Mobile vs Immobile Nutrients In Plants-All You Need To Know!

Last Updated on February 20, 2022 by Marco C.

What are mobile vs immobile nutrients in plants?  This is a super important aspect of any garden!  Make sure to read this article to find out all you need to know about this topic.

Every plant needs nutrients to grow and thrive.  Without it, plants would not produce the food that feeds us, humans.  Just like plants, humans require specific nutrients to be healthy.

While humans get our nutrients from the food we eat, plants get their nutrients from the soil.   This article will overview the important differences between mobile vs immobile nutrients.  

We will also go over all details about plant nutrients that you must know to have a successful aquaponics system! It is absolutely crucial for gardeners to understand this.  Once you have a good understanding, you are sure to do well with your plants! 

There are 14 main nutrients required to grow plants.  Some of them are mobile and others are immobile.  The main difference is that mobile nutrients can move around the plant and immobile nutrients cannot.

Keep reading now to find out all of this important knowledge to help you grow better and bigger plants!

What Are The Three Primary Macronutrient Elements That Plants Need In Relatively Large Amounts?

Before we get into details about mobile vs immobile nutrients, let’s focus on the key nutrients every plant needs to thrive.

In terms of nutrients, there are three macronutrients and 11 micronutrients.  The Macronutrients are the nutrients that are required in the highest amount for your plants.  This means you will need more macronutrients than micro.  

The three primary macronutrient elements are N (nitrogen), P (Phosphorous), and K (Potassium).  Each of these macronutrients are required at different stages of the plant’s life.  They support specific functions of the plant.

Nitrogen is what stimulates vegetative growth.  This means the growth of leaves and stems.  Nitrogen is very important at the beginning of the plant’s life.  However, if you give too much nitrogen it can create a very tall, leafy plant that does not produce fruit.  

Phosphorus is critical for root growth and flower production.  Many vegetables produce a flower before they create fruit.  Phosphorus assists the plant to create strong healthy flowers which turn into fruit. 

Phosphorus is critical for root growth and flower production

Learn more about: How To Use Rapid Rooter Plugs With Seeds

It is best to apply phosphorus near the middle of a plant’s life cycle when they should start to produce flowers.  

Potassium is also good for strong flower and fruit production.  It helps support the plant’s resilience to diseases, fungus, molds, etc.  In general, it helps keep your plant balanced.

Apply Potassium during the flowering and fruiting stage of a plant.  

You can recognize nutrition deficiency in plants by observing the look of your plants.  When you see a sign of stress, you can use a chart to check if it is an N, P, or K deficiency.  

Aside from the three main macronutrients, plants need 11 different micronutrients.  These are required in much lower doses compared to the macronutrients. 

Mobility Of Nutrients In Plants

These micronutrients are Manganese (Mn), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Chlorine (Cl), Iron (Fe), Boron (B), Molybdenum (Mo), Sulfur, and Nickel (Ni).  

Again, each one of these micronutrients supports different functions of the plant’s health.  Every plant can either have a deficiency or too much of a nutrient.  You can identify the problem by analyzing the look of the plant and comparing it to images online.  

So why should you understand the difference between mobile vs immobile nutrients?  Well, according to Michigan State University, “Nutrients important for plant growth vary in their ability to move within the plant. Knowing how they move can be helpful when diagnosing deficiency problems.” 

If there is a deficiency of an immobile nutrient, the signs will show up in the new growth of the plant.  Understanding which nutrients are mobile vs. immobile will help you diagnose the issue with your plant.  

When there is a deficiency of a mobile nutrient, it will most likely show up in the old growths of your plant.  

Here is the important list of mobile vs immobile nutrients:

Mobile nutrients are as follows: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Manganese, Chlorine, Molybdenum, and Zinc.

Immobile nutrients are Calcium, Sulfur, Iron, Boron, and Copper.  

In general, nutrient deficiencies do not show up until later in the plant’s life.  However, the earlier you can catch it the better.  Each of these nutrients can be supplied by natural materials.  

So if you notice you have a calcium deficiency, you can start adding more calcium.  One good source of calcium for plants is eggshells, snail shells, or other crustacean fish shells.  You can crush it up into a powder and mix it into your soil. 

Is Nitrogen Mobile In Plants?

The important nutrient, Nitrogen, is mobile in plants! Keep this in mind when diagnosing your plant problem.  You will see signs of too much or too little nitrogen in the old growth of your plants.  

Of course, the best thing you can do to ensure plant health is to keep your ecosystem balanced.  A great way to do this is to continue to add organic material to your soil and let nature do its work!  Remember, adding chemicals to your soil will do long-term damage.

In our opinion, it is best to stick to all-natural gardening.   It will be the easiest and cheapest route in the long run.  Plus, it’s much better for our environment which we need to protect! 

Another thing you should pay attention to is your soil’s PH.  The PH level determines the plant’s ability to uptake and process nutrients.  Sometimes you may not have a nutrient problem, but a PH problem.  

You can purchase a soil PH meter to give you accurate data.  Hopefully, after reading this article you understand the importance of knowing the difference between mobile vs immobile nutrients in plants.  

The more you learn about a plant’s anatomy and the natural environment, the better you will become at aquaponics!  This information will surely help you in the long run. 

Feel free to ask questions and comment below.  We are always here and happy to help!

Read more about: What Can You Grow In Aquaponics Garden?


What are the three primary macronutrient elements that plants need in relatively large amounts?

The three primary macronutrient elements are N (nitrogen), P (Phosphorous), and K (Potassium). Each of these macronutrients are required at different stages of the plant’s life. They support specific functions of the plant.