Plant Roots and Nutrients

Most people think the plant roots they see sticking out of the ground, or just under the ground, are the roots supplying the plant with food and water. These roots are only there to keep the plant in the ground. The bigger the plant (eg. a tall tree) the bigger, deeper and wider will the big roots go to hold that tree upright in the ground.
In Bromeliads (eg. Pineapples) the roots are a minor item just keeping the plant upright and have little effect in water and nutrient uptake. Bromeliads take in almost all of their nutrients from the solution at the base of each leaf where it holds water and any organic matter that drops into it.

The main method of nutrient uptake in most plants is in fact the root hairs. These are lateral extensions of a single cell of the epidermis on the fine roots of the plant which increase the surface area for absorption of water and mineral nutrients via osmosis.

This means that if these root hairs are broken (eg. the plant is pulled out of the ground to check if it is growing OR it is burnt off by fertilizer that sucks the cell-sap out of the cells in the root hair) then that root hair is killed and it will take another three days for a replacement to grow and be effective in allowing water and nutrients to be absorbed again.
The type of fertilizer that causes the most damage is the chemical type (eg. Sulphate of Ammonia, Urea, Potassium Nitrate, etc) as these have high concentrations of chemical salts which suck the cell sap out of the root hair, burning off that root hair. Slow release fertilizers (eg. Osmacote, Nutricote, etc) by their nature release a small amount of fertilizer each day and so have minimal burning of the root hairs.
Better still; feed your plants with natural fertilizer from your kitchen waste by planting a Compot in your garden or composting by other methods. Natural is always better.

Today’s Did You Know…?

Banana skins, coffee grounds and tea bags are excellent slow release fertilizers that you can place behind your Staghorn or Elkhorn plants. Not only does this feed the plants but will also build up the organic matter thereby helping it to retain any water and nutrients making them readily available to the plant either on top or behind the plant.
Use your water also from the tea or coffee (with the coffee grounds or tea leaves) on or behind the plant if you have a Staghorn or Elkhorn. Otherwise just put them in your Compot or spread them round your garden.

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