The release mechanism of gel-based controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) involves water penetration into dry mixtures of fertilizers and gel forming polymers. Water penetration provides an upper limit to the whole release process. Where wetting prediction is often based on models that describe the flow of the liquid phase, vapor motion may become significant when a sharp wetting front exists. In this study we examine the role of vapor and fluid flows in the wetting process of CRFs consisting of urea or KNO(3) mixed with polyacrylamide (PAM). Vapor adsorption isotherms were obtained for typical fertilizer-PAM mixtures. Wetting and release experiments were conducted by dividing the CRFs into regions alternately filled with a pure fertilizer and mixtures of PAM and fertilizer. The experiments were designed in such a way that when the wetting front reaches a mixtures interface, its motion depends on the gradient imposed by the difference in osmotic potential (OP). The coupled equations of vapor and liquid flow in initially dry conditions were solved numerically to demonstrate the conceptual understanding gained by the experiments. The results show that wetting front motion is affected by transport and adsorption of vapor. It was also shown that the release rate is different when wetting is governed by vapor flow or by liquid flow. The release pattern from a multi-regions device was consistent with the wetting pattern, demonstrating the possibility to tailor the release according to periods of peak demand.