Periodic Table of Crop Nutrients and Deficiencies

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Periodic Table of Crop Nutrients

17 nutrients are essential for plant health. Optimal yields can only be produced when all these nutrients are in proper supply. According to the Law of Minimum, if one or more nutrients are lacking in the soil, crop yields will be reduced, even though an adequate amount of other elements is available.

Plumeria Nutrient Deficiencies

Not all plumeria problems are caused by insects or diseases. Sometimes an unhealthy plumeria is suffering from a nutrient deficiency or even too much of any one nutrient. Plumeria nutrient deficiencies often manifest as foliage discoloration or distortion. The following chart outlines some possible problems. Unfortunately many problems have similar symptoms and sometimes it is a combination of problems.

Be sure you eliminate the obvious before you kill your plumeria with kindness.

  • Check first for signs of insects or disease.
  • Foliage discoloration and stunted plants can easily be caused by soil that is too wet and drains poorly or soil that is too compacted for good root growth.
  • Exposure to cold or heat will slow plant growth and effect flowering.
  • Too much fertilizer can result in salt injury. Your plants may look scorched or they may wilt, even when the soil is wet.

Plumeria require a mix of nutrients to remain healthy. Nutrients that are needed in relatively large amounts are called the macronutrients. Plant macronutrients include: (N) nitrogen, (P) potassium, (K) phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium.

There are a handful of additional nutrients that are required for plant growth, but in much smaller quantities. These micronutrients include: boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

All of these nutrients are taken in through the roots. Water transfers the nutrients from the soil to the Plumeria roots. So one requirement of sufficient Plumeria nutrition is water. A second requirement is the appropriate soil pH for the Plumeria being grown. Each Plumeria prefers a specific pH range to be able to access the nutrients in the soil. Some Plumeria are fussier than others, but if the soil pH is too acidic or alkaline, the Plumeria will not be able to take in nutrients no matter how rich your soil may be.

Primary Macronutrients


Nitrogen (N) 

Nitrogen (N) is essential for plant growth and is part of every living cell. It plays many roles in plants and is necessary for chlorophyll synthesis. Plants take up most of their N as the ammonium (NH4+) or nitrate (NO3) ion. Some direct absorption of urea can occur through the leaves, and small amounts of N are obtained from materials such as water-soluble amino acids.

  • Symptoms: Lack of N and chlorophyll means the plant will not utilize sunlight as an energy source to carry on essential functions such as nutrient uptake. Older leaves, generally at the bottom of the plant, will yellow. Remaining foliage is often light green. Stems may also yellow and may become spindly. Growth slows. 
  • Sources: Any compound containing the words: ‘nitrate’, ‘ammonium’ or ‘urea’. Also manure.
  • Notes:
    • Many forms of nitrogen are water soluble and wash away.
    • Nitrogen is a component of vitamins, amino acids and energy systems within the plant, which form its proteins. Thus, N is directly responsible for increasing protein content in plants.
    • Nitrogen is necessary for chlorophyll synthesis and, as a part of chlorophyll molecules, is involved in photosynthesis.
    • Nitrate is very mobile in the soil and moves with soil water to root surfaces for plant absorption.

Phosphorus (P)

One of three primary nutrients, phosphorus (P) is essential for plant growth, and a plant must access it to complete its normal production cycle. Plants absorb P from the soil as primary and secondary orthophosphates (H2PO4 and HPO42-).

  • Symptoms: Small leaves that may take on a reddish-purple tint. Leaf tips can look burnt and older leaves become almost black. Reduced fruit or seed production.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘phosphate’ or ‘bone’. Also green sand.
  • Notes:
    • Very dependent on pH range.
    • The highest levels of P in young plants are found in tissue at the growing point. As crops mature, most P moves into the seeds, fruit, or both.
    • Under P deficiency, some crops, such as corn, tend to show abnormal discoloration.
    • Phosphorus is noted especially for its role in capturing and converting the sun’s energy into useful plant compounds.
    • Phosphorus promotes root development and early seedling growth.
    • Research associates specific growth factors with P: stimulated root development, increased stalk and stem strength, and improved flower formation and seed production.

Potassium (K)

Potassium (K) is one of the essential nutrients and is taken up in significant amounts by crops. Potassium is vital to photosynthesis, protein synthesis and many other functions in plants. It’s classified as a macronutrient, as are nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Plants take up K in its ionic form (K+).

