For the healthy growth of your plants, you need to ensure that they are not suffering from zinc deficiency, a micronutrient. Make sure you know everything about it, as it may go undetected! – Gro Indoor
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Zinc (Zn) Nutrient Deficiency – A Serious Problem for Plants and a Nightmare for Growers

by 09 Apr 2023

Zinc (Zn) Nutrient Deficiency A Serious Problem for Plants and a Nightmare for Growers

Every living thing needs to consume essential nutrients to survive. The body needs these nutrients to perform its vital functions. Fulfilling this need of the body is critical as it enables entities to perform even the most basic tasks. Just like humans and animals need nutrients to stock up energy for performing even the basic tasks, even plants require nutrients for flowering and even the vegetative phase? The primary nutrients for plants include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.

The deficiency of any of these essential nutrients can create severe problems for plants. Apart from the primary nutrients, plants even need micro or trace nutrients such as iron, manganese, chlorine, boron, and zinc to complete their life cycle.

The deficiency of even these micronutrients can hinder a plant's capability to complete its life cycle. When talking about micronutrient deficiency in plants, zinc deficiency is a problem most growers have to deal with. As this is not an essential nutrient for plants, many growers do not consider checking its deficiency. Due to this, zinc deficiency is prevalent in plants. Not providing plants with an adequate amount of zinc can eventually lead to them dying something not less than a nightmare for a grower.

Apart from the grower's negligence, the most common reason for zinc deficiency is dry climates and soils that contain too much alkalinity.

The Importance of Zinc for Plants

It is not uncommon to see growers focus on plants' intake of primary nutrients only. They do not realize that the micronutrients are also critical for plant growth. Even though these nutrients are needed in small amounts, deficiency of these can lead to serious circumstances.

Zinc is one of these essential nutrients, and when a plant does not get an adequate part of it, the plant begins to struggle. This specific nutrient is critical for plant growth; why? Well, it aids the production of enzymes, protein, sugar, and chlorophyll.

Zinc plays a very significant role in both flowering and the vegetative phase of the life cycle. The problem here is that zinc deficiencies are commonly confused with other nutrient deficiencies. The reason is that it does not appear in older growth like other mobile nutrients. It is visible in young leaves, similar to some immobile nutrients such as iron.

Even though these deficiencies are overlooked easily, it is crucial to detect them in the early stage. Not detecting or identifying this issue in the early stages can create problems for the plant and the grower.

How to Identify Zinc Deficiencies in Plants?

As we discussed earlier, zinc deficiencies can be confused with other immobile nutrient deficiencies but are not impossible to detect. The first thing that you need to know is that this is one of those deficiencies that appear early in the plant's life cycle. If you wish to check for it, you need to closely observe the young leaves.

How do they appear? The zinc deficiencies in plants appear in young leaves in the form of interveinal chlorosis. What is interveinal chlorosis? It is when the veins begin to appear as dark channels in the leaves. The color of the leaves goes light. The plants that are struggling with zinc deficiency have young leaves that are weak and thin. Also, these leaves grow on the horizontal axis.

Other signs that indicate that plant is deficient in zinc are no new growth for weeks. The reason? When a plant does not get an adequate amount of zinc, it stops bud and leaf production. Due to this, the growers will not observe any new growth.

If you stroll through the garden or grow tent regularly, you can easily identify plants that are growing and plants that are not growing. What may confuse you is the fact that these signs also appear when a plant is deficient in iron and manganese.

To know for sure, you will have to observe the plant for a few days. The fact that will help you distinguish between iron or manganese deficiencies with zinc deficiency is the fact that zinc is mobile. It means the deficiency will move from old leaves to new ones. Iron and manganese being immobile only affect new leaves, and you will not see their effects on old leaves.

In the case of zinc deficiency, the new leaves absorb zinc from the older leaves, making them deficient in this nutrient. It causes the old leaves to show signs of interveinal chlorosis, where the veins of the old leaves begin to darken. The tips will start to appear burned. Another sign of zinc deficiency is the visibility of dead spots on the older leaves. Overlooked for a longer time will make the leaves turn pale. It is a severe case of interveinal chlorosis, something to worry about for the growers.

You can identify this deficiency by observing the leaves and the flowers closely during the bloom cycle. Here, the buds, as well as the petals of the flowers, may twist. Gnarled, dry, and brittle leaves also indicate that the plant is deficient in zinc.

To summarize, when the older leaves begin yellowing, their tips appear burnt, and the new leaves wrinkle or curl, knowing that you are dealing with zinc deficiency. In severe zinc deficiency cases, you will observe molting and witness necrosis spots appearing on the leaves.

Fighting Zinc Deficiency

Ensuring plants do not become deficient in zinc is a bit tricky. As a grower, you need to understand that the pH of the soil or any other grow media determines what nutrients a plant will absorb. Even if you ensure that your plant has access to an adequate amount of zinc, there are risks of deficiency if the growing media's pH is not right. It is vital to realize the significance of maintaining the perfect pH of the media you are using to grow your plants.

If you want to ensure that your plants absorb the essential nutrients, including zinc, you need to use a medium with a pH value of between 5.5 and 6.5. The medium with a pH value lying in this range is ideal and provides the best results. It means that your plant can absorb just the right amount of all essential nutrients, including zinc.

Suppose you have maintained the pH and your plant is deficient in zinc. In that case, you can use a diluted fertilizer that is perfect for the medium you are using. To address the zinc deficiency specifically, you need to use a fertilizer containing chelated trace micronutrients, including zinc.

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is supplying the plant with too much zinc. While zinc deficiency exposes a plant to many problems, even an excess of zinc can damage the plant. In this case, the best approach is to use a fertilizer that offers almost all essential nutrients. Too much zinc disables a plant from using iron, which eventually kills it.

Growers who are growing their plants organically can use greensand or any other rock dust to fight away the zinc deficiency. If you are one of these growers, you can amend your soil with this technique and protect your plants from zinc deficiencies and its horrors. One thing that you need to realize is that the breaking down of minerals can take months. It might not be the best option for organic growers if their plants are already suffering from zinc deficiency. Many other plants suffering from this deficiency can survive through the use of organic liquid fertilizer.

Suppose you want to opt for a natural remedy to fight zinc deficiency. In that case, you may want to use compost tea that provides a complete profile of nutrients.

The Problem Maybe the Roots

While, on the one hand, the pH of the growing media is critical in case of fighting or preventing zinc deficiency, the condition of the plant roots also plays a crucial role. When the roots are damaged and weak, they hinder the transport of nutrients from the growing media to the plant, causing a nutrient deficiency. In this case, you supply the plant with zinc, or maintaining the medium's pH will not work. Here, you have to check for root rotting and pest infestation.


After you have diagnosed that your plant is deficient in zinc and you have implemented these solutions, you need to observe its growth. Once you observe new growth in your plant, you have successfully addressed the zinc deficiency. You can go through our nutrient deficiency series to know more about it!

Sep 29th 2022
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