Lack of nutrients in plants


Leaves lacking in iron.

Plants, to look healthy, need to absorb a number of nutrients. When some are not available some problems may arise. To avoid it, I'm going to tell you how can you identify the lack of nutrients in plants.

So you can have great pots and a garden 😉.

What nutrients do they need?


All living beings need above all 13, which are divided into macronutrients and in micronutrients. Of course, each plant and each animal absorbs them to a greater or lesser extent depending on their needs, but they are all just as important.

The macronutrients are:

  • Nitrogen (N): It helps to synthesize chlorophyll, which is why it plays a very important role in photosynthesis.
  • Phosphorus (P): It is important for growth, favoring the development of the roots.
  • Potassium (K): promotes the development and growth of flowers and fruits, regulates photosynthesis and gives resistance to plants.
  • Calcium (Ca): promotes cell growth, and protects the plant against diseases.
  • Magnesium (Mg): it is essential for it to photosynthesize.
  • Sulfur (S): it is important for the formation of chlorophyll.

And the micronutrients are:

  • Iron (Fe): intervenes in the growth of plants.
  • Zinc (Zn): converts starches into sugars (plant food), and helps them resist low temperatures.
  • Chlorine (Cl): it has an activity linked to photosynthesis.
  • Manganese (Mn): plays an essential role in respiration, photosynthesis and nitrogen assimilation.
  • Copper (Cu): It is necessary in the process of photosynthesis, in plant respiration, and it also helps metabolize carbohydrates and proteins.
  • Molybdenum (Mo): converts nitrate to nitrite (which is a toxic form of nitrogen), then to ammonia, then uses it to synthesize amino acids.
  • Boron (B): It is essential for cell division and, together with calcium, is involved in the synthesis of cell walls.

But not in all soils are all the nutrients available. Let's see what are the nutrient deficiencies of each type.

What nutrients is my garden soil lacking?


Depending on the pH you have, one or the other will be missing, which are:

  • Alkaline soil (pH greater than 7): iron, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and boron.
  • Neutral soil (pH between 6.5 and 7): they have all the necessary nutrients, so there are usually no problems.
  • Acidic soil (pH less than 6.5): magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, boron, and molybdenum. Also, if it is very acidic, there may be excess zinc, iron and manganese.

What are the symptoms of a lack of nutrients in plants?

Monstera plant

It will depend on the nutrient in question, so we are going to see separately what happens to them if they lack one:

  • Soccer: new leaves grow deformed.
  • Iron: the new leaves are yellow, with very green veins.
  • Phosphorus: the leaves turn a very dark green color. If the problem persists, they will turn red until they drop.
  • Magnesium: the lower leaves turn yellow from the edge inwards.
  • Manganese: yellow spots near the veins of the leaves.
  • Nitrogen: the leaves are losing their green color. The upper ones are light green, the lower ones yellow and the old ones turn brown until they fall.
  • Potassium: the tips of the leaves turn yellow, and end up drying.

What to do?

Chemical fertilizer for plants

If your plant is lacking in nutrients and you have already identified which ones, it is time to help it recover as soon as possible. To do this, you must:

  • Sulfur: fertilize with vermicompost.
  • Soccer: Add chopped eggshells.
  • Phosphorus: fertilize with guano.
  • Iron: add to the earth sulfate of iron, a small spoonful (of coffee). You can also use a specific fertilizer for acidophilic plants.
  • Magnesium: you can add a small teaspoon (from coffee) of hydrated magnesium sulfate to 5 liters of water.
  • Nitrogen: you can fertilize with an extract of seaweed or with worm humus.
  • Potassium: fertilize with fertilizers rich in potassium, such as those for cacti.


Check the pH of the water

PH meter

To avoid that your plants have a lack of nutrients, it is important that you grow them in a substrate or in a soil whose pH is adequate for the species in question. As we have seen, neutral soil is the most recommended for most of them, since practically all the nutrients are available; However, it is not enough to choose a good soil, but rather it is very important to water with the correct water.

So, how do you know the pH of your irrigation water? With a PH meter that you will find for sale in nurseries and garden stores. With this device you will quickly know what pH level it has, and you will be able to act accordingly. For example:

  • If the water is too alkaline, dilute the liquid of half a lemon in 1l / water.
  • If the water is too acidic, dilute a little baking soda in 1l of water. Go measuring so that it does not rise too much.

Do not remove the yellow leaves

Even if they look bad and they won't turn green, It is better that you leave them since they will end up falling by themselves. In addition, when removing them, fungi could enter through that wound that would further damage the plant.

Pay regularly

The nutrients from the substrate are being absorbed by the roots, but there comes a time when they cannot do it anymore because they run out of them. So that this does not happen, you must fertilize throughout the growing season (spring and summer), with specific fertilizers for her.

And with this we are done. With these tips, you are sure to have some beautiful plants.

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  1.   Edwin said

    Excellent article on the needs and management of nutrients, it really is what every gardener should know and master to achieve well-kept and flowering plants. Now start to identify the symptoms, I think it is the most complicated but just that a new challenge that you have raised. Thanks for that

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Thanks to you, Edwin 🙂