What Makes Plants Grow: Plants Growing Needs

plant
Image by Corey Leopold

By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)

Plants are everywhere around us, but how do plants grow and what makes plants grow? There are many things plants need to grow such as water, nutrients, air, water, light, temperature, space, and time.

Water & Nutrients

Like humans and animals, plants need both water and nutrients (food) to survive. Most all plants use water to carry moisture and nutrients back and forth between the roots and leaves. Water, as well as nutrients, is normally taken up through the roots from the soil. This is why it’s important to water plants when the soil becomes dry.

Fertilizer also provides plants with nutrients and is usually given to plants when watering. The most important nutrients for plants growing needs are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Nitrogen is necessary for making green leaves, phosphorus is needed for making big flowers and strong roots, and potassium helps the plants fight off disease.

Too little or too much of water or nutrients can also be harmful.

Air & Soil

What helps plants grow besides water and nutrients? Fresh, clean air and healthy soil. Dirty air caused by smoke, gases, and other pollutants can be harmful to plants, limiting their ability to take in carbon dioxide from the air for making food (photosynthesis). It can also block out sunlight, which is also necessary for healthy plant growth.

Healthy soil is extremely vital to plants. In addition to essential nutrients found in soil (from organic matter and micro-organisms), soil provides an anchor for plant roots and helps support the plants.

Light & Temperature

Plants also need sunlight to grow. Light is used as energy for making food, a process called photosynthesis. Too little light can make plants weak and leggy looking. They will also have fewer flowers and fruits.

Temperature is important too. Most plants prefer cooler nighttime temps and warmer daytime temperatures. Too hot and they may burn, too cold and they will freeze.

Space & Time

Space is yet another factor to consider when growing plants. Both the roots and foliage (leaves) need room to grow. Without enough room, plants can become stunted or too small. Overcrowded plants are also more likely to suffer from diseases since airflow may be limited.

Finally, plants require time. They do not grow overnight. It takes time and patience to grow plants, some more so than others. Most plants require a particular number of days, months, or even years to produce flowers and fruit.

This article was last updated on

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