How Plants Grow

Learn what plants need to grow strong and healthy, and you can help them to put on their best performance.

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
sunflowers need lots of sun,water and nutrients How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Light Requirements

Plants make energy from sunlight through photosynthesis, and can thrive only if they receive the right amount for their needs. Different plants have evolved to survive in different conditions; some love shade, while others prefer their heads in the sun. Plants also offer clues about the conditions they enjoy — those with small hairy or gray leaves, such as lavender, enjoy sunny sites, and those with large, dark green leaves grow well in shade. When choosing plants, check their light requirements and plant them in an appropriate place. Young plants are particularly vulnerable to poor light conditions and will struggle to get established if the sun is blocked by weeds, so keep the area around them free of competing plants as they mature.

Sunflowers literally love their heads in the sun and the blooms follow its path throughout the day.

earthworms are very beneficial to a garden How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Soil Matters

Most plants love to sink their roots into aerated, moist yet well-drained soil. To achieve these ideal conditions, dig in plenty of organic matter, such as mushroom compost, before planting, and spread a thick layer on the soil surface in spring. Earthworms will then drag it down into the soil, where it will gradually improve drainage and water-retention capacity, ensuring that your soil contains all the nutrients and moisture necessary for seeds to germinate and roots to explore.

establish strong root growth by watering regularly How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Regular Water Supply

When young, all plants need regular watering because their small root systems are unable to search for moisture if it doesn't come to them. You can encourage your plants to develop deep, self-sustaining root systems by watering occasionally but deeply, using one large watering can per plant. Moisture then seeps deep into the soil, and the roots reach down to find it.

avoid damage to root tips for healthy plants How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Food for Thought

Plants feed via their roots, removing minerals dissolved in water in the soil. They are constantly seeking new areas to exploit and form a large underground network, so that when one area dries out or is killed off, other roots can be relied upon to take over and keep the plant alive. In a natural environment, the plant population will adjust to the nutrients that are available. In a well-stocked garden where plants are growing closely together you will need to top-up the nutrient level regularly by applying fertilizer and organic matter, such as finished compost.

Organic fertilizers are a good choice for borders because they release nutrients slowly, feeding plants for a season, and do not harm beneficial soil organisms. You can also apply fertilizer to the leaves with a foliar feed. If a plant is suffering from a trace element deficiency, such as iron or manganese, a spray of foliar fertilizer can quickly improve its health. Apply fertilizer to the backs of leaves where they can absorb it more easily.

bees pollinate by transferring pollen to plants How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Attracting Pollinators

Plants with colorful, nectar-filled flowers attract pollinating insects that pick up pollen from one flower and transfer it to another. This process activates plants' sexual reproduction and prompts the flowers to start developing into seeds. The benefit of reproducing sexually is that every seedling has a slightly different genetic makeup, and when adverse conditions hit, only the fittest survive to breed again, strengthening the species.

male pollen grain fertilize female parts of flower How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Making Seeds

Male pollen grains fertilize female parts of the flower, stimulating the production of seeds.

brambles produce new plant when roots touch soil How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Rooting Around

Many creepers and climbers throw out long stems above ground that produce roots when they touch the soil. The roots of others clump up and spread gradually, while some send up shoots from long, extended roots. The danger of vegetative reproduction is that it produces a less diverse population, which is more vulnerable to changing conditions. This is why plants that reproduce asexually also flower and set seed, just in case.

The arching shoots of brambles start to grow roots when they touch the soil, producing a new plant.

bamboo throws out underground roots called runners How To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Generating Shoots

Bamboos throw out long underground roots called \"runners\", which in turn generate shoots that grow to form new plants.

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

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