Essential nutrients for plant growth.

Nutrient

Nitrogen (N)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Responsible for rapid foliage growth and green color
  • Easily leaches from soil
  • Mobile in plant, moving to new growth

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Reduced growth
  • Light-green to yellow foliage (chlorosis)
  • Reds and purples may intensify with some plants
  • Reduced lateral breaks
  • Symptoms appear first on older growth

Excess Symptoms

  • Succulent growth; leaves are dark green, thick, and brittle
  • Poor fruit set
  • Excess ammonia can induce calcium deficiency

Comments

  • High N under low light can cause leaf curl
  • Uptake inhibited by high P levels

Nutrient

Phosphorus (P)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Promotes root formation and growth
  • Affects quality of seed, fruit, and flower production
  • Increased disease resistance
  • Does not leach from soil readily
  • Mobile in plant, moving to new growth.

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Reduced growth
  • Leaves dark-green; purple or red color in older leaves, especially on the underside of the leaf along the veins
  • Leaf shape may be distorted
  • Thin stems
  • Limited root growth

Excess Symptoms

  • Shows up as micro nutrient deficiency of Zn, Fe, or Co

Comments

  • Rapidly fixed on soil particles
  • When applied under acid conditions, fixed with Fe, Mn, and Al
  • High P interferes with micronutrient and N absorption
  • Used in relatively small amounts when compared to N and K.
  • Availability is lowest in cold soils

Nutrient

Potassium (K)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Helps plants overcome drought stress
  • Improves winter hardiness
  • Increases disease resistance
  • Improves the rigidity of stalks
  • Leaches from soil
  • Mobile in plant

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Reduced growth
  • Shortened internodes
  • Margins of older leaves become chlorotic and burned
  • Necrotic (dead) spots on older leaves
  • Reduction of lateral breaks and tendency to wilt readily
  • Poorly developed root systems
  • Weak stalks

Excess Symptoms

  • Causes N deficiency and may affect the uptake of other nutrients

Comments

  • High N/low K favors vegetative growth
  • Low N/high K promotes reproductive growth (flower, fruit)
  • Calcium excess impedes uptake of K

Nutrient

Magnesium (Mg)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Leaches from sandy soil
  • Mobile in plant

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Reduction in growth
  • Yellowish, bronze, or reddish color of older leaves, while veins remain green.
  • Leaf margins may curl downward or upward with a puckering effect

Excess Symptoms

  • Interferes with Ca uptake
  • Small necrotic spots in older leaves
  • Smaller veins in older leaves may turn brown
  • In advanced stage, young leaves may be spotted

Comments

  • Mg is commonly deficient in foliage plants because it is leached and not replaced
  • Epsom salts at a rate of 1 teaspoon per gallon may be used two times a year
  • Mg can be absorbed by leaves if sprayed in a weak solution
  • Dolomitic limestone can be applied in outdoor situations to rectify a deficiency

Nutrient

Calcium (Ca)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Moderately leachable
  • Limited mobility in plant
  • Essential for growth of shoot and root tips

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Inhibition of bud growth
  • Roots can turn black and rot
  • Young leaves are scalloped and abnormally green
  • Leaf tips may stick together
  • Cupping of maturing leaves
  • Blossom end rot of many fruits
  • Pits on root vegetables; stem structure is weak.
  • Premature shedding of fruit and buds

Excess Symptoms

  • Interferes with Mg absorption
  • High Ca usually causes high pH.

Comments

  • Ca is rarely deficient if the correct pH is maintained

Nutrient

Sulfur (S)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Leachable
  • Not mobile
  • Contributes to odor and taste of some vegetables

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Rarely deficient
  • General yellowing of the young leaves, then the entire plant
  • Veins lighter in color than adjoining interveinal area
  • Roots and stems are small, hard, and woody

Excess Symptoms

  • Sulfur excess is usually in the form of air pollution

Comments

  • Sulfur excess is difficult to control, but rarely a problem

Nutrient

Iron (Fe)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Accumulates in the oldest leaves and is relatively immobile
  • Necessary for the maintenance of chlorophyll

