Plant Development: Exploring Its Conditions and Stages

The world of plants is a key component of sustaining life on Earth. Beyond their aesthetic allure, plants serve as the lifeblood of different ecosystems, acting as the primary source of sustenance for almost all terrestrial beings, including humans.

Beyond that, plants play a fundamental role in maintaining the delicate balance of the planet’s atmosphere. Through the magic of photosynthesis, they not only generate the oxygen but also absorb carbon dioxide and contribute to the preservation of Earth’s life-supporting ozone layer. Their unparalleled ability to recycle matter in intricate biogeochemical cycles — such as the remarkable water transportation through transpiration or the symbiotic nitrogen fixation — demonstrates their remarkable efficiency in sustaining the intricate web of life.

But for all those benefits to be possible, plants have to develop in a healthy way through their lifecycle. Therefore, in this exploration of plant development, we’ll delve into the influential conditions shaping their journey and the actual stages of plant growth, including plant growth stages by BBCH scale.

Conditions for Plant Growth

Plant growth is basically its irreversible expansion in size. This process, fueled by metabolic activities, manifests in the enlargement of various parts, such as a leaf. Primarily driven by cell division and growth, plants, like animals and humans, demand water and nutrients for survival.

Water and nutrients, sourced from the soil, travel through a plant’s system, nourishing roots and leaves. Adequate watering, along with fertilizers containing essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are a must for a successful plant development.

Beyond these essentials, clean air and healthy soil are no less vital. Pollutants hinder plants’ ability to photosynthesize and can impede growth. Healthy soil, rich in nutrients and providing anchorage for roots, is crucial.

Sunlight acts as a catalyst for growth through photosynthesis, the process converting water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. Yet, excessive or insufficient light can slow down the growth process.

Space considerations are key. Plants need room to flourish, so crowded conditions stunt growth and increase disease susceptibility due to limited airflow. And time, a critical factor often overlooked, defines a plant’s growth trajectory — each type has its own growth timeline, needing days, months, or even years to yield flowers or fruit. Patience is indeed a virtue in nurturing plants to their full potential.

Plant Growth Stages

Different stages of plant growth are the markers of distinct changes they undergo while developing. From sprout to seedling, then through vegetative, budding, flowering, and ripening — plants’ nutritional needs change as they grow.


Seeds contain the essential nutrients required to initiate the initial phase of a plant’s life. The time for germination and sprouting varies based on the seed type, ranging from days to weeks. During this primary growth phase, the seed sprouts, developing seed leaves distinct from the plant’s true foliage while depleting its nutrient reservoir.


Root development triggers a surge in rapidly absorbed, well-balanced nutrients, fueling the swift transition from spindly seedling to robust plant.


Nitrogen, vital for chlorophyll — the green pigment in plants — becomes the critical nutrient as the plant’s energy channels towards stem and leaf growth.


Mature vegetative plants embark on a transitional phase, redirecting energy from green growth to budding, flowering, and eventual fruit production. Phosphorus gains significance during this transformative stage.


Potassium takes center stage at this point, facilitating the production and transport of sugars and starches, crucial for the development of healthy flowers and fruit.


In this conclusive stage, flowers and fruit mature as the plant’s energy shifts away from leafy growth. Nitrogen becomes redundant as the plant dedicates its resources to finalizing its produce.

However, these are just the basics. There are numerous scientific methodologies that offer insights into the botanical journey of plant transitions. Among these, the BBCH scale is the one widely embraced by scientists and agriculturists alike, notably finding prevalence in smart farming.

BBCH scale

The BCCH scale has brought standardization to plant stages of growth, employing a concise two-number system (00 to 99) where the first digit denotes the primary stage and the second indicates the secondary one. This method not only codifies analogous phenologies across species with existing and new scales but also fills gaps where specialized scales were previously absent.

With a comprehensive breakdown into ten distinctive and enduring developmental phases, the principal growth stages are methodically described using ascending numbers from 0 to 9 (Table 1). However, owing to the diverse nature of plant species, deviations or even omission of certain stages might occur throughout their developmental journey.

0Germination, sprouting, bud development
1Leaf development (main shoot)
2Formation of side shoots, tillering
3Stem elongation or rosette growth, shoot development (main shoot)
4Development of harvestable vegetative plant parts or vegetatively propagated organs, bolting (main shoot)
5Inflorescence emergence (main shoot), heading
6Flowering (main shoot)
7Development of fruit
8Ripening or maturity of fruit and seed
9Senescence, beginning of dormancy

Table 1: Principal growth stages of the BBCH scale

Given the vast disparity in growth stage durations and phenological events among plant species, scientists craft distinct and detailed scales tailored to each species. For those lacking specific scales, the widely accepted BBCH scale steps in as a universal framework or a foundation upon which specialized scales can be built. Delving into the ten fundamental stages of plant growth outlined by the BBCH scale provides valuable insights for farmers navigating the complexities of plant development.

The stages of plant growth serve as a testament to their resilience and interconnectedness with all life. Understanding the conditions shaping their lifecycle not only deepens our appreciation for their complexity but also equips us with insights crucial for nurturing and harnessing their boundless potential in an ever-evolving world. As we continue exploring the nuances of plant development, we get to find out more about the symbiotic relationship between nature’s marvels and the flourishing life they sustain.