The UKBA Bonsai Glossary - Plant Nutrient Information

Plant nutrition is at the heart of developing our bonsai.  This science is an essential one for all of us to find a work round through.

It is hoped that the information here - while not definitive - will start you on the journey where you understand how to provide your plant with the nutrients that they need to grow healthily. In turn, this enables them to respond to bonsai styling: producing the art that we want to display.

 

 

Symbol

Element

Description

Concentration

ppm

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macronutrients

Essential

C

Carbon

forms the backbone of most plant biomolecules, including proteins, starches and cellulose. Carbon is fixed through photosynthesis; this converts carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates which are used to store and transport energy within the plant.

O

Oxygen

is a component of many organic and inorganic molecules within the plant and is acquired in many forms. These include: O2 and CO2 (mainly from the air via leaves) and H2O, NO, H2PO and SO2 (mainly from the soil water via roots). Plants produce oxygen gas (O2) along with glucose photosynthesis during but then require O2 to undergo aerobic cellular respiration and break down this glucose to produce Adenosine triphosphate.

H

Hydrogen

is necessary for building sugars and building the plant. It is obtained almost entirely from water. Hydrogen ions are imperative for a proton gradient to help drive the electron transport chain in photosynthesis and for respiration.

Major

 

 

N

Nitrogen

 

15,000.0 ppm

1.500000%

P

Phosphor

 

2,000.0 ppm

0.200000%

K

Potassium

 

10,000.0 ppm

1.000000%

Ca

Calcium

 

5,000.0 ppm

0.500000%

S

Sulphur

 

1,000.0 ppm

0.100000%

Mg

Magnesium

 

2,000.0 ppm

0.200000%

Micronutrients or Trace

Fe

Iron

 

100.0 ppm

0.010000%

Bo

Boron

 

20.0 ppm

0.002000%

Cl

Chlorine

 

100.0 ppm

0.010000%

Mn

Manganese

 

50.0 ppm

0.005000%

Zn

Zinc

 

20.0 ppm

0.002000%

Cu

Copper

 

6.0 ppm

0.000600%

Mo

Molybdenum

 

0.1 ppm

0.000010%

Ni

Nickle

 

0.1 ppm

0.000010%

 

Si

Silicon

 

 

 

 

V

Vanadium

 

 

 

 

Se

Selenium

 

 

 

 

Please note that concentrations, whether in mg/kg (=ppm, parts per million) or Percent (%), are always based on the weight of dry matter, instead of the fresh weight. Fresh weight includes both the weight of the dry matter and the weight of the water in the tissue. Since the percentage of water can vary greatly, by convention, all concentrations of elements are based on dry matter weights.

Typical concentrations sufficient for plant growth. After E. Epstein. 1965. "Mineral metabolism" pp. 438-466. in: Plant Biochemistry (J.Bonner and J.E. Varner, eds.) Academic Press, London.

So, what do the chemicals do, where are they sourced from, how do they interact, etc.  The list below is incomplete and still a work in progress.


Nutrient function, support role, absorption path, source, etc…


Macronutrients

Carbon (C)

Oxygen (O)

Hydrogen (H)

Nitrogen (N)

  • Nitrogen is a part of all living cells and is a necessary part of all proteins, enzymes and metabolic processes involved in the synthesis and transfer of energy.
  • Nitrogen is a part of chlorophyll, the green pigment of the plant that is responsible for photosynthesis.
  • Helps plants with rapid growth, increasing seed and fruit production and improving the quality of leaf and forage crops.
  • Nitrogen often comes from fertilizer application and from the air (legumes get their N from the atmosphere, water or rainfall contributes very little nitrogen)

Phosphorus (P)

  • Like nitrogen, phosphorus (P) is an essential part of the process of photosynthesis.
  • Involved in the formation of all oils, sugars, starches, etc.
  • Helps with the transformation of solar energy into chemical energy; proper plant maturation; withstanding stress.
  • Effects rapid growth.
  • Encourages blooming and root growth.
  • Phosphorus often comes from fertilizer, bone meal, and superphosphate.

Potassium (K) 

  • Potassium is absorbed by plants in larger amounts than any other mineral element except nitrogen and, in some cases, calcium.
  • Helps in the building of protein, photosynthesis, fruit quality and reduction of diseases.
  • Potassium is supplied to plants by soil minerals, organic materials, and fertilizer.

Calcium (Ca)

  • Calcium, an essential part of plant cell wall structure, provides for normal transport and retention of other elements as well as strength in the plant. It is also thought to counteract the effect of alkali salts and organic acids within a plant.
  • Sources of calcium are dolomitic lime, gypsum, and superphosphate.
Sulphur (S)
  • Essential plant food for production of protein.
  • Promotes activity and development of enzymes and vitamins.
  • Helps in chlorophyll formation.
  • Improves root growth and seed production.
  • Helps with vigorous plant growth and resistance to cold.
  • Sulphur may be supplied to the soil from rainwater. It is also added in some fertilizers as an impurity, especially the lower grade fertilisers. The use of gypsum also increases soil sulphur levels.
Magnesium (Mg)
  • Magnesium is part of the chlorophyll in all green plants and essential for photosynthesis. It also helps activate many plant enzymes needed for growth.
  • Soil minerals, organic material, fertilisers, and dolomitic limestone are sources of magnesium for plants.


Micronutrients

Iron (Fe)  

  • Essential for formation of chlorophyll.
  • Sources of iron are the soil, iron sulfate, iron chelate.

Boron (B) 

  • Helps in the use of nutrients and regulates other nutrients.
  • Aids production of sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Essential for seed and fruit development.
  • Sources of boron are organic matter and borax

Chlorine (Cl)

  • Aids plant metabolism.
  • Chloride is found in the soil. 

Manganese (Mn)  

  • Functions with enzyme systems involved in breakdown of carbohydrates, and nitrogen metabolism.
  • Soil is a source of manganese. 

Zinc (Zn)  

  • Essential for the transformation of carbohydrates.
  • Regulates consumption of sugars.
  • Part of the enzyme systems which regulate plant growth.
  • Sources of zinc are soil, zinc oxide, zinc sulphate, zinc chelate.

Copper (Cu)

  • Important for reproductive growth.
  • Aids in root metabolism and helps in the utilisation of proteins.


Molybdenum
 (Mo) 

  • Helps in the use of nitrogen
  • Soil is a source of molybdenum.

Nickle (Ni)

Silicon (SI)

Vanadium (V)

Selenium (SE)

 

 

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