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Understanding Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a crucial process, not just for plants but also for almost every organism on Earth. In this article, we’ll go through what is it, why it’s so important, and how you can help your plants to do it effectively.

What is photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to make their energy. Algae and some bacteria also use photosynthesis to make energy. It requires sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.

The process of photosynthesis – how does it work?

Plants absorb carbon dioxide and water from the air and soil around them. A process then takes place inside the plant cells; the carbon dioxide is reduced, and the water is oxidised. This means that the carbon dioxide has gained electrons, while the water has lost them.

This process converts the water into oxygen, and the carbon dioxide into glucose. These glucose molecules are used to store the plant’s energy, while the oxygen is released into the atmosphere.

How is chlorophyll involved?

Chlorophyll is a pigment found in chloroplasts, which are part of plant cells. It absorbs red and blue light and reflects green light, which is how plants get their green colour. Chlorophyll absorbs the energy from sunlight which is used to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.

Why is photosynthesis so important?

Photosynthesis is a vital process for plants, giving them enough energy to stay alive, grow, and reproduce. It’s responsible for the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems; plants take in animals’ carbon dioxide and release the oxygen that animals inhale. Without this process, the atmosphere would be unbalanced, and we would have no oxygen to breathe.

How can you help your plants to photosynthesise?

In order for your plants to photosynthesise, they must have the right amount of light. We recommend you research how much light your specific plants need and place them in a spot where they’ll get the right amount.

Another way you can help them to photosynthesise is by making sure their leaves are as clean as possible. If your plants are growing inside – or under something that blocks the rain – dust and debris can build up on their leaves. This can block out some light. Wiping or rinsing your leaves regularly can help ensure they absorb as much light as they need. “Cleaning your leaves can have a huge effect on your plants’ growth” – Chris Bonnet, CEO of Gardening Express.

As well as light, it’s important that your plants get enough water. Check your plants’ specific water requirements and regularly check that your soil isn’t too dry. Click here for our article on the basics of watering, including FAQs and tips.

A bit more detail

Now you’ve got the overview of photosynthesis, here is some more advanced information.

Light-dependent and light-independent reactions of photosynthesis:

These are the different types of reactions involved in photosynthesis. As the name suggests, light-dependent reactions are triggered by a steady amount of light. These take place in the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts. Within this membrane, chlorophyll absorbs energy from the light waves. This energy is changed into chemical energy, in two different forms: ATP and NADPH molecules.

Light-independent reactions – which don’t need to be triggered by light – are also referred to as the Calvin Cycle. This takes place in the stroma, a fluid in the chloroplasts. The ATP and NADPH molecules formed during the light-dependent reactions are used to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrate molecules, like glucose.

More on chlorophyll:

There are two different types of chlorophyll involved in photosynthesis: chlorophyll A and chlorophyll B. All organisms that photosynthesise have chlorophyll A; it’s the dominant type and is essential for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll A absorbs the sun’s energy and converts it into glucose and oxygen.

However, chlorophyll B is an accessory pigment. It therefore isn’t required for photosynthesis, but it helps to increase the range of light the plant can absorb.


Photosynthesis is the process that allows most of life on Earth to thrive. It involves its own intricate processes that require specific conditions. So, make sure your plants have the right amount of light and clean leaves so that they can photosynthesise to their hearts’ content. Click here for more information on how plants grow.

Updated on September 28, 2023

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