Learn to Identify Plant Nutritional Deficiencies

Are your plants looking a little down? Too yellow, faded or easily disturbed? As a novice gardener, your biggest challenge to developing a healthy plant family is learning to identify plant nutritional deficiencies. Even experienced gardeners still have trouble figuring out what is going wrong with their plants. Learning to identify plant nutritional deficiencies is a significant step towards anticipating any problems your plants may have and thus helping to protect your plant investments. Here are some tips for learning to identify plant nutritional deficiencies so that your garden can thrive.

What could be wrong with your plant?

Let's say that you notice that one of your favorite plants is looking a little down. You have been fertilizing and watering regularly. What could be wrong? There are many things you should learn to look for solve plant problems. In many cases, your plant may be suffering from a combination of things. First things first: learn to identify some common problems. These include insects, disease, poorly drained soil or poor overall soil composition. In most cases, it will be easy to see if your plant is suffering from some pest. Most pests or insects leave telltale signs. Slugs leave slime trails, and various insects leave chewing marks and speckled waste marks. As for poor soil, you can often check to see if a plant is being over-watered by seeing if the ground appears too wet. Many soils that have poor drainage may experience bad root growth, root rot, and overall poor health.

Other causes of plant sickness

Before you diagnose your plant with nutritional deficiencies, there are a few possibilities you need to eliminate after an insect, poor water drainage and over- or under-watering. Check for temperature. If your plant is next to a heating or cooling vent, this could be a problem. Extreme heat or cold will undoubtedly slow plant growth or otherwise affects the health of your plant. Is your plant getting too much sun-too little? Another possibility you should check is how much fertilizer the plant is receiving. Many gardeners today tend to over-fertilize in hopes of a stunning and robust garden. However, adding too much fertilizer to your plants can result in salt injury. A plant that has received too much fertilizer may look wilted and scorched, even when the soil is moist.

Countering nutritional plant deficiencies

Like us, plants need certain nutrients to stay healthy. Most plants require macronutrients (nutrients that are in relatively large doses) and micro-nutrients (small dose essential nutrients). Examples of plant macronutrients include potassium, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, and sulfur. Micronutrients may include iron, boron, manganese, zinc, copper and molybdenum. A plant takes all of its nutrients through the root. Water plays a significant role in transferring these nutrients to the plant's roots. For nutrients to get to your plant, make sure they are receiving adequate water.

Symptoms of Plant Nutritional Deficiencies

If a plant's leaves appear distorted or the tips look dead, this could be a sign of calcium deficiency. Dead, older leaves, at the bottom of the plant, as well as yellowing, spindly leaves characterize a nitrogen deficiency. Slow growth and pale yellow leaves, particularly in the outer leaves, may signify a magnesium deficiency. Small leaves with a reddish or purplish tint may indicate a phosphorus deficiency. Older leaves that appear scorched around the edges may indicate a potassium deficiency. If new growth turns yellow while old growth remains green, this may be a sign of a sulfur deficiency. Sulfur deficiencies are more prevalent in drier climates and can result in stunted growth.

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