A unit of Greenways Nursery, New Delhi

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There is perhaps a plant parent who hasn’t had to face the problem of yellowing and browning of their plants’ leaves. Although bugs or diseases causes a lot of plant problems, some symptoms may indicate a nutrient deficiency or overload. You can see signs of plant nutrient imbalances in the form of discoloration or misshaped growth.

Unfortunately, these symptoms can be misinterpreted as they are often confused with other issues in plants that arise due to factors other than nutrient deficiency.

So, before you address nutrient deficiencies in your plants, make sure to check for pests’ underneath leaves, between stems, and in other places. Poor drainage, root growth that is too dense, soil that does not retain water, irregular watering, excessively small pots, and other factors can also cause changes in leaf colour. Note that temperature extremes can also impact plant health and growth.

However, when using nutrients for plants, it’s important to keep in mind that too much fertilizer can cause root and shoot system damage, and too little can impact plant health and growth. It’s the right amount of nutrients that can make all the difference.

Why it’s important to fertilize potted plants and the nutrients that plants require

Gardeners tend to overlook the need to fertilize potted plants. They compare them to plants that grow in the wild, which don’t require any extra fertilization.

The soil is an integral part of the wider ecological system. Plants that grow in the wild are able to thrive in the soil. It is because their roots have direct access to organic and inorganic material, rainwater, and essential minerals naturally present in the soil. These sources are more than sufficient to ensure the plant’s growth. However, these nutrients don’t stay forever in the soil system of potted plants, as they tend to deplete over time.

Note that in order to grow and stay healthy, plants need a variety of nutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that plants require in large quantities. These include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous— also known as NPK, sulphur, magnesium, and calcium. Other nutrients that plants require in smaller quantities are called micronutrients. These include iron, copper, manganese, and molybdenum.

How do plants derive nutrition from the soil?

The soil is the main source of all nutrients for plants. The roots of plants absorb nutrients along with water. Water pressure and movement are key factors in the transport of nutrients through different plant parts. That is why the right amount of water is essential in order for plants to get the necessary nutrients.

The pH balance of soil or the potting mix is another important requirement to ensure nutrient uptake. Every plant needs a certain pH range in order to be able to absorb nutrients from the soil. Too acidic or too alkaline soil can disrupt normal plant functioning and negatively affect plant health.

Preventing nutrient deficiency in plants

Like you need to eat a balanced diet to keep fit and healthy, the plants in your garden should be fed a wide variety of nutrient-rich plant foods and fertilizers for long disease-free life.

The only difference between you and your plants is that while you can go and cook when you feel hungry, your plants can’t. They are immobile and rooted to the ground, which serves as their primary source of nutrition.

So, it’s on us, human beings, to ensure that our plant friends have the right nutrients.

Now, plant nutrients often come as pre-packaged, synthetic fertilizers. However, the eco-conscious gardener will be pleased to know that there are all-natural, organic, pre-packaged options too to choose from.

In addition, you have a wealth of natural materials, composts, or mulches available to nourish your plants. They may not work as fast as commercially manufactured fertilizers, but studies show that they are more beneficial to your garden and the benefits often last longer just that you need to be a little patient.

So, there is simply no dearth of options when it comes to feeding your plants. All you need is to decide which option you will use and how.

Nutrients can also help prevent plant problems

Some plants are susceptible to certain diseases that are mostly viral, fungal, or bacterial.

Just like with people, certain nutrients can play a crucial role in preventing illnesses in plants. Plants that receive their routine dose of nutrients are less likely to catch diseases.

Feed Your Passion

Nutrients are what keep your plants healthy. Without the proper use and mastery over nutrients, gardening is simply going to be challenging for you. It’s good if you are familiar with fertilizers and amendments required by plants, at least the ones currently growing in your garden. By routinely supplying the right nutrients to your plants, you will help them avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Yes, it can take some time to correct a nutrient shortage, but it’s not impossible. The application of fertilizers is essential to restore your plants’ prime health. But bear in mind that one needs to provide nutrients at regular intervals, and when you apply fertilizer, don’t overdo it. After the plants have recovered, you can also add organic matter to the soil. Whatever you do, just do it regularly. Remember, consistency in care is the only way to maintain a healthy garden.