Proper nutrition of indoor plants
Proper nutrition for indoor plants is one of the vital factors in their normal development. Top dressing is often mistakenly perceived as merely a means of stimulating flowering or supporting active growth, but their importance is far more important. Plants get nutrients from the soil and air. But in a limited amount of substrate, they already a month or two after transplantation depend on whether they are feeding correctly and what fertilizers are used. For pets, macro- and microelements are equally important.
What nutrients do indoor plants need?
The need for plants in nutrients differs depending on age, structure and individual characteristics, stage of development, health status and dozens of other factors. Different plants need different macro- and microelements, in different proportions and quantities.. It is the balance between the main components of fertilizers that determines how much they correspond or not to the needs of specific plants.
Choosing the “right” fertilizers is not as simple a task as it might seem at first glance. For each manufacturer, they differ in composition even for the same plants. And sometimes it’s very difficult to understand which mixtures it is worth choosing. Read the colorful description and purpose of the drugs is just the first step. To be sure that each plant receives the nutrients that it needs, it is worth checking the composition, usually expressed by the formula directly on the package. When it comes to specific designations of macro and micronutrients in fertilizers, everything seems too complicated, especially if chemistry has never been the subject of your passion or you have no experience. But in practice, everything is much simpler.
The “set” of essential nutrients needed by plants is not that large, and it’s very easy to navigate. From the atmosphere, plants receive oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. All other nutrients that plants need for normal development and life are conventionally divided into two groups:
- Macronutrients - “building materials” for organs and tissues of plants, biogenic chemical elements that are needed in large quantities. All macronutrients are part of amino acids - “bricks” of which living organisms on our planet are composed
- Trace elementsthat got their name not only for their much smaller number, but also for their role in the metabolism - a kind of "vitamins" for plants.
But in practice it’s worth talking not about two, but about three types of nutrients. Indeed, from the group of 8 macroelements, three main ones are clearly distinguished, which are the main nutrients, determine the type and composition of fertilizers, and are vital for any plant. Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus - the main elements, which, in essence, belong to macroelements, but nevertheless surpass other compounds in their significance.
Most often, all the elements and their role are considered separately, although they are presented in a complex complex in top dressing, they are never found in pure form and are represented by nutrients available for compounds to be assimilated by plants. But all elements without exception, from any category, are irreplaceable and especially not interchangeable. Even if they act similarly and participate in the same processes, they are still not equivalent. And plants lack their deficiency or excess of certain macro- and microelements with their excellent signs.
NPK - the basis of plant nutrition
The ratio of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus determines the composition and purpose of fertilizers. It is thanks to a change in the balance between these three elements that universal fertilizers (equal proportions) are isolated that are intended for decorative foliage (nitrogen dominates) or, conversely, flowering plants (less nitrogen than potassium and phosphorus). The abbreviation and designation of each element is familiar not only to gardeners and experienced gardeners: the formula of the three main elements is always indicated on the label of any fertilizer. And if all gardeners and flower growers know that nitrogen is needed for growth and greenery, and phosphorus and potassium - for flowering, then only lovers of botany think about the true purpose of the three main elements and their role in plant life.
Nitrogen (designation - N) - the most important of all nutrients needed by absolutely any plant. Nitrogen is absorbed by plants from the soil, and its content plays a key role in all processes of life. Nitrogen is a part of proteins, RNA, DNA, chlorophyll and all important compounds. Nitrogen is the growth regulator of shoots, leaves and root system, it is responsible for the "green mass".
With a lack of nitrogen: growth is slowed down, the leaves turn pale, and then the leaves turn yellow, buds crumble, shoots become thinner, the vein changes color.
With an excess of nitrogen: color becomes darker or variegation is lost, growth occurs to the detriment of flowering.
Phosphorus (designation - P) - the basis of energy metabolism in cells, an important element for all vital processes. Also included in the composition of not only proteins or DNA, but also ATP, vitamins and other compounds. It is an activator of the growth of the root system, a stimulant of immunity and defense mechanisms, the aging process and optimal absorption of water and nutrients by the root system. It is phosphorus that affects the development of buds, roots and buds, “stains” flowers and ensures their full development, and then fruiting.
With a lack of phosphorus: leaves with a violet tint, development is inhibited, young leaves coagulate.
With an excess of phosphorus: chlorosis, rapid aging.
Potassium (designation - K) - unlike the other two basic elements, the molecule itself does not enter (in most cases), but without it reactions do not occur and carbohydrates and proteins are not formed. It is potassium that is "responsible" for the absorption of moisture by cells, gas exchange, photosynthesis. But this macro element is also important for resistance to any negative effects, including droughts, diseases, heat or hypothermia.