  • Symptoms: Older leaves may look scorched around the edges and/or wilted. Interveinal chlorosis (yellowing between the leaf veins) develops.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘potassium’ or ‘potash’.
  • Notes:
    • Potassium enhances many enzyme actions aiding in photosynthesis and food formation. It builds cellulose and helps translocate sugars and starches. Potassium is vital to producing grains rich in starch.
    • Potassium maintains turgor and reduces water loss and wilting.
    • Potassium is known as the “quality nutrient” because of its important effects on factors such as size, shape, color, taste, shelf life, fiber and other quality-related measurements.
    • In many high-yielding crops, the K content in the plant is comparable to the nitrogen (N) content.
    • Potassium is absorbed by plants in the ionic form, indicated as K+.
    • Plants deficient in K are less resistant to drought, extreme temperatures and other stressors. Plants lacking K are also more susceptible to pests, diseases and nematode attacks.
    • Ample K can increase root growth and improves drought tolerance.

Secondary Macronutrients

Magnesium (Mg)

Hidden in the heart of each chlorophyll molecule is an atom of magnesium (Mg), making the nutrient actively involved in photosynthesis. Magnesium also aids in phosphate metabolism, plant respiration and the activation of many enzyme systems.

  • Symptoms: Slow growth and leaves turn pale yellow, sometimes just on the outer edges. New growth may be yellow with dark spots.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘magnesium’, such as Epson Salts.
  • Notes:
    • Magnesium is mobile within the plant and moves easily from older to younger tissues.
    • Plants require Mg to capture the sun’s energy for growth and production through photosynthesis.
    • When Mg deficiencies occur, the lower (older) leaves are affected first.
    • The most common source of Mg is dolomitic limestone, which provides both calcium and Mg, while neutralizing soil acidity.
    • Magnesium acts as a phosphorus carrier in plants, and is required for better root formation and thus for better nutrient and water efficiency in plants.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium (Ca) is found all around us, and the very existence of plants and animals depends on it. Plants take up Ca as the Ca2+ cation. Once inside the plant, Ca functions in several essential ways.

  • Symptoms: New leaves are distorted or hook shaped. The growing tip may die. Contributes to blossom end rot in tomatoes, tip burn of cabbage and brown/black heart of escarole & celery.
  • Sources: Any compound containing the word ‘calcium’. Also gypsum.
  • Notes:
    • Not often a deficiency problem and too much will inhibit other nutrients.
    • Calcium deficiencies occur most often in acidic, sandy soils from which Ca leaches via rain or irrigation water.
    • Calcium helps balance organic acids within the plant as well as activates several plant enzyme systems.
    • Calcium helps form the compounds that make up part of cell walls, which in turn, strengthen the plant structure.
    • Calcium builds yields by indirectly improving root growth conditions and stimulating microbial activity, molybdenum (Mo) availability and uptake of other nutrients.
    • Calcium helps enable nitrogen (N)-fixing bacteria that form nodules on the roots of leguminous plants to capture atmospheric N gas and convert it into a form plants can use.
    • Calcium stimulates root and leaf development, and affects uptake and activity of other nutrients.

Sulfur (S)

Sulfur (S) is a part of every living cell and is important in the formation of proteins. Unlike the other secondary nutrients like calcium and magnesium (which plants take up as cations), S is absorbed primarily as the SO42- anion. It can also enter plant leaves from the air as dioxide (SO2) gas.

  • Symptoms: New growth turns pale yellow, older growth stays green. Stunts growth.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘sulfate’.
  • Notes:
    • More prevalent in dry weather.
    • Sulfur is present in several organic compounds that give the characteristic odors to garlic, mustard and onion.
    • Sulfur appears in every living cell and is required for synthesis of certain amino acids (cysteine and methionine) and proteins.
    • Sulfur is also important in photosynthesis and for winter crop hardiness.
    • Although S isn’t a constituent of cholrophyll, it’s still vital in chlorophyll formation.
    • Sulfur aids in seed production.
    • Leguminous plants need S for efficient nitrogen fixation.


Boron (B)

Boron (B) is a micronutrient that is essential for cell wall formation and rapid growing points within the plant, such as reproductive structures. Interestingly, while higher plants require B, animals, fungi and microorganisms do not need this nutrient.

  • Symptoms: Poor stem and root growth. Terminal (end) buds may die. Witches brooms sometimes form.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘borax’ or ‘borate’.
  • Notes:
    • Boron improves seed set under stressful conditions.
    • Although required in small amounts, boron is a component of all cell walls in the plant.
    • Boron deficiencies are more pronounced during drought periods, when root activity is restricted.
    • The line between deficiency and toxicity is narrower than other essential nutrients. Farmers should apply at proper rate and with proper placement.
    • Plumeria most effectively uses boron when it’s applied through broadcast soil applications.

