Flower and Plant Nutrients - Fernlea Flowers

Gardening Tips

Flower and Plant Nutrients

All plants require nutrients for healthy growth Plants, whether annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruit trees and even grass all need nourishment to grow and thrive. Nature provides a lot of the basic needs like oxygen and sunlight but if you’re going to have a stellar garden, you’ll need to pay attention to providing the other nutrients […]

Hawaiian Punch Hibiscus

All plants require nutrients for healthy growth

Plants, whether annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruit trees and even grass all need nourishment to grow and thrive. Nature provides a lot of the basic needs like oxygen and sunlight but if you’re going to have a stellar garden, you’ll need to pay attention to providing the other nutrients needed for healthy plants throughout the growing season.

3 main nutrients

Many different nutrients are important to plant development. The 3 main ones are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K), plus many other elements necessary for healthy plant growth, but only in trace amounts. These are all present to a certain degree in most soils. However, like all good food the pantry can become bare if not replenished, and it’s up to you to replace it.

Fertilizers containing these 3 main nutrients are available at all garden centers. They come in dry and liquid forms and with varying amounts of each element. Why in varying amounts? Because plants differ in their requirements at different times. Bloomers, for example, need fertilizer high in Phosphorous. Vegetables are best encouraged by 5-10-10 since more nitrogen will promote too much foliage, leaving little nourishment to produce the fruit. Fertilize bedding plants shortly after planting, using a solution of plant starter fertilizer such as 10-52-10 to help plants become established and to promote root development.

It’s not really complicated, just read the labels carefully, they’ll guide you to the right fertilizer for the job.

Nitrogen (N)

This nutrient is responsible for the healthy green color of your plants. It is an essential part of proteins and chlorophyll, the plant pigment that plays a vital role in photosynthesis. Nitrogen deficiencies result in a yellowing of leaves, and a general slow down in growth.

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus promotes healthy root growth, fruit and seed development, and increased disease resistance. Plants with a shortage of phosphorus are often stunted, have dark green foliage, followed by reddening of the stems and leaves. The symptoms generally appear on the older leaves first.

Potash (K)

Also referred to as potassium. This nutrient promotes vigorous growth and disease resistance. Signs of a deficiency show up as browning of the edges of leaves, and mottled yellow or pale green mature leaves. Older leaves are affected first.

Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur

These are the secondary nutrients, and are needed in lesser amounts than nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash (potassium). Where the soil is acidic (such as in areas of high rainfall), these secondary nutrients are important to balance the soil. Liming helps maintain a soil pH beneficial to plants.

Iron, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, zinc

TThese are micro-nutrients. It’s not a good idea to add these micro-nutrients to your soil because plants only need very small amounts of them and most soil contains enough. Too much of any of them can be harmful. If your plants aren’t getting the right amount of these nutrients it’s usually because an imbalance in the pH level of your soil is preventing the roots from absorbing them. Properly adjusting the pH level should solve the problem.

Soil pH level

To determine the pH level of your soil, get a soil test kit which is sold at most nurseries. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being the neutral level.

Soils tests that read less than 7 are on the acidic side, and those higher than 7 are on the alkaline side.

It is important to know the pH of the soil because it affects the soil chemistry and plant metabolism, which in turn will determine the success of your garden. Most plants will perform well in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.  See our soil resources.