Have you failed at your attempt to keep indoor or outdoor plants? The plants keep dying, and you can’t seem to figure out why. Chances are, you are not providing them with all they need to grow and survive.
Plants are living things, and they require specific conditions to grow and flourish. Below is a look at what plants need to survive:
Water is to plants what blood is to animals. 90% of plants are made up of water. It plays a vital role in transporting nutrients throughout the various parts of the plant. Plants absorb water through the roots and get rid of the excess through the leaves.
The specific amount of water a plant need varies from one plant to another. It also depends on factors such as the stage of plant growth and climate. The faster the growth rate, the more water the plant requires.
For instance, newly planted plants require more water as they are working hard to develop and establish a root system in the soil. Also, flowering plants require more water than those nearing harvesting or in the dormant stage.
If the climate is hot and dry, a plant tends to lose more water in the process of respiration. As a result, it requires more water than if the climate is cool and humid. If a plant is not getting enough water, the leaves begin to wilt, or the growth rate significantly slows down.
Note that excess water can be harmful to plants. It clogs up the roots and soil, which inhibits proper aeration and nutrient absorption. To determine if a plant requires watering, dip one inch of your index finger into the soil. If the soil is dry, you need to water the plant.
Plants get their energy from light. Different plants require different amounts of light ranging from low, moderate, high, to very high. For instance, tropical plants require high to very high amounts of light to thrive. On the other hand, house plants such as ferns require low-to-moderate amounts of light.
If a plant is not getting enough light, it becomes weak and does not produce flowers. If your garden does not receive enough sunlight, supplement with artificial light.
Seeds and plants, in general, require soil warmth to germinate and grow. Since they are living things, plants have cells. When exposed to extremely cold temperatures, the cells either die, or the plant’s metabolism slows down.
This explains why plants go dormant in the winter season. However, plants in a greenhouse continue to grow even when it’s freezing outside. This is because the temperatures in the greenhouse are controlled to the recommended levels specific to a given plant.
Similarly, extremely high temperatures are damaging to many plants. They cause excess water loss through the leaves, which results in the plant drying out and dying.
Plants require air both above the ground and below the ground. Below the ground, the roots require oxygen. Well-drained soils enable optimal root aeration. This keeps the roots growing and helps them absorb nutrients.
Above the ground, the leaves require carbon dioxide to facilitate the process of photosynthesis. In addition, green plants have cells known as chloroplasts that contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll facilitates the transformation of light energy into chemical energy. Therefore, during photosynthesis, plants utilize light, carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients to produce an organic compound, water, and oxygen.
The process of photosynthesis is why plants are known as air purifiers. They take in the carbon dioxide from the environment and release oxygen.
Pollution and poor ventilation prevent proper plant growth. They decrease the quality of air that the plant is getting. Pollutants such as tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and radon degrade the health of your plant.
Therefore, keeping your garden well ventilated and protecting plants from exposure to pollutants promotes optimal growth. Stagnant air can also be harmful to plants, in which case a fan will help to keep the air moving.
Each essential nutrient is like food to plants. Plants require three main minerals: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, and three main micronutrients: calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
These nutrients play the following roles:
- Nitrogen – facilitates the production of chlorophyll. It is responsible for the green color of leaves. Nitrogen-deficient plants have pale leaves.
- Potassium – strengthens the root system and helps the plant fight off diseases and repel insects.
- Phosphorus – facilitates the process of flowering and helps the plant cope with environmental stressors such as extremely cold weather.
- Magnesium – supports nitrogen in the production of chlorophyll.
- Calcium – binds the cells in a plant.
- Sulfur – serves as an immune booster and fights diseases.
Soil naturally contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, but as a plant continues to grow it depletes these minerals. The use of fertilizers is necessary to replace the depleted vital minerals. Calcium and magnesium are contained in water for easy absorption through the plant’s root system. Sulfur is mainly available through fertilizers.
Do Plants Require Soil to Grow?
Soil is not a key requirement for plants to grow. Seeds can germinate in water or other media such as cotton. Hydroponics is gaining popularity as a system of growing plants. It involves growing plants in water. It is a highly controlled system that is mostly used by commercial growers.
Soil (or potting mix) is the most accessible planting medium for the common gardener. It provides a home for the plant’s root system to establish and anchor. It also holds the nutrients and water that the plant needs. Moreover, soil traps air particles to keep the roots aerated.
Water retention and mineral accessibility vary from one type of soil to another. The three most common types of soil are loam, sand, and clay. Different plants do well in different types of soil.
For example, arrowroots do well in clay soil, maize and beans do well in loam soil, while radishes, carrots, and potatoes do well in sandy soil. Most potting mixes for home gardening contain the three types of soils in different ratios depending on the type of plants you want to grow.
Aside from water, air, warmth, nutrients, and light, plants also require space and time to grow. Research the most ideal conditions for your plant growth and health and do your best to provide what they need to thrive and flourish.