Plant Nutrients

Plants need certain nutrients to grow and reproduce. There are 17 such nutrient elements necessary for plants to thrive, often grouped in several ways. Those that are required by plants in substantial quantities are called macronutrients. Those that are required by plants in very small amounts are called micronutrients.

Element

Periodic Symbol

Source

Classification

Carbon

C

Air & Water

Macronutrient

Hydrogen

H

Air & Water

Macronutrient

Oxygen

O

Air & Water

Macronutrient

Nitrogen

N

Soil

Macronutrient

Phosphorus

P

Soil

Macronutrient

Potassium

K

Soil

Macronutrient

Calcium

Ca

Soil

Macronutrient

Magnesium

Mg

Soil

Macronutrient

Sulfur

S

Soil

Macronutrient

Iron

Fe

Soil

Micronutrient

Copper

Cu

Soil

Micronutrient

Manganese

Mn

Soil

Micronutrient

Molybdenum

Mo

Soil

Micronutrient

Zinc

Zn

Soil

Micronutrient

Boron

B

Soil

Micronutrient

Chorine

Cl

Soil

Micronutrient

Nickel

Ni

Soil

Micronutrient


Elements Essential for Plant Growth and Reproduction

Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are available in abundance and obtained by plants from the air and water. They make up about 94% of a typical plant’s dry tissue. The other 14 elements make up the remaining portion (about 6%) of a typical plant’s dry tissue.

Even though these remaining 14 elements might be needed in smaller quantities, they are still important to plant health. Deficiencies of these elements in the soil can limit growth of the plant, but can be compensated for through the application of fertilizers.

The 14 elements derived solely from the soil can be further divided into three groups: primary nutrient elements, secondary nutrient elements, and micronutrient elements.