How Plants Grow, 6 Interesting Stages a Plant Goes Through

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Have you ever wondered how a huge tree could come out of a very tiny seed and how you could plant a tree yourself?

Well, in this article, we are going to talk about the life cycle that any plant goes through, starting from being just a hard seed until becoming a fully grown plant. We will also talk about how to plant a sunflower at home.

But before diving deep into the stages any plant goes through, we need to know first what a plant needs to grow.

Well, any plant needs five essential things to count on to grow. These things are:

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Plants need water to grow, so you must regularly keep watering them. They absorb water from the soil through their roots.


Did you know that plants breathe like us? 

Of course, but the main difference between plants and us is that we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. On the contrary, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen in the daytime. That is how plants provide clean air for us to breathe.


Plants grow and make their food by themselves using photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is just a process by which plants absorb sunlight, water from the soil, and carbon dioxide from the air to produce their food, carbohydrates (sugars). They then use this food to produce energy that would help in their growth.


It is an essential thing for any plant as it is full of nutrients that the plant needs to grow. But this does not mean that all plants can grow on soil only. Some plants can grow on water, too.


These things could be found in the soil naturally, or we could boost that soil by adding fertilizers. Fertilizers are just nutrients that a plant needs to grow faster. These nutrients include things like: Nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. For young plants, their primary sources of nutrients are the soil and the food reserved in the seed. But for adult plants, their main source of nutrition is photosynthesis. Adult plants can produce their own food through this process with the help of other factors such as sunlight and air.

These essential things have to be in the correct amount to help the plant grow bigger and bigger. But, on the other hand, too much or too little of it could actually do more harm than good to the plant. For example, too much sunlight (high temperature) could burn the plant. Also, too little of it (very low temperature) could freeze it out.

So now we know all about what a plant needs to grow. But before we move on to the six stages, we need to know the first thing that gets this whole process started: the seed.

The Seed and What is Inside it

The seed is the basic unit that any plant comes out of. It is usually hard and contains certain things that the plant will need in its early phases of growth.

The components of a seed.

Any seed is composed of three main things:

  • The embryo (the baby plant).
  • The endosperm (the nutritional reserve for the baby plant).
  • The outer coat which is a hard cover to protect the embryo and its food reserve.
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The seed.

Now we are very well set for our journey, where we will discover together how a seed becomes a plant.

1. The Germination Stage

This is the first stage in any plant’s lifecycle. Every plant species needs different circumstances to germinate. Some require high temperatures and moisture. While others might require the opposite to grow up.

The germination process starts when the seed is put in the optimal environment (appropriate amount of sunlight and moisture) for its germination. It then starts to absorb water from the soil and swells until its outer coat cracks open.

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The germination stage.

Plants differ in the amount of water they need in order for their seeds to germinate. Some seeds have a very tough coat, so they might need more amount of water to germinate.

The first root to come out of the seed is so special and has a unique name. It is called a “Radicle.” This root starts to dig deep into the soil to get more nutrients and water for the quickly growing embryo.

But you may ask, what if the seed is put in a harsh environment that does not meet its requirements to germinate?

Well, in this case, the seed is so smart and knows that it is not a good idea to start the germination process in these circumstances. So it stays as it is and waits for the optimal chance to start its cycle. Some seeds stay dormant (inactive) for years, waiting for the environment around them to be suitable for their growth.

You may also have another question about how that seed knows whether the surrounding environment is good or bad for it.

Well, the seed has receptors on its outer coat that sense the environment around it and decides whether it is a good time to start germination or not.

2. The Seedling Stage

This is the second stage in a plant’s lifecycle. In this stage, the plant grows a bit further out of the embryo, and you can see a small green stick with some small leaves coming out of the soil.

The seedling is composed of three main parts:

  • The embryonic root.
  • The shoot which is the green stick that grows upwards.
  • The leaves.
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The seedling stage.

The newly formed root helps the growing embryo absorb more nutrients from the soil as it grows. These roots grow downwards and get deeper to anchor the seed into the soil. On the other hand, the shoot continues to grow upwards.

3. The Vegetative Stage

During this stage, the plant continues to grow bigger and bigger.  By this stage, the embryo has already consumed the nutritive reserve from the endosperm. That is why it starts to produce its own food like an adult plant depending on photosynthesis in this stage. The plant then starts accumulating food from photosynthesis for the next stages in its growth cycle. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient in this stage because It helps in plant growth and development.

4. The Reproductive Stage

This is a vital stage in any plant growth cycle. But before we start talking about this stage, we need to know what is the meaning of reproduction.

Reproduction means the way by which a living organism produces children (its offspring). The main goal of this process is to keep the species alive and protect it from extinction by producing a baby plant that would be able to grow into a whole new plant and continue this cycle again.

Plant species are quite different when it comes to their way of reproduction. Some reproduce sexually, and others asexually. Sexual reproduction requires both sexes (male and female) to give off half of their genes to the newly forming offspring. The new offspring now has combined genetic information from both parents with some modifications. That gives the new offspring an advantage in adapting to environmental changes. This sexual reproduction takes the form of pollination (which is seen in flowering plants).

To know more about pollination and the life cycle of plants that reproduce sexually, check out this article.

Asexual reproduction is way more common in plants as it is easier, faster, and requires only one sex. But the main problem with that kind of reproduction is that the new offspring receives the same genetic material from the parent without any modifications. They are exact copies of their parents. That is why the new baby plant won’t be able to adapt to changes in its environment. Asexual reproduction includes vegetative reproduction, budding, and fragmentation.

To know more about reproduction modes in plants, read this article.

5. The Flowering Stage

That is a very interesting stage in which we start to notice some flowers and fruits coming out of the plant. The plant in this stage is preparing for the last stage, which is the ripening stage. But some plants don’t produce flowers in their lifecycle. So it is not a fixed stage.

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The flowering stage.

6. The Ripening Stage

This is the last stage of any plant’s growth cycle. In this stage, the plant gets ready to be harvested and eaten. They gradually become more colourful and lose their green colour to gain the colour of ripe fruit or vegetable. They also become softer, sweeter, and more palatable. At the end of this stage, the plant becomes fully mature.

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The ripening stage.

Now we have gone through all six stages; we have to keep in mind that plants are not all the same. There are many different plant species, and some go through these stages in different ways.

Want to do it Yourself, Here is How

We are going to do an experiment together to try to plant our first seed at home or in your garden. We are going to use sunflower seeds as an example. Ready?

First, we need to know what we need to get started.

The Ingredients

  • Sunflower seeds.
  • A small pot or any container.
  • Water.
  • Soil.
  • Sunlight.

The Directions

  • Put the soil in your small pot.
  • Then put the seed into the pot which already has soil and cover it with more soil. Make sure the seed is pushed deep into the soil. 
  • Add some water to it. Don’t add too much; just sprinkle some water.
  • Put your pot in your balcony or any place where it could get fresh air and sunlight.
  • Keep waiting and take care of it by watering it regularly, once every day, until you see something green coming out of the soil.
  • Keep observing it until it becomes a fully mature plant.
  • And voila, you have planted your first seed successfully. Congratulations!

Check out this article, to learn more about how to plant a sunflower seed. And this is a short video explaining the same steps mentioned above on how to plant a sunflower seed.


By the end of this article, we hope that you get an overview of the growth cycle of any plant and wish you could start planting your own garden right away. If you are still confused and overwhelmed by the information above, here’s a short video on how plants grow. Enjoy watching!

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