Most gardeners often ask questions like –


  • How often, how much & when shall I water the plant?
  •  Why the seeds I sow fail to sprout?
  • I bought a healthy plant in full bloom from a nursery. Though I followed all the instructions given by the nurseryman, the plant never bloomed again; what went wrong? 

Different experts will offer different solutions for such problem. These are often contradictory to each other and confuses the gardener. Gardening books do not help much; as they give only general information and solutions to specific problem faced by a gardener are not covered.


A gardener can overcome these hurdles buy understanding the plants and their growing habits. A few points required to be a successful gardener are as follows:


1. Intense love for plants and nature
2. Keen sense of observation
3. Patience and initiative to experiment
4. Basic knowledge of plant life.


If you are a gardener or you have just taken up gardening as a hobby, the first three points must be already deeply rooted in you. The fourth point knowledge of plant life will be slowly revealed  to you as you go deep into the growing of your garden. If you are new to gardening your success will definitely faster if you are conversant with various functions carried out by different parts of a plant. The object is to give you the basic knowledge of gardening as a hobby and to enable you to achieve confidence to find your  own solutions to problems faced by you on a day to day bases.


To understand plants, you must know the function of each part of the plant and the role played by it in the plant life. Efforts have been made to give you this knowledge in a simple manner below:


Roots : The roots give support to a plant and act as an anchor. They help in absorbing water and water-soluble minerals. Roots of some plants also serve as storehouses of food produced by plants themselves. Only young roots and hair roots are capable of active absorption of water and water-soluble minerals. The roots need air for healthy growth. That is why if water stagnates around the roots, they get suffocated and then die. If the roots die, then in spite of having so much water around them, they still cannot absorb it. Thus the plant wilts. This type of wilting is called as 'wet wilt'. Most leguminous plants have nodules on their roots, which shelter nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This helps not only the leguminous plants themselves but also helps in enriching the soil.

Stems : The stems provide support to other parts of a plant. Water, nutrients, food and hormones are transported to different parts through the stem. The canals located in woody parts of a stem are called 'xylem', which carry water and minerals dissolved in water. 'Phloem' the other canals located between xylem and outer skin, transport food and hormones. The movement of water and minerals is upwards, from roots to other parts. Food is manufactured mostly in leaves and other green parts of the stem and also the hormones are transported through phloem. The direction of this movement is normally downwards. Stems too the roots.


Leaves : The leaves of the plant performs three main duties.These are photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration. All these processes, in which exchange of gases or water vapour play a part take place through pores. The Pores are the tiny openings, mostly located on the underside of the leaf and are capable of absorbing air and water-soluble minerals or other chemicals, such as insecticides.

Photosynthesis : Leaves manufacture food from two basic raw materials - water and carbon dioxide. This process is called as 'photosynthesis'. To convert these two raw materials in to sugars - the basic plant food, plants need energy. This energy is provided by the sunlight. In presence of green chlorophyll in the leaves and by using the energy of sunlight, plants convert carbon dioxide and water in to food. The food manufactured so is used by the plant for its growth and for maintenance. In the process of photosynthesis, oxygen is released as a byproduct through pores in to atmosphere. In nature, as the sunlight is available only at daytime, Photosynthesis takes place only as long as sunlight is available. The excess food is often stored as surplus, commonly as starch, in roots or stems. The plant rarely uses food so stored again. Plants if defoliated very often will starve to death. As leaves manufacture food, it is always beneficial to retain at least a few leaves on stem cuttings used for propagation.


Respiration : Plants need oxygen for the process of respiration. In this process of respiration, oxygen diffused through leaf pores reaches the cells. Within a cell, in controlled condition, oxidation of sugars (plant food) takes place. In this process the energy is liberated, which is needed for the maintenance and growth of a plant. In this process carbon dioxide and water vapour are released through pores as byproducts. Respiration takes place day and night. In daytime not only the carbon dioxide released as a byproduct is re-used in photosynthesis, but, also a great quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide is also consumed. Thus plants help in purifying atmospheric air.


Transpiration : We know that a wet cloth dries in air. As air is drier than the wet cloth, air absorbs moisture from the cloth, as a result of which the cloth dries. Similarly, in transpiration, the drier atmospheric air absorbs the moisture of the leaves through the leaf pores. Thus leaves constantly lose moisture through the pores. However, as a result, leaves do not wilt; because the roots constantly replenish the water supply. But if enough water is not available near the roots, more moisture is lost; which causes the wilt in the plant.


Symptoms of Under Watering : Shrunken or dried leaves and stems. Dried leaves remain on the plant and do not fall off easily. The symptoms start from the growing tip of the plant and spread downwards.


Symptoms of Over Watering : Leaves start to turn yellowish. Such leaves easily fall down. The rot starts near the root and spreads upwards. Succulent and herbaceous plants will suddenly turn to pulp. In some cases of woody plants, if the roots rot, the upper portion is starved of water. This may indicate the symptoms of under watering, but if one is observant, it is not difficult to distinguish the difference. This type of wilting is called "wet wilt".


Symptoms of Excessive Sunlight : Shade loving plants if exposed to harsh sunlight will show burnt, brown patches on the leaves. The upper leaves are affected more, as lower leaves get some protection of the upper leaves. The brown patches turn paper-dry.


Symptoms of Lack of Sunlight: The dense growth of the plant will disappear and the plants will grow lanky. Coloured leaves will loose their colour and start turning pale green. Green leaves will start turning yellow. Fleshy leaves will start turning thin. Certain plants, which have hairy growth on leaves & stems, will start getting hairless.

Reproduction: Reproduction of the plant takes place through a process of pollination in case of a majority of the flower and vegetable plants. In case of bulbous plants this takes place by multiplication of the bulbs. Similarly in the case of some flowering and evergreen plants this takes place by manual root division.

Sexual reproduction gives rise to seeds in a plant. The survival of plants, animals and human beings depends upon the seed production.


A flower is composed of a number of organs. Only two of these, stamens (male sexual parts) and pistils (female sexual parts) are directly concerned with sexual reproduction. Pollen grains released from stamens pollinate the stigma (receptive portion of pistils) and cause fertilisation of ovules.


Bisexual flowers have both stamens and pistils. Example - rose, hibiscus. However, unisexual flowers are those flowers, which have either only stamens or only pistils. Such flowers are called staminate (male) or pistillate (female) flowers respectively.


There are certain plants on which both staminate & pistillate flowers may be present on the same plant. A few examples are, cucumber, corn, coconut palm. In this case, though the flowers are unisexual, the plant is said to be bisexual. In some plants staminate and pistillate flowers occur on different plants of the same species. A few examples are date palm, tadgola palm, aamsul, jayphal etc.

Photosynthesis, Respiration & Transpiration Comparison







Occurs only in green cell

Occurs in every active, living cell

Occurs in every active,

living cell

Takes place only in presence of light

Takes place during light & dark

Takes place during light & dark

Uses water & carbon dioxide

Uses food & oxygen

Water evaporates in to atmosphere

Releases oxygen

Releases water vapour & carbon dioxide          

Solar energy is converted into chemical energy

Chemical energy is converted into heat & useful energy



Results in increase in weight

Results in decrease in weight

Food is produced

Food is broken down


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