Problem Identifier / How to Correct a Zinc Deficiency

What Role Does Zinc Have in Plants?

Zinc is a micronutrient required by plants to produce chlorophyll. When there is a zinc deficiency in the soil, the result is discolored leaves and stunted growth. Chlorosis is common with a zinc deficiency, resulting in yellowing between the veins. Despite the deficiency, the veins will remain green. The most frequently affected area is the leaf base close to the stem.

The lower leaves are impacted first, then the deficiency progresses upwards throughout the plant. Zinc is necessary for several proteins and enzymes, but only small quantities are required. Zinc is essential for plant development because it is important for numerous processes. The normal range for plant tissues is between 15 and 60 ppm. Zinc activates the enzymes necessary for protein synthesis.

Zinc is required for the formation of specific carbohydrates and chlorophyll, converting starch to sugar, and helps the plant survive cold temperatures. Zinc is critical for forming auxins to help ensure proper stem elongation and growth regulation.

How Does a Zinc Deficiency Affect the Quality of Your Plant?

The quality can be affected by any or all the following:

  • Yellowing between the veins on new leaves
  • Discolored and typing leaf tips
  • Vertical growth stops
  • Leaves bunch together
  • Flowers are unable to grow or die
  • Banded leaves

The leaves can become banded, with a halt to vertical growth. The space between the new nodes is diminished, resulting in bunched groupings of leaves. When a plant is flowering, the flowers might be unable to grow or die if the deficiency progresses.

What are the Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency?

  • New leaves turn white, pale yellow, bronze or yellow
  • Leaf tissues die due to chlorosis
  • Clustered leaves on the stems
  • Stunted growth
  • Narrow leaves
  • Waxy margins
Chlorosis (general symptom). PHOTO CREDIT Jason Sharman, Vitalitree,

The most common symptom of a zinc deficiency in plants is chlorosis. This is when the younger leaves begin to yellow. Although the new leaves are the most vulnerable, the deficiency will eventually progress to the older leaves as well. The leaves turn white, pale yellow, bronze or yellow. The leaf tissue will die in areas affected by chlorosis. Shortened internodes cause the leaves to become clustered.

A zinc deficiency can result in small plants due to decreased internode elongation or stunted growth. Smaller leaves are common, which is referred to as dwarf leaves. The leaves become malformed with wavy margins or narrower width.

Possible Confusion with Other Symptoms

  • Trace element deficiencies have similar symptoms
  • New leaves also become yellow due to an iron deficiency
  • Root issues can result in similar symptoms

What Causes a Zinc Deficiency?

  • Seedling stress
  • Zinc level in the soil is too low
  • Organic matter contains too little or too much zinc
  • The pH balance in the soil is low
  • Soil temperature is low
  • Limed or calcareous soil
  • Soil becomes waterlogged
  • Phosphorus level in the soil is too high

A zinc deficiency in plants is usually due to low zinc content in the soil. This can cause stress on the seedlings. If the organic matter contains too little or too much zinc, the result is a deficiency. If the plant roots are restricted, the absorption of zinc is no longer possible. Limed, calcareous, high pH or low-temperature soil can cause a zinc deficiency. When the soil becomes waterlogged, a deficiency is common.

How to Fix a Zinc Deficiency in Plants

The most common remedies include:

  • Using pH water to flush the growing medium should reverse the deficiency
  • Water the plant with something other than tap water
  • Use soil rich in zinc
  • Avoid overwatering
  • Watch the plant for about seven days for any new signs of a deficiency

If the pH at the plant’s roots is too high, the level must be corrected. Excessive pH levels can become locked, restricting access to the zinc. Flushing the growing medium with pH water will eliminate nutrient salts to improve zinc absorption and help restore the correct levels. The ideal pH range for most plants is 6.0 to 7.0. Plants can absorb zinc more easily in the lower ranges.

The correct pH range for plants grown in hydro is 5.5 to 6.0. If the deficiency is severe, the pH level should be kept as close to 5.5 as possible due to the better absorption rate. If tap water is used for watering the growing medium, a zinc deficiency in plants is rare because there are generally high levels of zinc in tap water. Using high-quality soil can help prevent or reverse a zinc deficiency.

Make certain the soil used is rich in zinc, then use regularly to ensure plants receive a sufficient supply of all micronutrients and nutrients in addition to zinc. If the plant is experiencing root issues or is overwatered, a zinc deficiency can develop even if there is enough zinc in the soil and the pH range is correct. Set a schedule for watering to eliminate nutrient deficiencies.

Once a zinc deficiency has been identified and corrected, watch the plants for any new symptoms on the leaves for about seven days. There is a good chance the damaged leaves will be unable to completely recover, but new symptoms should stop appearing.

How Long Does It Take for a Plant to Recover from a Zinc Deficiency?

If the deficiency is the result of stress, the issue is often resolved without any assistance once the stress has been eliminated. A since deficiency in plants should be resolved in three to seven days. Once new leaves no longer show any symptoms, the issue has been handled successfully.


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