A Glossary: Plant Nutrition

This glossary will name and define the nutrition requirements for healthy plants.
The glossary covers the use of dolomite lime, Garden Waste Compost, Manure, Kelp, Gypsum, Muriate of Potash, Bone Meal, Cottonseed Meal, Phosphates, Dried Blood, and Urea.
This glossary is useful in correcting plant growth deficiencies in your garden, yard, farm, nursury, forest, and Arboretum.
The terms are in English. The definitions are in English.

Understanding Plant Nutrition

Nineteen elements are considered essential for plant growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are primarily supplied by air and water.
Plant roots absorb the remaining 16 elements from the surrounding soil. These elements are divided into three groups based on their relative abundance in plants: Primary Nutrients (or Major Nutrients), Secondary Nutrients (or Minor Nutrients), and Trace Nutrients (or Micronutrients). Although the Major Nutrients are needed in the greatest quantities, a deficiency of any one nutrient can prevent plant growth, or reduce it to unsatisfactory levels. Even though some soils may already contain these nutrients, they may not be in a form available for plant growth. The best way to ensure that all of the nutrients are available in the soil is through regular applications of plant foods.


This table provides information on each nutrient, its deficiency symptoms, and suggested plant nutrients to correct the deficiency.

Primary Nutrients Function Primary Deficiency Symptoms Primary Recommeded Solutions
Nitrogen Vigorous growth & dark green color Light green leaves, stunted growth Dried Blood, Garden Waste Compost, Manure, Cottonseed Meal, Urea
Phosporus Root development & flowering Smaller yields of seeds, fruit; purplish leaves, stems & branches Rock Phosphate, Bone Meal, Single Super Phosphate, Triple Super Phosphate
Potassium Overall hardiness & disease resistance Reduced yields; Spotted or curled leaves; Weak root system Muriate of Potash, Greensand
Secondary Nutrients Function Primary Deficiency Symptoms Primary Recommeded Solutions
Calcium Plant vigor; Aids in intake of nutrients Deformed terminal leaves; Poor root growth Dolomite Lime(Garden Lime), Garden Gypsum
Magnesium Essential part of chlorophyll Yellowing of older leaves Dolomite Lime(Garden Lime)
Sulfur Dark green color; Seed production Yellow leaves; Stunted, spindly plants Garden Sulfur, Gypsum
Trace Nutrients Function Primary Deficiency Symptoms Primary Recommeded Solutions
Boron Increases flowering & fruit development Terminal buds die; Less flowers & fruit develop Garden Waste Compost, Bone Meal
Chlorine Helps control water loss & moisture stress Plants wilt; yellow leaves Garden Waste Compost, Greensand
Cobalt Improves growth & transpiration Reduced growth and yellowing of foliage Greensand, Kelp, Cottonseed Meal
Copper Helps produce chlorophyll Yellow, wilted leaves; Lack of flowering Garden Waste Compost, Greensand
Iron Promotes dark green leaves Yellow leaves Greensand, Garden Waste Compost, Cottonseed Meal
Manganese Helps produce chlorophyll Intervenous chlorosis in younger leaves Garden Waste Compost, Greensand
Molybdenum Essential in some enzyme systems Pale green, rolled or cupped leaves Greensand, Dolomite Lime (makes it more available)
Nickel Enzyme Producton Yellow Leaves Greensand
Sodium Aids water regulation & photosynthesis Plants wilting Kelp, Garden Waste Compost, Bone Meal, Greensand
Zinc Enzyme & growth hormone production Yellow leaves, Rosetted (clustered) leaves Garden Waste Compost, Greensand, Cottonseed

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This page was last reviewed and updated July 08, 2015.