The 17 Essential Plant Elements include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel.
The non-mineral essential plant elements include hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. These are either taken up as a gas or water.
There are 4 elements that are beneficial to promote plant growth but are not considered to be necessary for completion of the plant life cycle. They are silicon, sodium, cobalt, and selenium.
Figure 1 illustrates the essential and beneficial elements location on the periodic table. You can see that there are three clusters of elements within the periodic table.
These elements can be further divided into either macro- or micronutrients based on the relative concentrations typically found in plant tissues. The macronutrients include nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur. The micronutrients are chloride, iron, boron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel.
The 17 essential plant elements can be remembered using a clever Mnemonic device that my botany professor Dr. Max Bell taught me in my undergraduate days at Truman State University. Here is the mnemonic device to remember the 17 essential plant nutrients of higher plants:
- HOPKNS Ca Fe is Mighty good and Clean. The owner is my Cu Zn Mo B the Nickel Miner.
The beneficial mineral elements can be remembered as a “Cozy Sinner” (Co Se Si Na).
Figure 1. Periodic table of the elements illustrating the essential and beneficial elements in higher plants.
In hydroponics, these mineral elements come from either the fertilizer salts you add to your source water or are already present in your source water. The macronutrients carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen come from either water or gases in the air.
Our Hort Americas Hydroponic fertilizer (9-7-37) was specifically designed to meet the unique needs of hydroponic plant production. Please contact us at to find our why Hort Americas Hydroponic Fertilizer is the perfect fertilizer for your hydroponic system.