How to Grow a Successful Plant


Plants grow successfully from the Arctic to the equator, on Himalayan heights and bone dry deserts. Plants can grow in complete darkness at the bottom of the ocean, in caves or in 24-hour polar daylight. While the conditions they thrive in vary widely, all plants share basic needs, each in specific amounts. The trick to raising plants successfully is to grow them in their native habitat, or to reproduce those conditions. Gardeners who give plants enough light, water, nutrients and oxygen will be successful.

Meeting Plant Needs

Step 1

Dig up your flower beds annually and add organic material to the soil to ensure it is well drained and aerated. Plants need oxygen for photosynthesis and hydrogen and carbon to grow, which they get from air and water. Soggy or compacted soil cuts off air circulation, and plants will not thrive.

Step 2

Add minerals to your soil appropriate to the needs of your plants. Most fertilizers contain the three macronutrients nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus that are essential to plant growth, but don't use any for plants that prefer poor soil. For plants needing rich soil, more complete mixes include the secondary nutrients sulfur, calcium and magnesium plus trace elements like boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

Step 3

Place your plant where it will get the light it requires. Plants can be happy in full sun or deep shade and planting them elsewhere leads to failure to thrive. Light is essential for photosynthesis. It supplies the energy required to drive the chemical reactions. Spindly plants with pale elongated stems reaching toward the sky are a sign they need more light to stimulate the chemical reactions to spur full growth. Move plants that are dry and burned to a shadier spot.

Step 4

Water only as much as your plant needs. Well-watered plants thrive and produce healthy, full foliage. Yellow, soggy leaves are a sign of over watering, known as "killing with kindness." Dry, flaky leaves, stems and flowers indicate too little water. Each plant has ideal amounts, including whether their leaves are splashed while watering or roots are left in soggy soil. Ignoring these needs will rot the roots or invite fungal or bacterial invasions of your plant.

Step 5

Inspect all plants for signs of insects or disease. While plants grown in their native habitat will be naturally immune to local pests, some insects and diseases are foreign and feast on native plants that lack a natural defense against them. Check for spots, holes, stunted growth, discoloration or deformed areas and treat early to minimize the damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Plant
  • Spade
  • Organic material
  • Fertilizer
  • Water


  • California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom: What Do Plants Need to Grow
  • Fish Information Service: Plant Survival
Keywords: successful gardening, growing healthy plants, basic plant needs

About this Author

TS Owen spent her career in journalism, winning the national Koop science writer award and penning articles in "Newsweek" and the "San Francisco Chronicle." She also served as an editor for a variety of publications in the San Francisco Bay Area and Banff, Alberta. Owen has a master's degree in English education.