Chlorine (Cl)

Plants take up chlorine (Cl) as the chloride (Cl) anion. It’s active in energy reactions in the plant. Most Cl in soils comes from salt trapped in parent materials, marine aerosols and volcanic emissions. Classified as a micronutrient, Cl is required by all plants in small quantities.

  • Symptoms:
  • Sources:
  • Notes:
    • Stomata regulate the release of moisture from plants so they can minimize water loss during stressful dry periods. Chloride is key in stomatal regulation.
    • Chloride is involved in the chemical breakdown of water in the presence of sunlight and activates several enzyme systems.
    • Chloride plays an important role in plants as they acclimate to changing water availability (or make osmotic adjustments).
    • Chloride supports the transport of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium within a plant.

Copper (Cu)

Copper (Cu) activates enzymes and catalyzes reactions in several plant-growth processes. Vitamin A production is closely linked to the presence of Cu as well, and it helps ensure successful protein synthesis. Classified as a micronutrient, only a small amount of this essential nutrient is needed for plant survival.

  • Symptoms: Stunted growth. Leaves can become limp, curl, or drop. Seed stalks also become limp and bend over.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘copper’, ‘cupric’ or ‘cuprous’.
  • Notes:
    • Copper is the most immobile of the micronutrients.
    • Many vegetable crops show Cu hunger, with leaves that lose turgor and develop a bluish-green shade before becoming chlorotic and curling.
    • Copper is necessary to chlorophyll formation in plants and catalyzes several other plant reactions.
    • Other metals in the soil, such as iron, manganese and aluminum, affect the availability of Cu for plant growth.
    • Organic soils are the most vulnerable to Cu deficiency; heavy, clay-type soils are least vulnerable.

Manganese (Mn)

Manganese (Mn) functions primarily as part of enzyme systems in plants. It activates several important metabolic reactions and plays a direct role in photosynthesis. Manganese accelerates germination and maturity while increasing the availability of phosphorus (P) and calcium (Ca).

  • Symptoms: Growth slows. Younger leaves turn pale yellow, often starting between veins. May develop dark or dead spots. Leaves, shoots and fruit diminished in size. Failure to bloom.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘manganese’ or ‘manganous’
  • Notes:
    • Manganese plays a vital role in photosynthesis by aiding in chlorophyll synthesis.
    • Soybeans and wheat in particular require more Mn than many crops.
    • Manganese is very immobile in plants, so deficiency symptoms appear first on younger leaves, with yellowing between the veins. Sometimes a series of brownish-black specks appear.
    • Although Mn deficiencies are often associated with high soil pH, they may result from an imbalance with other nutrients such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and Iron (Fe).
    • Manganese deficiencies are most common in high organic matter soils and in those soils with naturally low Mn content and neutral to alkaline pH.

Iron (Fe)

Iron (Fe) is essential for crop growth and food production. Plants take up Fe as the ferrous (Fe2+) cation. Iron is a component of many enzymes associated with energy transfer, nitrogen reduction and fixation, and lignin formation.

  • Symptoms: Plants deficient in Fe will often display a pale green leaf color (chlorosis), with sharp distinction between green veins and yellow interveinal tissues. Iron deficiencies may be caused by an imbalance with other metals such as copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and molybdenum (Mo).
  • Sources:
  • Notes:
    • Iron deficiencies may be caused by an imbalance with other metals such as copper (Cu), manganese (Mn) and molybdenum (Mo).
    • Plants deficient in Fe will often display a pale green leaf color (chlorosis), with sharp distinction between green veins and yellow interveinal tissues.
    • Most Fe fertilizer sources work best applied as foliar sprays.
    • Iron is a catalyst to chlorophyll formation.
    • Iron acts as an oxygen carrier in the nodules of legume roots.

Molybdenum (Mo)

Molybdenum (Mo) is a trace element found in the soil and is required for the synthesis and activity of the enzyme nitrate reductase. Molybdenum is vital for the process of symbiotic nitrogen (N) fixation by Rhizobia bacteria in legume root modules. Considering Mo’s importance in optimizing plant growth, it’s fortunate that Mo deficiencies are relatively rare in most agricultural cropping areas.

