Module 10: How Plants Grow

Whether you’re a complete novice or have some experience with gardening, understanding how plants grow is essential to growing healthy and fruitful plants.

Sequence of how plants grow
A sequence of how plants grow

Plants are living organisms that have the ability to grow, reproduce, and adapt to their environment. They need sunlight, water, and nutrients to survive and grow. The process by which plants make their own food using sunlight is called photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which makes them an important part of our ecosystem.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Understand the meaning of Photosynthesis
  • Identify the roles that water and nutrients play in plant growth
  • Learn the different stages of plant growth
  • Understand the different factors that influence plant growth
  • Perform a practical exercise to grow your own plants from seed

Photosynthesis Explained

Welcome to the exciting world of photosynthesis! Photosynthesis is the process by which plants make their own food using sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. This process is critical to the survival of plants, and novice gardeners need to understand how it works.

During photosynthesis, plants use their green pigment called chlorophyll to absorb energy from sunlight. This energy is then used to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose, a type of sugar that the plant can use for energy. The process also releases oxygen into the atmosphere, which is important for all living organisms to breathe.

Understanding photosynthesis is crucial for gardeners because it helps them to provide the right conditions for their plants to grow well. For example, plants need sunlight to carry out photosynthesis, so it’s important to place them in a spot where they can get enough light. If your plants aren’t getting enough light, they may be unable to photosynthesise effectively, and their growth may be stunted.

Diagram of photosynthesis

The role of water in plant growth

Water is another essential ingredient for photosynthesis, so it’s important to ensure your plants get enough water. Without water, plants cannot transport the necessary nutrients to their leaves, and they won’t be able to do photosynthesis.

Nutrients needed for plant growth

Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are also important for photosynthesis. These nutrients help support the growth of leaves and stems, which is essential for photosynthesis.

In summary, photosynthesis is the process by which plants make their own food using sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. It’s important for gardeners to understand this process because it helps them to provide the right conditions for their plants to grow well. By ensuring that their plants get enough sunlight, water, and nutrients, gardeners can help to ensure that they can carry out photosynthesis effectively and grow into healthy, strong plants.


The Stages of Plant Growth

It’s important to understand the basic stages of plant growth to care for your plants properly. Here, we will explore the six stages of plant growth: seed germination, seedling stage, vegetative stage, flowering stage, fruit production stage, and senescence and death.

Sequence of how plants grow
A sequence of how plants grow
  • Seed germination
    • Seed germination is the first stage of plant growth. It begins when a seed is planted in the soil and receives the right amount of water, warmth, and air. The seed then starts to absorb water, and the embryo inside begins to grow. The first part of the seedling to emerge is the root, which anchors the plant into the soil and absorbs nutrients.
  • Seedling stage
    • The seedling stage is when the plant is just beginning to grow above ground. The seedling will continue to grow its root system, which is vital for the plant’s overall health. The plant will begin to develop its first leaves necessary for photosynthesis. The seedling is still fragile and needs careful attention to thrive.
  • Vegetative stage
    • The vegetative stage is when the plant begins to grow rapidly. During this stage, the plant produces more leaves and stems, which allows it to capture more sunlight and produce more energy through photosynthesis. The plant will continue to grow and develop its root system, which is essential for water and nutrient absorption. This stage can last several months, depending on the type of plant.
  • Flowering stage
    • The flowering stage is when the plant begins to produce flowers. Flowers are the reproductive organs of the plant and are essential for pollination. The plant will require more nutrients, particularly phosphorus and potassium, to produce healthy flowers during this stage. The length of the flowering stage will depend on the type of plant and growing conditions.
  • Fruit production stage
    • The fruit production stage is when the plant produces fruit. Fruits result from successful pollination, and they contain seeds for new plant growth. The plant will require more water and nutrients during this stage to support the growing fruit. The length of this stage will depend on the type of plant and growing conditions.
  • Senescence and death
    • The final stage of plant growth is senescence and death. This is when the plant begins to decline and eventually dies. The plant may show signs of disease or pest infestation during this stage. It’s important to remove any dead or diseased plants to prevent the spread of disease to other plants in the garden.

When a seed is planted, it starts to germinate, and the embryo inside the seed grows. Cotyledons are the first leaves that emerge from the seed, providing the initial energy needed to grow. Once the cotyledons have done their job, the true leaves start to grow, and the plant begins to photosynthesise.

The plant will develop stems, roots, and leaves as it grows. The stem supports the plant and transports water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. The roots anchor the plant in the soil and absorb water and nutrients from the soil. The leaves are the site of photosynthesis and exchange gases with the atmosphere.

root system on plants
Well-developed root system. Root and stem, leaves of pepper seedlings.

Factors influencing how well a plant grows

Various factors, including temperature, light, water, and nutrients, influence the growth of a plant. Different plants have different requirements, and it’s important to understand the needs of each plant to ensure their success. For example, some plants require full sun, while others prefer partial shade. Some plants thrive in dry conditions, while others need constant moisture.

Growing plants can be done both indoors and outdoors. Indoor plants can bring life and colour to any space but require special attention to lighting, temperature, and humidity. On the other hand, outdoor plants have to contend with natural elements, such as wind and rain.

