The Q&A Archives: Boron And Plants

Question: If we have boron in our soil, how will it effect our plants? We want to plant Lilac, Roses, Hydranges, Azealea and others. What do we look for and how can we minimize damage?

Answer: Although plants make their own "food" through photosynthesis, they need certain nutrients to help them do this. The major plant nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most fertilizers you see have an "NPK" rating, for example 5-10-10. This simply means the ratio of nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P) to potassium (K--the chemical symbol for elemental potassium). Plants also need a variety of micronutrients--they are just as essential as the macronutrients, though plants need them in much smaller quantities Plants can usually get these from the soil, but many "organic" fertilizers are made from materials like kelp (seaweed) and fish emulsion and contain many trace minerals. Most "synthetic" fertilizers contain only N, P, and K. Some micronutrients are: boron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and copper. The pH of the soil--how acid or how alkaline it is--affects how plants take up nutrients. Even though the nutrients are present in the soil, if the soil is too acidic or alkaline these nutrients become "locked up" in complex molecules that plants can't use. That's why people apply lime (to raise pH) or sulfur (to lower pH) to their soils. Have your soil tested by a local lab or through your State University. Once you know what your soil pH is, you can remedy the situation if necessary. The plants you've listed are all happy to grow in slightly alkaline to slightly acidic soils. I hope this is helpful.

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