Nitrogen Levels May Be Too High

Grass needs lots of nitrogen, which means there are usually high amounts of it in lawn fertilizer. There are also generally lower levels of other nutrients, such as potassium and phosphorus. Because of this, your shrubs might receive too much nitrogen and not enough potassium and phosphorus.

But the main problem is too much nitrogen. While not enough of some nutrients won’t cause any significant issues, too much nitrogen can cause irreversible damage to your shrubs. This damage is particularly likely if the soil already has adequate nitrogen levels. Adding extra will burn the shrubs, and you may ruin them.

To avoid this, you should use fertilizers with lower levels of nitrogen. Alternatively, you should use fertilizer explicitly made for shrubs.

There Might Not Be Sufficient Nutrients in Your Lawn Fertilizer

I mentioned it briefly in the last section, but lawn fertilizer might not have enough nutrients, particularly phosphorus and potassium. The lack of these essential nutrients will be an issue if your soil is low on these nutrients (meaning your shrubs need them to thrive). 

In this case, it’s best to go with a different fertilizer with higher levels of these nutrients. Going with a fertilizer for plants or shrubs will be your best bet. If you want to know some of the best fertilizers for shrubs, I’ll discuss them later in this article.

However, if your soil already has enough of these essential nutrients, the lack of their presence in the lawn fertilizer shouldn’t be a problem.

Nutrients Shrubs Need To Thrive

Before using any fertilizer, you must understand what nutrients shrubs need most to thrive. Luckily, the nutrients shrubs need are the same as many other plants and trees. 

A soil test will also help you determine what nutrients to look for in a fertilizer. But for now, let’s look at the primary nutrients that all shrubs need:


There are three main macronutrients that all plants and shrubs need. Macronutrients are nutrients that plants need in large amounts rather than small quantities.

Nitrogen is one of the essential macronutrients. Without nitrogen, shrubs wouldn’t be as green or vibrant as they usually are. All fertilizers contain nitrogen, so you need to determine how much of it you need. 

Many shrub-specific fertilizers contain appropriate nitrogen levels, so choosing one suited to your shrubs is best.


Potassium is another macronutrient essential for the growth and health of shrubs and other plants. Therefore, it’s vital to consider the amount of potassium fertilizer before using it. 

Since lawn fertilizer often doesn’t contain as much potassium as garden fertilizer, it’s not always appropriate for shrubs.


The last macronutrient that’s essential for shrub growth is phosphate. Like potassium, there are also low phosphate levels in many lawn fertilizers, so you need to ensure your soil is getting enough of this nutrient before using a fertilizer that doesn’t contain much.

Alternatively, you can use a fertilizer with higher phosphate levels.


Besides the three main macronutrients, shrubs also need different micronutrients often found in fertilizers. Some of them include:

  • Boron. Boron is essential for maintaining the structure of shrubs and plants. Although it occurs naturally in the soil, it’s not always present. That’s why a boron fertilizer is sometimes necessary for shrubs.
  • Zinc. Zinc is essential for shrub growth and development, so it’s often necessary to have it in a fertilizer.
  • Iron. Iron helps with photosynthesis, so the soil and shrubs must have enough of it.

Are Fertilizer Spikes Good for Shrubs?

Fertilizer spikes are good for shrubs. They provide all the essential nutrients to the shrubs and are easy to use. You can hammer them into the ground, making the process quick and easy. Fertilizer spikes are suitable for beginners or people who don’t have much free time.

Since fertilizer spikes contain an appropriate amount of essential macronutrients, there’s no reason not to try them! They also have a more straightforward application than lawn fertilizer because all you need to do is place them directly from the package into the soil.

You don’t have to worry about spreading it evenly across the soil or measuring the right amount of product.


Lawn fertilizer can be good for shrubs, depending on the specific fertilizer. But since many lawn fertilizers can be high in nitrogen and low in other nutrients, it’s not always the best option. You should stick with a regular plant, tree, or shrub fertilizer for the best results.

You can read my other article on fertilizing newly planted shrubs here: Should You Fertilize Newly Planted Shrubs? 5 Facts

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

Recent Posts