How Do Plants Grow?

Cross section of a bean seedling.

Have you ever wondered how do plants grow? Follow along step by step, from seed germination to a full-grown plant.

How Do Plants Grow?

Germination

A seed needs water to germinate. Water assists the seed in breaking the seed coat, which in some cases can be very tough. For example, Morning Glory seeds have a very tough seed coat and need to be soaked in water before they are planted. The seed begins to grow as the cells within the seed begin to multiply. Eventually, usually within a few days, the seedling bursts from its seed coat and will continue to grow both downward and upward.

Cotyledons

The cotyledons, or first leaves, will be the first things you will see once the seedling has come out of the seed coat. Cotyledons are usually thicker leaves than the ones that will follow. The shoot of the plant may also be visible as the leaves start growing upward.

The Root System

As the shoot and cotyledons are pushing upwards, the taproot and smaller root hairs will also begin to grow. The proper soil, or water with the right nutrients, is necessary in order for the plant to continue growing. A plant can grow in most environments as long as it receives the proper nutrients required for growth. Plants can either grow in soil or in water (aquaculture).

The Growing Plant

The plant will continue to grow upward and outward as its cells multiply. New leaves will appear, as will flowers in many plants. As the plant grows, it will continue to need the proper nutrients from the soil and water as well as sunlight or the right artificial light. Plants in good health will eventually reach their full height and maturity, which is dependent upon their specific variety.

Reproduction

Once a plant reaches maturity, it will reproduce. Plants can reproduce as long as they have a male and a female reproductive system. This can happen in plants that are hermaphrodites (have both male and female reproductive systems) or with a separate male and female plant that are near each other. Plants also reproduce, or are propagated, in the following ways:

  • Splicing two plants together- such as a Red Delicious apple with a rare apple variety
  • Runners or Stolons- as seen on the strawberry plant
  • Adventitious buds - such as those seen on the trunks of trees that have been cut down
  • Suckers- as seen on Elm trees, tomatoes and roses
  • Bulbs - plants like the onion, garlic and tulips reproduce by forming new bulbs
  • Corms - glads and crocuses reproduce by forming new corms
  • Tubers - similar to bulbs, the dahlia and potato reproduce more tubers

Bean Or Pea Plant Project

If you'd like to see for yourself how do plants grow in a controlled environment, consider doing a bean or pea plant project. To do this simple project you will need a few items:

  • Several bean or pea seeds
  • A clear glass or plastic container
  • Soil
  • Water
  • A well-lit and warm place for the plant's container

First, fill the container ¾ full with soil. Next, you need to plant the seeds in about a half-inch of soil, next to the side of the container. You should be able to see the seed or part of it through the side of the container. Next, water the soil so that it is moist, not drenched. Finally, place the container in a warm, sunny window and wait for the seeds to germinate.

In a few days, you should be able to observe the beans or peas begin to germinate and shed their seed coats. The cotyledons will be visible as well as the beginnings of the shoot and taproot. The plant will continue to grow and you'll be able to watch the plant reach for the sunlight (phototropism). The taproot and root hairs will also continue to grow, pushing further into the soil in search of water.

Many people will transplant their bean or pea plants outdoors and enjoy watching them continue to grow and eventually reproduce.

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How Do Plants Grow?