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There are many web sites on how to use bone meal with claims like "Using bone meal will help your flowering plants, like roses or bulbs, grow bigger and more plentiful flowers." Is this true for all plants, just vegetables and bulbs or not at all?

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It is going to be true if it contains nutrient(s) that are in short supply.

Bonemeal is considered a slow-release high phosphate fertilizer: bones are primarily apatite - a Calcium Carbonate Phosphate, and the phosphate is more tightly bound than in mined phosphates which are often just simple salts (ie. that dissolve easily). It also has a small quantity of nitrates, and I would expect it to make a good source of Calcium (a micronutrient).

So if your soil is short of phosphate relative to your plant's requirements, then yes it would be a good amendment. If the soil isn't short, then you're not going to see much change. Too much and you may even see damage (eg. fertilizer burn). This is true of any required resource of nutrient. E.g. Extra water is only going to be beneficial if it is dry.

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I doubt that you could burn with bone meal... solubility of apatite being rather low. –  Grady Player Jun 16 '12 at 3:33
True fertilizer burn may be less of a risk compared to say Ammonium Nitrate fertilizers, but damage is still a potential risk - everything is harmful if there's too much of it! –  winwaed Jul 5 '12 at 13:50
I done know... Can't find anything indicating that you could... Good ole le chaltllier's principle should keep dissolution in check. –  Grady Player Jul 5 '12 at 14:22
so, is phosphate commonly deficient in garden soils? Or does this change by area? –  kevinsky Jul 11 '12 at 19:27
I would expect it to vary by area. For example, some parts of southern England probably have quite a bit as it can be found in some of the Cretaceous rocks of S.England / Low Countries. A sandstone rich area is probably going to have much less - primarily from rotting vegetation & animals I should think. –  winwaed Jul 12 '12 at 13:03
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The answer, according to my old Horticultural College lecturer, is no, it's not going to do much for your plants at all, because it takes so long to break down.

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