All About Trace Elements

Tara | March 9, 2023
Close up leaf - trace elements in hydroponics

Trace elements are elements in plant nutrients that facilitate growth and enable certain functions. They form the building blocks of enzymes that facilitate essential processes in your plants. Important trace elements for plants include: boron, molybdenum, iron, zinc, manganese and magnesium. Trace elements are only needed in trace amounts, too many trace elements can be harmful to plants.


Boron plays a role in cell division, transport of carbohydrates and functioning of nutrients. A continuous supply of boron is important during the vegetative phase. When a plant is boron deficient, root development will deteriorate and growing points will die. The leaves may look dehydrated and the plant will bear less fruit. Too much boron can also be detrimental for plants. It can cause leaf veins to become blocked or turn yellow. Some plant species are more susceptible to an excess of boron than others.


This nutritional element promotes growth and nitrogen balance. Many enzymes cannot function without molybdenum. Molybdenum deficiency often manifests as a lack of nitrogen. Enzymes responsible for nitrogen balance function less effectively, resulting in nitrogen becoming insufficiently bound. A symptom of this may be curling or wilting leaves. If the pH value is low, molybdenum deficiency can increase. Little is known about an excess of molybdenum. It rarely occurs.


Copper plays an important role in balancing plant hormones. If your plants contain too little copper, it disrupts growth. Your plant may take on a deviating shape or colour. Curled leaves are a sign of copper deficiency. An excess of copper is virtually unheard of. If it does happen, the roots will resemble barbed wire and the foliage will break off.


Zinc produces the plant’s growth hormone and is therefore very important for growth. A lack of zinc is clearly visible: stunted growth and small leaves. The leaves can also take on a brown colour. An excess of zinc can also disrupt growth. The veins can turn purple.


This trace element is a component of enzymes that bring about a number of important processes: photosynthesis, foliage development and respiratory processes. A continuous supply of iron is very important. A lack of iron causes the foliage to break off; the leaves turn yellow and can eventually turn completely white. Iron deficiency occurs regularly in the event of an excess of water, low root temperature, or if the pH is too high. An excess of trace elements, such as zinc, copper and manganese can also cause iron deficiency. An excess of iron does not occur in horticulture.


A number of enzymes in the plant contain manganese. This important building block is responsible for plant processes, such as: protein metabolism, cell division, photosynthesis and respiration. Manganese deficiency usually occurs with a very high pH value. It manifests in virtually the same way as iron deficiency; the foliage between the veins breaks off. Roses or gerberas may shed their leaves. Too much manganese is only harmful with a decreasing pH value. You can recognise this by purple-red spots on the leaves.


Magnesium promotes green leaves. This trace element also stimulates the production of proteins from amino acids. The leaf veins remain green with a shortage of magnesium, but the leaf turns yellow between the veins. The plant takes on a speckled appearance. Too much magnesium is rare. If it does occur, it looks like sodium damage.

Products that contain trace elements

Glandore Hydro stocks a range of products that promote the absorption of trace elements.

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