Nutrient Deficiency Problem Solver

Our guide to common nutrient deficiencies -- and how to fix the problem organically.

November 26, 2010

If your plants look discolored, stunted, or have low yields, a nutrient deficiency might be the culprit. Many nutrients other than nitrogen, including calcium and phosphorus, play a vital role in plant growth. If your plant exhibits a deficiency symptom, make sure to get a soil test before you add any amendments.

Deficiency symptoms
Nitrogen Required for all phases of growth and development Lower leaves light green or yellowish; plant is stunted. Blood meal, composted poultry manure, feather meal.
Phosphorus Strengthens stems, helps in resistance to pests and diseases, fruiting and flowering Lower leaves and stem are reddish; upper leaves are dull, pale; failure to flower or produce fruit. Bone meal, colloidal or rock phosphate, fish meal
Potassium Required for formation of all sugars, starches and proteins; contributes to cold-hardiness; root development. Lower leaves spotted, mottled or curled; underdeveloped roots, stem tissue may appear weak Composted manure, wood ashes, greensand, seaweed.
Calcium Required for cell growth and division, helps plants use nitrogen Tipburn on lettuce, blossom-end rot in pepper and tomatoes. Bone meal, gypsum, lime.
Sulfur Constituent of protein and certain vitamin complexes. New leaves are yellowish. Composted manure, gypsum, Sul-Po-Mag.
Magnesium Constituent of chlorophyll; required for enzyme action. Whitish patches appear first on older leaves, between leaf veins. Sul-Po-Mag, Epsom salts