A young plant growing in the soil.

How Do the Plants Grow

One of the pleasures of gardening is that it gives you the chance to watch nature at work. As soon as you put a plant in the ground, a cycle of growth and reproduction begins. Learn what plants need to grow strong and healthy, and you can help them to put on their best performance.

Vital supplies

Plants need water, air, nutrients, and light to thrive, and when first planted they are dependent on you to provide them. Neglect them at this stage and they are unlikely to survive.

Light requirements

Plants make energy from sunlight through photosynthesis, and can thrive only if they receive the right amount for their needs. Different plants have evolved to survive in different conditions, and some love shade, while others prefer their heads in the sun. Plants also offer clues about the conditions they enjoy—those with small hairy or gray leaves, such as lavender, enjoy sunny sites, and those with large, dark green leaves grow well in shade.

When choosing plants, check their light requirements and plant them in an appropriate place. Young plants are particularly vulnerable to poor light conditions and will struggle to establish if the sun is blocked by weeds, so keep the area around them free of competing plants as they mature.

Regular water supplies

When young, all plants need regular watering because their small root systems are unable to search for moisture if it doesn’t come to them. You can encourage your plants to develop deep, self-sustaining root systems by watering occasionally but deeply, using one large watering can per plant. Moisture then seeps deep into the soil, and the roots reach down to find it.

Soil needs

Plants love to sink their roots into aerated, moist yet well-drained soil. To achieve these ideal conditions, dig in plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or mushroom compost before planting, and spread a thick layer on the soil surface in spring. Earthworms will then drag it down into the soil, where it will gradually improve drainage and water-retention capacity, ensuring that your soil contains all the nutrients and moisture necessary for seeds to germinate and roots to explore.