Thirteen mineral nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth. Soil, water and air must provide these for plants to maintain health and grow well. The plant's root system takes in minerals from the soil. Acute deficiency occurs when a single nutrient is suddenly no longer available. Chronic deficiency occurs when the necessary supply of nutrients is constantly limited. Plants develop signs of deficiency, such as tip burn, yellow leaves or wilt. Essential minerals are added to the soil through nutritional additives such as fertilizer and compost.
Plants remove considerable amount of minerals and other nutrients from the soil in their normal growth cycle. Plants under nutritional stress show visual signs of deficiency. The soil is eventually depleted and the plant begins to show signs of stress. Deficient plants need living microorganisms added to their soil. The soil is then able to provide the missing nutrients. Plants recover from deficiencies and begin to thrive when consistent nutrients are available from the soil. Symptoms of deficiency such as stunted growth and yellow leaves are then corrected because they receive the necessary nutrients.
The most common signs of nutritional deficiency in plants are a tendency toward darker leaves and stunted or slow growth. There are many other signs and symptoms of nutritional deficiencies in plants,such as yellowing leaves, distorted leaves and tip burn. Older leaves may turn dark green or reddish-purple when mineral deficient. Plants in stress also wilt even when given sufficient water.
Plants that show signs of stress from nutritional deficiency benefit from supplemental nutritional additives. Fertilizer is a supplemental nutritional additive. Compost is another name for fertilizer. There are two types of fertilizer, organic and inorganic.
Chemical fertilizers deliver additives such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to plants to boost growth quickly. Nitrogen encourages growth of stems and green leaves; phosphorus boosts flower development; and potassium strengthens stems and leaves. Inorganic fertilizers are designed with percentages in combination of these three elements. Inorganic fertilizer does not supply lasting nutrition to soil. Compost is organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is made from the decayed plant material. It contains living microorganisms that provide slow-released nutrition to plants.
Chemical fertilizer gives an immediate boost to plant nutrition, but the effects are short-lived. Unwanted heavy metals in chemical fertilizer such as lead, arsenic and cadmium may build up over time in soil. Repeated applications of chemicals are necessary because they are not living organisms. Organic fertilizers provide long-lasting nutritional benefits because nutrients are slow-released into the soil. There are organic compost fertilizers designed to correct plant deficiencies of houseplants, flowers and vegetables.