Thirteen major vitamins are essential to the human body for continued health and proper functions. Unlike humans, plants are able to create and use many of these vitamins on their own, often as a byproduct of other physiological processes. Gardeners mistakenly add manufactured vitamins to their plants, believing it will increase their plant's overall growth, when in most cases it does the exact opposite.
Vitamin are naturally occurring compounds that affect most organisms' biological processes. These vitamins are known to help the human body in a variety of ways. Gardeners have spent years theorizing that the same vitamins should help their plants. They add specially purchased fertilizers that are vitamin enhanced to bring about the increased vitality and color they desire in their plants.
Plants require three macronutrients--nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium--and a series of micronutrients for continued growth and development. These nutrients are found in fertilizers, both organic and inorganic. Researchers have found that gardeners who see an increase in vitality by adding vitamin-enhanced fertilizers are seeing the effects of these common nutrients, not the benefits of adding vitamins to their crops.
Vitamin C Versus Other Vitamins
Vitamin C is essential to the growth of plants. As an antioxidant, the vitamin helps plants battle stresses from UV rays. Also, Vitamin C helps plants fight off the negative side effects of sunlight while converting it into food, during photosynthesis. Farmers who add Vitamin C to their crops will find that they have greater crop yield and more resistant plants.
As of 2010, there is little evidence to support any positive effects on plant growth by adding any compound other than Vitamin C to crops. According to Professor Nicholas Smirnoff of the University of Exeter, consumers should avoid purchasing fertilizer products that promise increased growth due to the addition of vitamins within the product.
Adding supplements to plants can possibly cause an overdose in fertilization. Over-fertilizing plants often leads to symptoms similar to deficiencies, such as loss of color and an inability to continue basic biological processes such as photosynthesis. Gardeners should wait until further studies determine the extent of damage excessive vitamins can have on plants.
The University of California performed a study in 2002 to determine the effects that adding Vitamin B1 to plants can have. Using three groups of snapdragons (one without fertilizer as a control, another with non-vitamin enhanced fertilizer, and the last with a combination of fertilizer and Vitamin B1), they determined that although the groups treated with fertilizer outperformed the control group, there was no difference between the vitamin-enhanced fertilizer and the standard. Further studies in the field have led to the same results.
In 2007, Japanese researchers found that plants that did not produce Vitamin C on their own, and which went without additional doses of the vitamin, were unable to protect themselves from stress by environmental changes such as drought or overexposure.