Dre Campbell Farm
15 Plant Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Fix Naturally

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15 Plant Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Fix Naturally

When plants are unable to take up essential nutrients from the soil due to poor growing conditions, you may see signs of nutrient deficiencies.

Plants need nutrients to grow [1], like all living things. For high-yield crops, you especially need to keep a close eye to ensure they are getting what they need to thrive properly.

This list will help you identify symptoms of plant deficiencies and how to fix the problem naturally. However, be sure to have your soil tested, so you know how best to treat the issue.

Also, check organic soil amendments and treatments to be sure you understand how to use them. Read the labels carefully.

1. Calcium

With calcium deficiency in plants, young leaves will be affected first. They will show signs of distortion (cupped or curled up).

The leaves will be small and have yellowish/brown spots. Terminal buds and root tips will also die.

Additionally, insufficient calcium in the tissue of tomatoes is one of the things that cause blossom end rot.

Bone meal can help reduce this plant health issue. You can also put crushed eggshells into your compost to add more calcium naturally.

2. Nitrogen

Among the plant mineral deficiencies gardeners encounter, nitrogen is not uncommon.

Your plant will likely be shorter than average and produce small flowers and fruits. Leaves will also be yellow or pale green in color, and the lower leaves will get affected first.

You can correct it by adding used coffee grounds to the soil. However, be sure to rinse it so it doesn’t affect soil acid levels.

An organic fertilizer such as earthworm castings or bat guano can also help. Additionally, nitrogen-fixing plants such as peas and beans planted nearby can correct the problem.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is commonly seen on tomato plants, apples, grapes, roses, and rhododendrons.

You will see yellowing in the area between the veins on older leaves while the veins remain green.

An excess of potassium can cause this issue. However, Epsom salt solution can help fix magnesium deficiency in plants.

4. Phosphorous

Your plant will show signs of stunting and a dark green color in both leaves and stems will appear. Symptoms will show on older leaves first and they may acquire a purplish color.

This type can be a result of the conditions being too cold for the plant to take up phosphorus. Poor soil health can also cause it.

Bone meal is a good option to use for replacing phosphorus.

5. Potassium

Older leaves will yellow between the veins and have brown curled-up edges. You may also notice symptoms of purple or bronze spots on the underside of leaves.

Poor flowering and fruiting may also occur. Additionally, root, seed, and growth development will reduce.

Pick a high potassium fertilizer like molasses. One other way to treat it is to bury banana peels an inch below the soil. This method takes longer to fix the issue, but it will help in the long term.

6. Sulfur

The entire plant will show yellowing or pale green chlorosis. High rainfall and weathered soil can both cause it.

You can correct the sulfur deficiency with aged or composted manure or gypsum.

7. Boron

The plant is usually smaller in size, has brittle foliage, and the growing tips will wither. The tips of the lower leaves may also show yellowing.

Too much calcium, high humidity, and dry or waterlogged soil are common causes.

Giving enough moisture can help prevent boron deficiency. Additionally, Biomin Boron and Brandt are great OMRI Listed fertilizers containing this nutrient.

8. Copper

Copper is one of the most uncommon nutrient deficiencies in crops.

Mature leaves will turn light green in color and the tips may become twisted or misshapen.

It tends to show up mostly in plants in soil with high pH levels. Excess potassium and phosphorus may also cause it.

Have your soil tested and ensure that the pH is between 4.5 and 7.5. Also, Biomin Copper works great in copper-deficient plants.

9. Iron

Leaf veins will stay green, while the area in between will yellow. Iron deficiency is seen first on young leaves and new growth. The entire leaf may also turn white or yellow if the condition is severe.

This condition is more common in soils with excess molybdenum, nitrogen, manganese, and zinc. Overly wet or compacted soil can also cause it.

Biomin iron can help. Adding chicken manure and compost with organic garden and kitchen scraps can also fix the problem.

10. Manganese

Initial symptoms include interveinal chlorosis of the younger leaves. This is when the leaves turn yellow with pale green veins. Plants will also be shorter with fewer leaves.

Like iron, you will see manganese deficiency in poorly drained soils. It may also occur in soils treated with excess ag lime.

You can buy treatments meant to add more manganese. Biomin and Brandt are good brands. Just test to be sure this is the issue first.

11. Molybdenum

Leaves will have interveinal yellowing or pale green coloring. Leaf edges may also display a scorching look.

It commonly shows on cauliflower or similar brassicas that are grown in insufficiently alkaline soil.

Making the soil more alkaline will help in the long term. You can also apply Brandt or lime to your soil.

12. Zinc

Stems will be short and the upper leaves will show brown spots, which is a sign of tissue death. Stunting of plants may also occur and there will be yellowing between the veins. It is most common in citrus trees.

Biomin zinc can help fix the issue. Also, be careful with fertilizers that are high in phosphorus since they decrease the amount of zinc available to your plants.

13. Oxygen

This can be seen in the roots, which turn brown and mushy instead of white and firm.

It is most common in hydroponically grown crops with insufficiently oxygenated nutrient solutions. In field-growing crops, this is seen in those that are overwatered, in stagnant water or poorly drained clay soils.

Never water more than the plants and soil can absorb in a few hours. It is very difficult to fix root rot once it sets in, so prevention is the best solution.

14. Carbon Dioxide

Most commonly seen in those grown indoors, where the plant will be stunted and take up less water.

A fan can help circulate air, and being around your plants can help since you breathe out carbon dioxide.

If you grow a lot of plants indoors, a fan connected outside or a carbon dioxide generator can help.

15. Nickel

Low nickel in leaves may cause leaf burn or necrotic tips. High levels of magnesium and copper in the soil, as well as excess zinc and iron, can lead to this condition.

Plants generally affected include barley, legumes, wheat, and citrus. Check with your local gardening center. A foliar spray containing Ni can help.


While nutrient deficiencies in plants can be frustrating, most can be fixed relatively easily. Have your soil tested, watch your pH, and water appropriately.

Also, remember to follow the directions on organic fertilizers and amendments to be sure you’re applying the right amounts.

Additionally, asking for advice from your local gardening center can help if you’re unsure what problems your crops are experiencing.

Sasha Brown

Blogger and lover of all things natural.

1 comment

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