A Step by Step Look at How Plants Actually Grow


Whether you wish to save some money or witness the different stages of plant growth, planting seeds in your garden can turn out to be a gratifying experience. There is nothing more wholesome than watching seeds go through different growth stages.

From seed to sprout, sprout to vegetative, vegetative to budding, budding to flowering, and flowering to ripening, several stages are involved in plant growth. And to ensure their proper growth, they require adequate water, nutrients, air, water, light, temperature, space, and most importantly, time.

So, if you plan to build a healthy and beautiful garden, here is a complete guide that will help you understand each growth phase to give your seeds the best start.

What Are the Different Stages of Plant Growth?

What really takes place while a seed grows in a healthy plant? Right from absorbing nutrients to photosynthesis and then reproduction, a lot happens in a plant’s life cycle.

Majorly, there are 3 different stages of plant growth that can be further categorized involving various processes. Each plant has different requirements during each phase of growth. Thus, it is important for a gardener to know the various stages and ensure that they thrive.

Germination stage of plant growth

The life cycle of every plant starts with the germination of the seed. To help the process, the seed needs water, optimum temperature, and oxygen.

Usually, vegetables and fruits require a temperature between 25° to 30° Celsius (75° to 88° Fahrenheit) for germination.

However, it is important to know which temperature would be better for your seeds. For instance, radishes or spinach require a lower temperature, around 4° Celsius (40° Fahrenheit), to germinate.

Coming to the most important element for plant growth – water. When the seed gets an adequate amount of water, it develops turgor pressure. This is when the seed’s vacuoles and cytoplasm start to fill up with water, and the cells begin to swell and push against the cell wall. It is now time for the seed to germinate.

The video below will show you how to get great germination when sowing your seeds. Looking after seedlings is important by following the info in this video you will be set for great plants.

Signs of germination process in plant growth

The first sign of germination is the formation of roots. As soon as the seed starts to emerge roots, it indicates that the seed is active, viable, and can grow. Once the roots are formed, the shoot will also begin to sprout out.

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.

Cynthia Occelli

It enters the seedling stage once leaves start to emerge. At this time, the seedlings should be kept in direct sunlight else they will grow leggy.

Moreover, the root growth will slow down as maximum energy will then go towards shoot elongation. This is done in an attempt to find sunlight for photosynthesis. Thus, if the seedlings are kept in the direct sunlight, they will grow stronger roots along with thick and healthy shoots.

Vegetative stage in plant growth

Once the root system is strong enough, it will be able to support growth. This is when the next stage – the vegetative stage commences.

The plant is primarily dedicated to the growth of stems, leaves, and branches. The plant would require a huge amount of nitrogen to support the production of chlorophyll. Other than nitrogen, plants also require other nutrients like phosphorous and potassium.

The vegetative state is the most significant phase in the plant’s entire life cycle, so it is essential to ensure that the plant is offered unhindered, ideal environmental conditions.

Reproductive stage in plant growth

The next and final stage of plant growth is known as the reproductive stage. Now the primary goal of the plant is to produce its offspring. Thus, its entire energy is directed towards the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds.

Also, the amount and duration of daylight the plant receives is a major factor that triggers the reproductive stage and is responsible for producing flowers or fruits known as photoperiodism.

If your region does not get adequate sunlight, artificial lights may also do the trick.

Pollination process in plant growth

There are several ways in which plants are pollinated. Pollination can be carried out by several means: water, wind, bees, or other insects. The process involves the pollen of one plant is transferred to another. This is how flowering plants commence their reproduction phase.

Pollination refers to the transfer of pollen from one plant to the stigma and the transfer of pollen to the stigma of another flower of the same plant.

Since the pollen carries the male gametes or sperm of the plant, this is an important step for the fertilization of the plant. With the help of the pollination process, the male gametes transfer to the stigma of the plant, which contains female gamete (egg cell).

Types and methods of pollination that can happen in plants

There are two types of pollination.

The one that occurs between plants of the same species is known as self-pollination, while the one that occurs between plants of different species is known as cross-pollination.

Fertilization process in plant growth

After pollination is accomplished, a pollen tube starts to grow in the ovary of the plant. The sperm of the male gamete cells then start to move along the pollen tube in the direction of the ovary to fertilize the female gamete cell.

Once the cell is fertilized, a zygote is formed, which develops into an embryo. This is the very beginning of the offspring.

Another male gamete cell combines with polar cell bodies found in the center of the embryo sac to create the endosperm tissue material providing food and energy for the proper development of the embryo, and this endosperm is basically the seed produced by the plant.

