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calcium deficiency in plants - 15 Plant Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Fix Naturally (+ Pictures)

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15 Plant Nutrient Deficiencies & How to Treat Naturally (with Pictures)

When a plant lacks a sufficient amount of an essential nutrient required for growth, you will see signs of nutrient deficiency.

Plants need a mix of nutrients to grow and remain healthy [1]. 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 nutrient deficiencies and how to treat the issues naturally.

1. Phosphorus

phosphorus deficiency in plantsImage via mankatofreepress.com

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

There are a few home remedies to help fix phosphorus deficiencies in plants. Firstly, do not overwater plants. Adding manure to the soil may also help.

You can also introduce clay particles into the soil and add some compost as well. Moreover,  bone meal is a great product you can use to increase phosphorus in soil naturally.

2. Potassium

potassium deficiency in plantsImage via en.wikipedia.org

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.

To treat potassium deficiency in plants, pick a high potassium fertilizer like molasses.

One other way to help fix the problem is to bury banana peels an inch below the soil. However, this method may take longer to work.

3. Calcium

calcium deficiency in plantssImage via powerag.com

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

Additionally, the leaves will be small and have yellowish or brown spots. Terminal buds and root tips will also die. Moreover, insufficient calcium in the tissue of tomatoes is one of the things that causes blossom end rot.

To help fix this issue, put crushed eggshells into your compost to add more calcium naturally. Alternatively, make a homemade calcium spray for plants by adding 20 eggshells to a pot containing one gallon of water.

Next, bring to a boil, and then remove from heat. Let it sit for 24 hours. Finally, strain and pour the solution onto the soil.

Neptune’s Organic Crab Shell Fertilizer is also a good source of calcium for plants. Furthermore, adding lime to the soil is another way to raise calcium levels in the soil.

4. Nitrogen

Nitrogen deficiency in plantsPicture via lsuagcenter.com

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 treat it. Additionally, nitrogen-fixing plants such as peas and beans planted nearby can help correct the problem.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency in plantsPhoto via gardenersworld.com

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 solutions can help fix magnesium deficiencies in plants.

6. Sulfur

deficiency of sulfur in plantsPicture via croplife.com

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

However, you can treat sulfur deficiency in plants by applying aged or composted manure or gypsum.

7. Boron

deficiency of boron in plantsPhoto via University of Georgia, Bugwood.org 

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 organic fertilizers to increase boron levels in the soil.

8. Copper

copper deficiency in plantsImage via researchgate.net

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 fertilizer works great on copper-deficient plants.

9. Iron

deficiency of iron in plantsPhoto via lovethegarden.com

Leaf veins will stay green, while the area in between will turn yellow. Iron deficiency is seen first in 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 will give your plants the iron they need. Adding chicken manure and compost with organic garden and kitchen scraps can also help fix the problem naturally.

10. Manganese

deficiency of Manganese in plantsPicture via flickr.com

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 to increase manganese in the soil naturally. Biomin and Brandt are good brands.

11. Molybdenum

Molybdenum deficiency in plantsImage via pthorticulture.com

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 Fertilizer, which contains molybdenum.

12. Zinc

plant with zinc deficiencySymptoms vary, depending on the plant. However, the stems will be short, and the upper leaves will show brown spots. Stunting may also occur, and there will be yellow patches between the veins. It is most common in citrus trees.

Use Biomin Zinc to add zinc to your soil. Also, be careful with fertilizers that are high in phosphorus since they decrease the amount of zinc available to your plants.

13. Oxygen

plant with oxygen deficiencyImage via link.springer.com

This can be seen in the roots, which turn brown and mushy instead of white and firm. Wilting or drooping will also appear at the top of the plants.

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 in 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

co2 deficiency in plantsPhoto via rotalabutterfly.com

Most commonly seen in those grown indoors, where the plant will be stunted and take up less water. You may also notice algae infestations.

Being around your plants can help since you breathe out carbon dioxide. Moreover, if you grow a lot of plants indoors, a fan connected outside or a carbon dioxide generator can help.

15. Nickel

Nickel deficiency in plantsImage via pthorticulture.com

Low nickel levels in leaves may cause whole-leaf chlorosis 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.


Above are examples of nutrient deficiencies in plants and how you can fix them at home. 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

Sasha Brown is a blogger and lover of all things natural.

1 comment

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