  • Symptoms: Older leaves yellow, remaining foliage turns light green. Leaves can become narrow and distorted.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘molybdate’ or ‘molybdic’.
  • Notes:
    • Sometimes confused with nitrogen deficiency.
    • Molybdenum-deficiency symptoms show up as a general yellowing and stunting of the plant. A Mo deficiency can also cause marginal scorching and cupping or rolling of leaves.
    • Several materials supply Mo and can be mixed with nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilizers applied as foliar sprays or used as a seed treatment. Seed treatment is the most common way of correcting Mo deficiency because of the very small amounts of the nutrient required.
    • Plants take up Mo as the MoO42- anion.
    • Molybdenum becomes more available as soil pH goes up, the opposite of most other micronutrients
    • Excessive Mo is toxic, especially to grazing animals.

Zinc (Zn)

Zinc (Zn) is taken up by plants as the divalent Zn2+ cation. It was one of the first micronutrients recognized as essential for plants and the one most commonly limiting yields. Although Zn is required in small amounts, high yields are impossible without it.

  • Symptoms: Yellowing between veins of new growth. Terminal (end) leaves may form a rosette.
  • Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘zinc’.
  • Notes:
    • Can become limited in higher pH.
    • Protein synthesis and growth regulation require Zn. Reduced hormone production due to a Zn-deficient plant will cause the shortening of internodes and stunted leaf growth.
    • Zinc is much less mobile within the plant, so deficiency symptoms first appear on the younger leaves.
    • Zinc aids synthesis of plant-growth substances and enzyme systems, and is essential for promoting certain metabolic reactions, which are particularly critical in the early growth stages.
    • As soil pH increases, zinc availability decreases.

Nickel (Ni) was added to the list of essential plant nutrients late in the 20th century. Plants absorb Ni as the divalent cation Ni2+. It is required in very small amounts, with the critical level appearing to be about 0.1 parts per million.

  • Notes:
    • No Ni deficienceies have been observed under crop-growing conditions, but in crop research settings, ag scientists have reproduced deficiency symptoms such as chlorosis of young leaves and dead meristematic tissue.
    • Nickel deficiency has been observed in some nursery plants and tree crops. Affected trees develop mouse-ear, a condition marked by small, curled leaves and stunted growth.
    • Nickel is a component of the urease enzyme and is, therefore, necessary for the conversion of urea to ammonia (NH3) in plant tissue, making it important in plant nitrogen (N) metabolism.

Non-fertilizer Elements

Hydrogen (H)

Hydrogen (H), derived almost entirely from water, is one of the 17 essential nutrients necessary for plant growth. Hydrogen, along with carbon and oxygen, are the three primary elements plants use in the largest amounts, and they perform as the building blocks for plant growth.

  • Notes:
    • Nearly all organic compounds also contain H atoms, which explains why plants need the H they get from water molecules through photosynthesis.
    • Hydrogen ions are vital in both aiding proton gradients to help drive the electron transport chain in photosynthesis, and for plant respiration.
    • Hydrogen is necessary for building sugars and other molecules to produce glucose for plant energy.
    • Known as a structural element, H is present in both the atmosphere and the growing environment.
    • Hydrogen is rarely a limiting nutrient.
    • Hydrogen is an element and can be a compound as well. As an element, H is the lightest, with one proton, one electron and usually no neutrons. Compound H forms when two H atoms share an electron pair, creating a covalent bond, which takes the form of a gas.

Carbon (C)

Carbon (C) is responsible for all life on earth. Carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere is recycled endlessly as part of the carbon cycle. Plants take CO2 from the air and use the C for energy, helping to build essential biological compounds such as carbohydrates and proteins.

  • Notes:
    • Carbon is the primary energy source and building block for plant tissues.
    • Converted through photosynthesis into simple sugars, C helps plants build starches, carbohydrates, cellulose, lignin and protein.
    • Crop residues, green manures and animal wastes can be significant sources of organic C in the soil.
    • Almost half of the plant’s dry matter is comprised of C.

Oxygen (O)

Oxygen (O) is responsible for cellular respiration in plants. Plants acquire O by breaking down carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis and end up releasing the majority of it as an unnecessary byproduct, saving a small portion for future energy.

  • Notes:
    • All Oxygen available to life on Earth comes from plants.
    • Most of the Oxygen plants take in is expelled as a byproduct. Only a very small amount is actually used by the plant for respiration.
    • Plants don’t absorb Oxygen from the air, but instead acquire it during the breakdown of carbon dioxide (CO2) as part of photosynthesis.
    • Oxygen interacts with nitrogen (N) in a process called denitrification, and it affects other elements’ oxidation states as well.
    • Only the leaves and stems of a plant acquire Oxygen through photosynthesis. The roots of a plant are forced to take in Oxygen from the environment through air spaces in the soil.

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