With a lack of potassium: dwarfism, stunting, sluggish appearance, fragile leaves, leaf edges curled upwards, dry spots.
With an excess of potassium: loss of color of flowers, shortened peduncles, yellowing of lower leaves.
Other macronutrients that play an important role in the life of indoor plants:
- Sulfur (designation - S) - an important participant in the recovery and oxidation processes, is a part of hormones and enzymes, amino acids, an important macroelement for immunity and plant protection. The lack of this element is manifested in lignification of petioles and leaves, elongation of shoots, inhibited form.
- Calcium (designated as Ca) - the basis of pectin substances and the element necessary for the formation of intracellular septa, protoplasm, connective tissue, the development of the root system. The lack of this element leads to dwarfism, the death of the upper kidneys, shortening and thickening of the roots, the appearance of mucus on them
- Magnesium (designation - Mg) - one of the vital participants in protein metabolism and a component of chlorophyll. Magnesium deficiency is manifested in chlorosis with blanching of tissues between the veins, marbling of leaves.
- Iron (designation - Fe) - a macrocell, which is often attributed to a group of trace elements. But more and more often, the importance of iron for the synthesis of chlorophyll forces us to put it in a number of substances that plants need in a fairly large amount. Iron deficiency is manifested in blanching, browning and dying off of upper shoots and leaves.
Micro does not mean less important
Trace elements are needed in plants in small quantities, but this does not detract from their importance. The presence of micronutrients in fertilizers is often ignored, and a deficiency or excess of these substances can cause no less harm than careless introduction of macronutrients. Plants cannot exist normally without them, although the role and function of each trace element is still not completely defined and studied.
One of the most important trace elements - boron (designation - B). It has a regulatory effect on carbohydrate and protein metabolism, the recovery phase of respiration. In practice, boron is necessary to increase the number of flowers, the formation of pollen, fruiting and ripening of seeds. Boron (B), the most mysterious of all trace elements, which is involved in respiration and promotes the use of calcium. Lack of boron leads not only to chlorosis, but also to necrosis of young leaves, blackening of apical buds.
Manganese (designation - Mn) - an activator of enzymes that helps retain moisture in tissues, normalizes metabolism and restores nitrogen compounds element. If the plant lacks manganese, young leaves grow very small, become covered with yellow spots.
Molybdenum (designation - Mo) is also involved in the process of nitrate reduction and is the main element for nitrogen fixation.
Chlorine (designation - Cl) - responsible for diffusion and ion balance, the formation of oxygen element.
Cobalt (designation - Co) - an element without which the normal functioning of nitrogen-fixing bacteria is impossible; thanks to it, plants receive from the soil all the nutrients they need.
Copper and zinc (designations - Cu and Zn) often "work" in pairs. They activate enzymes. But if copper plays an important role in intracellular processes, then zinc helps to increase the endurance and resistance of plants, including temperature differences and cold. With a shortage of copper, the leaves become thinner and spots appear on them, the shoots stretch out and become stiff, but this problem is typical only for peat substrates. But zinc deficiency is more common and is determined by grayish leaves, which acquire an increasingly brown hue over time.
Different top dressings for different types
The need for nutrients in different plants is different. So, desert as well as mountain plants are accustomed to the insufficient content of nutrients in the soil and need neat balanced nutrition of low concentration. Plants from tropical rainforests need an increased concentration of nutrients. And cacti, for example, are characterized by an increased need for phosphorus.
There are differences in the needs for macro- and microelements related to the age and stages of development of indoor crops:
- Fertilizers and additional nutrients are needed by plants during their active growth and development.
- During the dormant period, additional fertilizer application is unacceptable, unless the developmental stage is conditional and the plant does not completely stop its growth.
- A short feeding period is characteristic for bulbous, and a long - for grassy rhizome perennials.
- Young plants need more nutrients, especially phosphorus, compared to mature plants.
- The need for nutrients in the active stage of development is heterogeneous: at the beginning of the stage, all crops most need nitrogen, when leaves grow intensively - potassium, and at the stage of budding and flowering - phosphorus and nitrogen.
The need of plants for individual chemical elements, their content in the soil is determined only by signs of shortage or excess. These signs must be remembered and noticed in order to adjust the composition or type of fertilizers in time. But the main indicator is the characteristics of the plant itself. Indeed, each species has its own optimal soil, fertilizer composition, frequency and frequency of top dressing. As a rule, studying and following the recommendations ensures that the plant will receive all the elements it needs in the right amount.