Why Do Plants Need Sulfur?

Why do plants need sulfur, and how do I know if my plants need more of it? Let’s take a few minutes to cover this essential plant nutrient.

As you take a journey into the world of plants, you’ll quickly realize that plants need a handful of essential nutrients to survive. They need several nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. On top of these essential nutrients, our green friends also need sulfur. But WHY do plants need sulfur?

What Is Sulfur?

Sulfur is a chemical element of atomic number 16, a yellow combustible non-metal that’s widely found in nature. It’s used in a variety of everyday items such as black rubber, fertilizers, and gunpowder. Sulfur compounds are also responsible for certain foul odors — like the odors that stem from rotten eggs and even skunks. Despite these interesting uses and sources, however, sulfur is still needed by all living things. For example, sulfur is involved in your body’s metabolic processes and is also found in insulin. But why exactly do plants need sulfur?

Why Is Sulfur Important for Plants?

While plants only need sulfur in very low amounts, it’s still absolutely vital for their well-being. Here are just a few of the roles sulfur plays within plants:

  • Sulfur aids in the formation of chlorophyll.
  • Sulfur improves disease resistance.
  • Sulfur helps make proteins, enzymes, and amino acids.
  • Sulfur helps plants use nitrogen.

Together, all of these roles allow plants to grow big and strong, improve their overall yield, and create seeds.

How Do I Know if My Plants Need More Sulfur?

There are a couple of different ways to determine whether your plant is deficient in sulfur.

The first way is to take a look at the plant itself. The physical appearance of a plant can often help you determine which nutrient(s) it’s missing. In the case of sulfur, you might start to notice yellowing leaves on your plant. But it’s important to remember that yellowing leaves can also be a sign of other deficiencies (like with nitrogen, or chlorosis from a lack of iron). While there are ways to determine whether it’s a sulfur deficiency or a nitrogen or iron deficiency, it can still be tricky — so be careful here.

The second way to check for a sulfur deficiency in your plant is to perform a soil test. However soil tests can also be tricky, and they aren’t always accurate. While a soil test is designed to help you determine what your soil might be lacking, it doesn’t test all of your soil — only one part of it. In other words, the results for one small section of your soil may not be accurate for the rest of your soil. If you add amendments to your soil based on one test result from one section, you could end up damaging other sections of your soil.

Are Soil Tests Good Enough?

Soil tests are designed to tell you what nutrients are in the soil. But they won’t tell you which nutrients are in a plant-available form. It would be something like the difference between cows and hamburgers. Some of us eat hamburgers — but not cows. This same concept holds true with the nutrients in your soil. Many can be in a form that plants simply can’t absorb. Needless to say, soil tests don’t always give us the information we are looking for.

What if My Plant Isn’t Sulfur-Deficient but Still Looks Bad?

Keep in mind the sulfur is only one of the 16 essential plant nutrients, and your plant needs all 16 nutrients to remain healthy. If your plant is not lacking sulfur but still looks to be in bad shape, then it may be deficient in a different nutrient. If you want to learn more about these other nutrients, take a look at the following articles:

But if you don’t want to get a PhD in chemistry (😉), we recommend using a soil treatment like GardenMAX or TurfMAX. Not only do these treatments contain all 16 essential plant nutrients, but they also have a ton of other great benefits. For example, they can correct pH imbalances, add beneficial microbes to the soil, and slow-release fertilizer. Even better, they’re super easy to use — apply on top and water in.

Final Thoughts

Sulfur is essential for plants, so if you think your plant is missing this nutrient, you need to act fast. Unfortunately, testing for nutrient deficiencies in plants isn’t the clearest thing to do. But luckily, there’s another way to overcome this hurdle.

With a soil treatment from Green As It Gets, you can easily transform your soil into a place where plants love to grow. These soil treatments work fast to correct pH imbalances and supply your soil with any missing nutrients. It’s intelligent, advanced, easy to use, and ready to go to work for your soil!

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