If you are growing your plants indoors, you would have to serve as the ‘bee’ to help them in the process of pollination. They need a gentle touch with a delicate and soft painter’s brush on the petals to help them pollinate and produce fruit, which is actually the process that I have written about called manual pollination. Feel free to check it here.

However, one can also use some breeze from a high-power fan for indoor plants as well.

Elements Required for Plant Growth

Now that we know about the various stages of plant growth let us also know about the various elements and resources required to carry out all the mentioned processes successfully.

Water is needed for survival and plant growth

As we already know, all living beings depend on water for survival. Similarly, plants also need water to carry out moisture and nutrients between the roots and the leaves.

While it is important to keep the soil consistently moist, it is equally important to ensure that you do not overwater your plants as it may also cause certain diseases.

Plant growth needs to be boosted by adding nutrients to the plant

Plants require 17 different types of nutrients for optimum growth.

While plants get carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen from the air, plants also obtain certain nutrients from the soil.

These are divided into macro and microelements. Some of the most vital macro elements that a plant needs are nitrogen (foliage growth), phosphorous (flower development), and potassium (root growth and immunity booster).

Air is needed for proper plant growth

Other than water and nutrients, plants need fresh air for proper growth. Air pollutants like smoke or gases can be quite harmful to plants.

It may even limit them from obtaining carbon dioxide from the air and thus creating food through photosynthesis. Moreover, fog or smog can restrict or block out sunlight which can further hamper plant growth.

Soil and the matter within it is needed for plant growth

Soil offers the plants a mixture of mineral materials, organic matter, and water which are important for their growth.

The tiny fragments of mineral materials derived from rock weathering, organic and dead, determine the texture and fertility of the soil. Healthy soil will offer required support to plant roots and help them grow.

Countless soil types can be used for your garden, and many ways to enrich it by adding mulch, mixing in different types of soils, and adding organic materials. I actually wrote an article about these steps on improving soil fertility, and you can read them through here.

In order to have a proper plant growth, Light is needed

The light that reaches the surface of the plant is either reflected, absorbed, or transmitted. Being one of the most vital elements in the chemical reaction of photosynthesis, sunlight is vital for plants.

The process of photosynthesis is carried out by utilizing light energy and releasing oxygen and water.

This helps the plants to produce food from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of chlorophyll. Thus, the quality and duration of sunlight affect the growth of the plant.

Temperature can also play a part in plant growth

The temperature and climate of your region play an important role in determining what kind of plants you can grow. It differs with altitude, latitude, and topography, so one must pick the plants that will withstand the existing climate conditions in your area.

Also, it should be kept in mind that most plants prefer nighttime to be a little cooler than the daytime.

Compost can be added to boost plant growth

Composting refers to the restricted decomposition of organic materials by bacteria, fungi, and worms.

While decomposition is a natural process, composting and recycling organic wastes is a process that can help in building healthier soil and thus ensure the proper growth of your plants. Further explanation and tips, and tutorials on how to compost are covered in-depth in this article that I wrote, so feel free to check them out.

Look into using Fertilizer for plant growth

Plants need a balanced mix of all the essential nutrients throughout their growth cycle.

While most of these nutrients can be found in the soil, there can also be an inadequacy in some regions, resulting in improper plant growth. Fertilizers can help in reinforcing and supplementing plant growth.

When to add fertilizer to aid in plant growth

One can begin feeding their seedlings once they develop their second set of true leaves. Application of a half-strength liquid fertilizer weekly can work for most of the plants.

Be sure that you apply it very delicately so that the seedlings are not displaced from the soil.

After around a month, you may apply full-strength liquid fertilizer weekly until you decide to transplant them.

Enough Space is needed for proper plant growth

Both foliage and roots need enough space to grow. Since plants need all the above-mentioned elements in varying proportions, planting them too close to each other can increase competition between them and can thus result in stunted growth.

Moreover, plants grown in overcrowded areas are more prone to diseases due to restricted airflow and poor immunity.

By offering plants enough space, you will provide them with adequate nutrients, water, air, and sunlight that will help them grow.

Time and patience is a definite factor for plant growth

It must be noted that gardening takes time and effort. One needs to be patient enough while growing plants. Different plants need different time periods ranging from days, months, and even years to produce flowers or fruits.

Conclusion on how plants actually grow

Growing plants from seeds may seem quite a challenge. But with the help of this step-to-step guide might make things a lot easier for you.

There is so much more to it, of course, for there are so many plants and types existing in the world. Hopefully, you will get to decide on just which plant you want to grow in the comfort of your own garden and feel the gratification and joy for every step of its growth.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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