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What Does NPK Mean When Growing Plants?

What Does NPK Mean When Growing Plants?

When you’re starting in hydroponics there can be plenty of knowledge and terms to learn. If you’re going to be successful at growing plants indoors, it’s important to learn basic terms and factors that involve growing healthy plants. Basically, NPK means: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. These are the three essential elements that every plant requires.


Nitrogen is an essential part of chlorophyll synthesis, and is also a component of amino acids. It’s also needed for the growth of plants. Nitrogen is an essential element that plants utilize for growth. It’s a part of every living cell. Plants absorb two forms of nitrogen. 

1. NH4 or ammonia.

2. NO3 or nitrate.

Most plants will absorb the nitrate ion form, but will take in the NH4 if it is present. If there is any lack of nitrogen or chlorophyll for the plant, it means that the plants cannot utilize the energy source from the sunlight to do essential functions, such as nutrient intake.



Phosphorus is also required by plants for photosynthesis and to do their plant respiration. It’s essential for energy storage, cell division, cell enlargement, and transfer, and also has a function in other plant processes.

The phosphorus forms with other substances to form phosphate compounds, which are an important plant nutrient in the macro nutrient class. It’s needed so that the plant can complete its growth cycle. A plant will contain its highest amount of phosphorus when it’s young. This is found in the plant’s tissues during this time. Then when the plant starts to mature, the phosphorus moves out of the plant and into the flowers, seeds, and fruits.



Potassium is an element that is essential for protein synthesis in plants. It also helps to break down carbohydrates which provide energy to the plant. It plays other roles, including controlling ionic balance, the translocation of minerals, and overcoming disease. When the plant is in the fruit growing stage it will help to form the fruits. If a plant has a boost of P, it will also help the shelf life of fruits and vegetables in the stores, without treating them with harmful compounds. Finally, potassium is involved in the activation of over sixty enzymes that are responsible for regulating the rates of major plant growth reactions.

One of the most important functions of potassium is its influence in efficient water use of the plants. It can help the plant to open and close its pores (stomata) for the absorption of water and nutrients. Potassium is found in the part of the plant that surrounds the stomata. Ensuring that the plants have an adequate amount of potassium will also help the plant cope during drought conditions, and help to produce quality crops.

As you can see, NPK are all highly essential nutrients that all plants require, including the ones in your indoor hydroponic garden. When you carefully control the right amount of nutrients for your plants, you will achieve thriving and healthy plants.