5 Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Plants

Table of Contents

Nutrient deficiency in plants is often overlooked by beginner and seasoned gardeners alike. Growing plants successfully takes more than green fingers, sunshine and water. Healthy soil provides the vital nutrients a plant needs to grow strong, but this is an aspect that many gardeners underestimate.

Over years of growing, the soil in your yard can become depleted of the essential minerals that all plants need, and trying to grow anything in these conditions is likely to be a losing battle. Spotting a nutrient deficiency problem in your soil before it gets too far will give your plants the best chance of recovery, and here’s what to look for:

Nutrient Deficiencies in Plants Infographic
Let’s take a closer look at how to spot nutrient deficiencies in plants:

How to spot a nitrogen deficiency in plants

You may notice that the old leaves on your plant have turned yellow or pale green. This is often an indication of nitrogen deficiency which means your plant doesn’t produce enough chlorophyll for effective photosynthesis, resulting in dull and stunted growth.

How to spot an iron deficiency in plants

If your plants’ leaves are turning pale or see-through, there might be a lack of iron in the soil. This can happen when plants need more iron than the soil has to offer. As iron deficiency continues the leaf colors will fade until their green hue is completely gone.

How to spot a potassium deficiency in plants

The first sign of a potassium deficiency is yellowing leaves. The difference here, however, may be that new growth is affected as well as mature leaves and there will often also be small brown spots around the leaf edges on the youngest foliage.

How to spot a phosphorus deficiency in plants

If your plants are turning yellow, it could be a sign of phosphorus deficiency. A lack of this nutrient often causes dark brown spots to form on the edges and leaves will start to fall off if not treated soon enough.

How to spot a magnesium deficiency in plants

A magnesium deficiency, like a lack of iron in the soil, will cause leaves to appear pale. However, unlike an iron-deficient plant where veins are lighter than leaf tissue on both sides of the vein, a magnesium-deficient plant is greener around the leaf veins making them stand out more starkly.

If you catch these nutrient deficiencies early enough, applying a good fertilizer will usually reverse the symptoms before too much damage is done. Although any general-purpose plant feed will work in an emergency, try to use a product that’s enriched with the missing mineral you’ve identified.

However, the best long-term solution is to incorporate plenty of organic matter into your soil, using home-made compost or well-rotted manure. Over time, this will balance the soil’s nutrients to provide ideal conditions for every type of plant and make mineral deficiencies a thing of the past.

nutrient deficiency in plants

Compost is a great way to return organic nutrients to the soil. Check out this quick and easy alternative to the traditional compost pile with our Guide to Direct Composting.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Posts You Will Love

How to Amend Clay Soil

Clay soil can be hard to work, have poor drainage and lack nutrients plants need to survive. Learn how to amend clay soil into workable, healthier soil.

How to Change Your Soil pH

Soil pH is an essential factor in a plant’s ability to grow. Learn what it means, why it’s important, and how to change your soil pH to help plants thrive.

How to Test Soil pH

Here’s how to do a simple soil pH test from items you probably already have in your kitchen. Once you determine whether your soil is acidic or alkaline, we have recommendations for soil amendments that can bring the soil back into the neutral pH range.

Straightforward Tips for Soil Improvement

Good soil is essential for healthy plants. If your yard’s soil is less than perfect, you can improve it by digging in fresh materials to make up for what it lacks. But which materials should you add? This article describes seven of the most useful natural soil improvers.