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Interveinal chlorosis primarily on young tissue, which may become white
  • Fe deficiency may occur even if Fe is in the soil when: soil is high in Ca; soil is poorly drained; soil is oxygen deficient; nematodes attack roots; or soil is high in Mn, pH, or P
  • Fe should be added in the chelate form; the type of chelate needed depends upon the soil pH
  • Foliar fertilization will temporarily correct the deficiency
  • May be deficient in centipede grass where pH and P are high

Excess Symptoms

  • Rare except on flooded soils

Nutrient

Boron (B)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Important in enabling photosynthetic transfer
  • Very immobile in plants

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Failure to set seed
  • Internal breakdown of fruit or vegetable
  • Death of apical buds, giving rise to witches’ broom
  • Failure of root tip to elongate normally
  • Young leaves become thick, leathery, and chlorotic
  • Rust-colored cracks and corking on young stems, petioles, and flower stalks
  • (such as heart rot of beets, stern crack of celery)
  • Breakdown occurs at the base of the youngest shoots

Excess Symptoms

  • Tips and edges of leaves exhibit necrotic spots coalescing into a marginal scorch (similar to high-soluble salts)
  • Oldest leaves are affected first
  • Can occur in low pH soils
  • Plants are easily damaged by excess application
  • Looks like Mg deficiency, green veins on a yellow leaf.

Nutrient

Zinc (Zn)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed for enzyme activity

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Young leaves are very small, sometimes missing leaf blades
  • Short internodes
  • Distorted or puckered leaf margins
  • Interveinal chlorosis

Excess Symptoms

  • Severe stunting, reddening
  • Poor germination
  • Older leaves wilt
  • Entire leaf is affected by chlorosis; edges and main vein often retain more color
  • Can be caused by galvanized metal.

Nutrient

Copper (Cu)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed for enzyme activity

Deficiency Symptoms

  • New growth small, misshapen, wilted
  • In some species, young leaves may show interveinal chlorosis while tips of older leaves remain green

Excess Symptoms

  • Can occur at low pH
  • Shows up as Fe deficiency

Nutrient

Manganese (Mn)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed for enzyme activity

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Interveinal chlorosis with smallest leaves remaining green, producing a checkered effect
  • Grey or tan spots usually develop in chlorotic areas
  • Dead spots may drop out of the leaf
  • Poor bloom size and color
  • Induced by excessively high pH

Excess Symptoms

  • Reduction in growth, brown spotting on leaves
  • Shows up as Fe deficiency
  • Found under strongly acidic conditions

Nutrient

Molybdenum (Mo)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed for enzyme activity

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Interveinal chlorosis on older or midstem leaves
  • Twisted leaves whiptail
  • Marginal scorching and rolling or cupping of leaves
  • Nitrogen deficiency symptoms may develop

Excess Symptoms

  • Intense yellow or purple color in leaves
  • Rarely observed

Nutrient

Chlorine (Cl)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed for enzyme activity

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Wilted leaves which become bronze, then chlorotic, then die
  • Club roots

Excess Symptoms

  • Salt injury
  • Leaf burn
  • May increase succulence

Nutrient

Cobalt (Co)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed by plants recently established
  • Essential for nitrogen fixation

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Little is known about its deficiency symptoms

Excess Symptoms

  • Little is known about its toxicity symptoms

Nutrient

Nickel (Ni)

Why Nutrient is Needed

  • Needed by plants recently established

Deficiency Symptoms

  • Little is known about its deficiency symptoms

Excess Symptoms

  • Little is known about its toxicity symptoms

Relative amounts (out of 100) of the essential nutrients required by most plants.

Primary Nutrients

Carbon (C)45
Oxygen (O)45
Hydrogen (H)6
Nitrogen (N)1.5
Potassium (K)1
Phosphorus (P)0.2

Secondary Nutrients

Calcium (Ca)0.5
Magnesium (Mg)0.2
Sulfur (S)0.1

Micro Nutrients

Iron (Fe)0.01
Chlorine (Cl)0.01
Manganese (Mn)0.005
Boron (B)0.002
Zinc (Zn)0.002
Copper (Cu)0.0006
Molybdenum (Mo)0.00001
Amounts unknown for Nickel (Ni) and Cobalt (Co)

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