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If plants fail to thrive, despite adequate soil preparation, watering and mulching, it may be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. Fruit and vegetables are particularly vulnerable, as are containerised plants and those growing in very acid or alkaline soils. Yellow or reddish coloured leaves, stunted growth and poor flowering are all common symptoms of nitrogen, magnesium or potassium deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency on a tomato. Credit:RHS/The Garden.
Some garden soils and potting composts suffer from a lack of nutrient content, leading to deficiency symptoms in the plants growing in them.
Plants can also suffer deficiencies where the growing conditions are poor and the plants are unable to take up nutrients present in the soil. Very acid or alkaline conditions, dryness and waterlogging can all make it difficult for plants to take up soil nutrients.
Nutrient deficiencies cause symptoms such as leaf yellowing or browning, sometimes in distinctive patterns. This may be accompanied by stunted growth and poor flowering or fruiting.
FertilisersLime and limingAcidifying soilSoil typesSoils: understanding pH and testing
FertilisersSoil typesPlant nutritionLeaf damage on woody plantsBrown leaves on woody plants
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.