What your plant needs in order to live: How plants feed and live

Plants are living things and this is one of the aspects that make them so fascinating to care for and collect. From our personal experience it is easy to sense what another living thing needs to survive: food, oxygen, water and rest. So it is more or less easy to know how to care for an animal.

But with plants it is a different matter, because although it is true that they are alive and need care, this care is very different from our own. That's why knowing their processes and needs is the number one secret to ensuring that your green companions grow healthy, radiant and strong.

how do plants feed themselves?

Humans need to ingest organic substances in order to obtain the nutrients we require, but plants are autotrophs; that is, they produce their own food from inorganic substances.

Independent and self-sufficient, plants require inorganic compounds such as phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium and other mineral salts. These nutrients are obtained from water and soil. A plant needs 4 fundamental things to live: water, soil or substrate, air and sun. From these it is able to generate everything it needs.

The feeding process of plants consists of 3 parts: taking nutrients from the substrate and the air, converting these nutrients into food and carrying the food throughout the plant. Through this process it obtains the food it needs to continue to grow and perform its vital functions. Another big difference between the way plants and humans eat: we get fat, while in plants the part of the food that is not used/consumed immediately is stored in leaves, roots, seeds and fruits.

The process of feeding the plants step by step

The process begins when you water the plant. The water dissolves the inorganic compounds present in the substrate, making it more accessible to the plant. The plant's absorbent root hairs take up the nutrients and mineral salts, mixing them together and creating raw sap. The raw sap rises up through the woody vessels, very thin tubes that run through the plant like veins and arteries.

The leaves of the plant have small pores called stomata. Through the stomata, carbon dioxide enters and mixes with the raw sap and starts the process of photosynthesis, which is how processed sap and oxygen are created.

Photosynthesis requires sunlight, which is captured by chlorophyll, a substance present in plant leaves that gives them their characteristic green colour, just as the concentration of melanin gives human skin its colour. As a by-product of the photosynthesis process, the plant releases oxygen, which is what we humans use to breathe. It is for this reason that forests and jungles are often called 'plant lungs', as they are responsible for creating the oxygen we breathe.

Once the sap produced through photo-synthesis has been created in the leaves, it is distributed throughout the plant via the Liberian vessels, feeding all sections of the plant, including the woody stems.

what about compost?

Compost contains some of the nutrients necessary for plant growth. While the plant's substrate may contain these necessary compounds, the concentration can vary. By adding compost to the soil or water, a complete supply of these substances is ensured, which is always available to the plant and will contribute to its growth.

Fertiliser is not always essential, but it can help your plants grow stronger and faster. Think of fertiliser as a vitamin supplement to stimulate plant development. Before applying any type of fertiliser, it is a good idea to seek advice, as the needs of each plant species are very different. A succulent fertiliser is not the same as a fertiliser specially formulated for an Areca palm. Using the wrong fertiliser can upset the balance of the substrate and kill your plant, so be careful.

Not all plants require soil, as what they use for nourishment is a mixture of mineral salts and water. Soil is only a supporting medium. This knowledge has made the creation of hydroponics possible and has helped to understand the morphology of plants that can survive in water.
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About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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