Leaf Problems: Identify Nutrition Deficiencies in Plants

Leaf problems are one of the most obvious signs of unhealthy plants. In most cases, the plant is not receiving sufficient water or nutrients, or is being plagued by pests or an infectious disease. Some of the common signs of nutrition deficiency are discoloration, distorted growth, and stunted growth in the leaves. By examining leaf problems and correctly diagnosing them, you can ensure proper plant nutrition.

pH level is an important part of the soil composition. Every plant has a certain pH requirement, be it acidic, alkaline or neutral. Before you grow any plant, you must use a pH testing kit and confirm that the soil pH is suitable for its growth. Soil pH affects the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, and if the level of acidity or alkalinity is not correct, the plant will be unable to assimilate the required nutrients.

Nitrogen and Molybdenum

Yellowing leaves is a common indication shown by plants receiving insufficient nutrition. When the older leaves on the plant start yellowing, it is usually a symptom of nitrogen deficiency. Other symptoms of low nitrogen supply are that the plant turns a shade of light green, and mature leaves start falling earlier than expected. Molybdenum deficiency, which is not very common, also manifests itself in similar symptoms, with the leaves turning distorted as well.


Sulfur deficiency first makes itself apparent in the younger leaves, which turn light green. Leaves gradually start yellowing, but remain healthy in texture. Sulfur deficiency symptoms are often similar to nitrogen deficiency. The stems of plants harden and do not grow in width.

Iron, Manganese, and Zinc

Iron deficiency is apparent when the leaves at the top of the plant are yellowing, but the veins retain their normal color. The effect is usually seen in the immature leaves. A deficiency in manganese is identical to iron deficiency, with the main difference being the appearance of gray dots, which is only seen with a shortage of manganese. Zinc deficiency symptoms are also similar to that of iron deficiency, the only difference being that the leaves will be very small.

Calcium and Phosphorus

When the yellowing begins with young leaves, it can be a sign of calcium deficiency. The discoloration usually begins at the ends of the leaves, and then spreads to the inner parts. Tip burn is also a sign of calcium deficiency. Phosphorus is a vital nutrient for plants, and a deficiency in this nutrient can be detected in older leaves turning bronze or reddish-purple. The entire plant may be very dark green in color. Plant growth becomes stunted and flower production is reduced.

Potassium and Magnesium

If the leaf margins show signs of browning or yellowing, and the leaf ends look scorched, it is most likely a potassium deficiency. Old leaves will develop yellow spots, and the plant on the whole will look weak. When the lower leaves of a plant start showing discoloration and weakening, magnesium deficiency is a possibility. The leaves change color and can be orange or brown, and look very thin. Some distortion in the shape can also be due to lack of magnesium.