Plant Nutrients

The Importance of Fertilizers

Plant Nutrients-christmas-cactus
Christmas cactus flowers

Plant nutrients are essential in order for plants to survive and grow healthy. Therefore it is important that we provide our plants with suitable nutrients so they can perform at their best. A lack of these vitamins will cause your garden plants not only to become stressed but your plants will also become susceptible to insects and disease.

These vitamins/nutrients are found in the soil but because they are in such small amounts, human effort is needed to help make up or supply plants with the right amount of nutrients.

Number of nutrients required by plants

There are sixteen chemical elements that are available for plant growth and development. These elements are divided into two groups. These two groups are non-mineral and mineral.

Non-Mineral Nutrients

Non-Mineral Nutrients consist of:

1. Oxygen (O)

2. Carbon (C)

3. Hydrogen(H)

These nutrients are found in the air and water. Plants use these elements along with the sun’s energy to convert them to starch and sugars.

Please note that “fertilizer is not a plant food”. Fertilizers are plant nutrients. For a clearer understanding, it can be compared to humans taking vitamins and supplements. Vitamins are not considered to be food but nutrients for our bodies and so it is the same with plants.

Mineral Nutrients

As discussed earlier in this chapter, garden soil contains plant nutrients that are known as minerals but they are in such small amounts and are not enough to supply and support plant growth. These mineral nutrients are further divided into two groups which are:

Primary nutrients

Macro-nutrients are broken down into two main groups, primary and secondary nutrients. The primary nutrients are nitrogen(N), phosphorus(P) and potassium(K). These three primary nutrients are the first three numbers on the fertilizer bag. These numbers tell us the amount of these primary nutrients that the fertilizer contains.

Secondary nutrients

The second nutrients are Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (g), and Sulfur (s). Because these nutrients are not used up quickly in the soil there is often enough present in the soil to support plant growth.


Micronutrients are also required by plants, but plants only need these elements in small amounts. Micro-nutrients consist of chloride ( Cl), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), boron (B), zinc (Zn), molybdenum (Mo).


Holly garden plant-plant-nutrients
Holly Garden Plant

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is needed by plants to help plants green-up. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that is responsible for photosynthesis. Nitrogen also helps plants with their growth and also increases fruit and seed production.

Phosphorus (P)

Phosphorus encourages flower bloom and root stimulation, helping in the formation of all oils, starches, and so on. It also helps plants to stand up to stress, improves the quality of grains, vegetables, and fruits needed for seed formation, helps mature roots, and contributes to cell division.

Potassium (K)

Is needed for fruit formation, it increases disease resistance, breaks down and transports starches, helps in the building of protein, and increases the quality of seeds.

Calcium (C)

Is important for plant cell structure, for stimulating microbial activity, for aiding in photosynthesis, and strengthening plant cell walls.

Magnesium (Mg)

Is important because it aids in photosynthesis, helps plants to mature, helps to activate plant enzymes, and increases the use of iron in plants.

Sulfur (S)

Improves root growth and seed production, helps develop enzymes and vitamins, aids in chlorophyll formation and helps to promote protein.

Boron (B)

Aids in seeds and fruit development, aids in the transportation of sugar, aids in seed and cell wall formation and helps to regulate other plant nutrients.

Chloride (Ci)

Aids in maturity and helps plant metabolism.

Copper (Cu)

Aids in root metabolism helps with photosynthesis, helps plants in their growth, and helps chlorophyll production.

Iron (Fe)

Aids in the formation of chlorophyll and helps with plant cell division.

Manganese (Mn)

Aids chlorophyll in plants and helps to break down carbohydrates.

Molybdenum (Mo)

Helps to form enzymes in plants and converting inorganic to organic for plant use.

Zinc (Zn)

Aids in seed formation helps plant growth hormones and aids in the transformation of carbohydrates.

More on plants

Plants are living organisms and they must be taken care of if are to look and perform at their best. So let us do our part to ensure they grow happy and healthy.

The final word

When using fertilizers always remember to follow directions because the label is the law. So many times persons have ignored directions and applied fertilizers according to how they thought it should be done and have done more harm than good. So let us follow directions keeping our plants in tip-top shape.


Signup Today for Our Newsletter to Receive Up to Date Information on Herbs and Other Gardening News in the Industry.


About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

6 thoughts on “Plant Nutrients”

  1. I had no idea plants needed so many nutrients to thrive. Your article is a good reminder that proper application of fertilizer can make all the difference in the health of your garden. Its so much easier to keep the plants healthy in the first place, than to try to help them recover from stress and insect damage.

  2. A very interesting and informative article about the nutrients needed for healthy plants (which are similar to nutrients needs for healthy humans)!
    Most people do not know which nutrients do what and this enlightening post gives all these facts succinctly and clearly. This allows us to make an educated guess as to which fertilizer is best for which plants. Well researched post, thanks. Ches

    • Good evening Ches thanks for the follow i am glad that i could help have a good day, and be sure to tell others about this website. Thanks and have a good day.

  3. I love to garden and I it would be so lovely to walk out into a yard like those pictures! There’s a wealth of information on your site! Love it! This answers a lot of my questions regarding what nutrients to use, what they do, and how keep my plants healthy and happy.


Leave a Comment