The stages of plant growth include seed germination, vegetative growth, flowering, and fruiting. Each stage requires different care and attention from the gardener. For example, during the flowering stage, plants need extra nutrients to support the development of flowers. During the fruiting stage, plants need plenty of water to support the growth of fruits.

Understanding the stages of plant growth is essential for novice gardeners. By recognising these stages, gardeners can provide their plants with the proper care to thrive. Whether you’re growing vegetables, flowers, or herbs, knowing the stages of plant growth will help you to achieve a successful and rewarding garden.

Success in growing plants depends on many factors, such as choosing the right plants for your environment, providing the right amount of light, water, and nutrients, and controlling pests and diseases. Gardening can be a fun and rewarding hobby, and with the right knowledge and tools, anyone can grow beautiful plants and vegetables.


How can a gardener help their plants to grow well?

As a novice gardener, it’s important to understand how to provide your plants with enough water and nutrients. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your plants are getting the right amount of water and nutrients:

  1. Watering: Plants need water to survive, but it’s important not to overwater them. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other problems. Check the soil regularly to ensure you’re watering your plants properly. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water your plants. Use a watering can or hose to water your plants at the base rather than on the leaves.
  2. Soil: The soil your plants grow is critical to their health. Ensuring your plants are growing in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil is important. If your soil lacks nutrients, add compost or fertiliser to help improve its quality. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package carefully to avoid fertilising.
  3. Mulching: Mulching around your plants can help retain moisture and stabilise soil temperature. You can use organic materials like leaves, straw, or grass clippings as mulch. Spread the mulch around the base of your plants, but be careful not to cover the stems or leaves.
  4. Feeding: In addition to water, plants need nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow strong and healthy. You can provide these nutrients by using fertilisers, either synthetic or organic. It’s important to choose a fertiliser appropriate for the type of plant you’re growing and follow the instructions carefully. Over-fertilising can be harmful to your plants.
  5. Testing: Testing the pH level of your soil can help you determine if your plants are getting the right nutrients. You can purchase a pH testing kit at your local garden centre. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you can adjust it by adding lime or sulphur.

Practical Exercise – Grow your own plants from seeds

You can’t beat trying to grow your own plants to really understand about caring for plants. Follow the following steps to grow your own plants from seeds.

Growing flowers from seeds is a rewarding experience for novice gardeners. Not only is it a cost-effective way to fill your garden with beautiful blooms, but it also allows you to witness the full lifecycle of your plants.

Follow our step-by-step guide on how to grow some simple flowers from seeds.

Step 1: Choose Your Seeds:

Firstly, you need to decide what type of flowers you want to grow. We recommend starting with easy-to-grow annuals such as marigolds, zinnias, or cosmos for novice gardeners. You can purchase seeds from a local garden centre or online. Make sure to read the package carefully, as it will provide you with information on when to sow the seeds, how deep to plant them, and how much water and sunlight they need.

Step 2: Gather Your Equipment

You will need a few pieces of equipment to grow flowers from seeds. These include:

  • A seed-starting tray or small pots
  • Seed starting mix or potting soil
  • Watering can or spray bottle
  • Labels to identify your plants
  • A sunny location or grow lights

Step 3: Prepare the Soil

Fill your seed-starting tray or small pots with a seed-starting mix or potting soil. Make sure to moisten the soil before planting your seeds. You can do this by placing the soil in a container and adding water until the soil is damp but not soaked.

Step 4: Sow Your Seeds

Using the information provided on the seed package, plant your seeds at the appropriate depth in the soil. Generally, plant the seed twice as deep as its width. Once planted, cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and lightly water them.

Planting broad bean seeds into a seed tray

Step 5: Provide Proper Care

Once your seeds are planted, providing them with the proper care is important. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. You can do this by misting the soil with a spray bottle or watering it gently with a watering can. Keep the seed-starting tray or pots in a sunny location or under grow lights to promote germination. Once the seeds start to sprout, make sure to thin them out to ensure that each plant has enough space to grow.

Step 6: Transplant Your Seedlings

After your seedlings have grown a few inches tall, it’s time to transplant them into larger pots or directly into the ground. If you are transplanting them into larger pots, make sure to use good-quality potting soil. If you transplant them directly into the ground, choose a location with well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight.

Seedlings in a tray
Rows of young fresh seedlings

Identifying and Rectifying Problems While growing flowers from seeds is relatively easy, you may encounter some potential problems. These include:

  • Over or under-watering: If your plants are wilting or turning yellow, they may get too much or too little water. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
  • Pest infestation: Look for signs of pests, such as chewed leaves or tiny holes in the leaves. Treat with an organic insecticide if necessary.
  • Disease: If your plants are showing signs of disease, such as spots or discolouration, remove them from the garden to prevent the spread of disease to other plants.

In conclusion, growing flowers from seeds is a fun and rewarding activity for novice gardeners. By following these simple steps and providing proper care, you can enjoy a garden full of beautiful blooms. Remember to choose the right seeds, provide proper care, and be on the lookout for potential problems. You can watch your plants grow and thrive with a little patience and care.

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Updated on March 5, 2024

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