What is Nutrient Lockout and How Can I Avoid it?

In this Article


You may have come across your plants showing a range of symptoms of not receiving enough nutrients even after providing them with everything that they need. 

This could be frustrating and confusing especially for the people who are gardening for the first time and not knowing what’s wrong with their plants. This is called nutrient lockout and let’s dive into knowing more about nutrient lockout and how to prevent it.

What is Nutrient Lockout ?


When a plant is unable to take up nutrients from the soil or fertilizers or chemicals supplied to it, the situation is called nutrient lockout. It can cause early death of plants by preventing them from feeding on water,sunlight and other essentials.

When the medium of growth or the source is accumulated with too much of nutrients, these nutrients will become incompatible and ultimately prevents plants from absorbing them and causes nutrient lockout. It also happens when the pH of the soil, water or nutrients is unbalanced.

  • Nutrient lockout can also happen even if the nutrients are overly supplied by 1 millilitre of fertilizer.
  • It is important to know how to reverse the nutrient lockout or it will lead to stunted growth and apparently cause death of plants
  • This situation can be found in plants grown in hydroponic setup.
  • This situation can also arise because of indoor soil which is overly accumulated with salts, fertilisers and other nutrients.

The Effects of Improper pH on Nutrient Lockout



pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 indicating that level 7 being neutral and ranging above 7 being alkaline and below 7 being acidic. 

pH level can be an important factor in preventing nutrient lockout in plants. It is important to have the correct pH level in the medium of growth that is provided to plants. 

Irrespective of whether the pH level is high or low, if the pH level is wrong then the roots of plants will find it difficult to absorb the nutrients from soil or water or fertilizers provided. 

The pH level of indoor plants should be 5.5 – 6.3. This is commonly known as the sweet spot or the optimal range. At this optimal range, sufficient absorption of nutrients will take place and plants will grow to their best potential.

If pH level drifts out of this optimal level, then it paves way for nutrient lockout.


Nutrient Lockout By Oversupply Of Nutrients.


We all know plants require various nutrients to grow and develop. Sometimes we tend to see that even after supplying nutrients to the plant, their growth remains stagnant and they show yellowing of leaves.

 This situation happens because over the time,  nutrients that are supplied to the plant will eventually form a bond and it becomes incompatible and tend to drift away from the optimal pH level and makes it difficult for roots to absorb the nutrients leading to eventual death of the plant. 

Thus too much build up of nutrients in the medium of growth causes pH to be either high or low, moving away from the optimal range and hence causing a nutrient lockout.


Nutrient Lockout: Signs and Symptoms

It is easy to notice signs and symptoms of Nutrient lockout in plants. But it is also similar to signs and symptoms of plants that don’t receive sufficient nutrients.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms.

Stagnated growth –  we can make out the difference between a plant that grows well and a plant that doesn’t grow to its full potential. Therefore look out for stunted growth in plants that could be due to Nutrient lockout.

Yellowish leaves – Plants will show yellowing leaves if it faces a deficiency of nutrients or if there is a difficulty in absorption of nutrients from the medium of growth.

Curling of leaves – is another classic sign of a Nutrient Lockout. It indicates the malabsorption of nutrients from the soil or the water.

Limp leaves and weak stems – limp leaves are another indication of nutrient lockout in plants and stems seem weak and altogether they look lifeless.

Droopy branches and leaf scorch – Nutrient lockout will also lead to droopy, weak and flimsy branches. It also causes leaf burns which cause yellowing and darkening of veins and around margins of leaves which apparently leads to abscission of leaves. 

Here are some solutions from Chemboys, which can help you prevent awful situation of nutrient lockout in plants. These field-tested chemicals have proven to be best solution in case of nutrient lockout.

Chemboys pH UP and pH Down

Chemboys pH UP

It is considered to be excellent products for elevating the pH level of the nutrient habitat. Its pH level is between 5.5 and 6.5.

This product can be used as a soil stabilizer and plant fertilizers. Chemboys pH UP is also used for waste water treatment, water treatment and for several other cleaning purposes. 

How to use – it’s always recommended to test the pH level of the medium before making any desired modifications. Add a small amount of Chemboys pH UP (1ml per ten gallons). This will eventually increase the pH level.

It is also advised not to mix incompatible solutions.It’s made in USA and it                                                                        comes in quantities of 1 quart, 1 gallon and 5 gallon . 

Chemboys pH Down

Chemboys pH down is used for lowering the pH level. It helps to bring down the pH of the water in the hydroponic system. It is environment friendly and non combustible. Being an odorless product, it is very easy to use.

It’s made in USA and it comes in quantities of 1 pint, 1 quart, 0.5 gallon, 1 gallon and 5 gallon and costs from $14.99

3 Ways to Fix Nutrient Lockout.


Nutrient Lockout can be a common problem. But certainly it should be prevented. There are various methods in which we can prevent the Nutrient lockout in plants. We can prevent the nutrient lockout by :

Flushing the plants – flushing the Plants with pH balanced water helps to dilute the nutrients and aids for enhancing absorption of nutrients.

Temporary stoppage of supply of nutrients – by temporarily reducing the supply of nutrients will reduce the build up of nutrients in soil and thus will not affect the pH level of the medium.

Watering the plants before supplying nutrients – watering your gardens for a while before providing them with the nutrients will make sure that the excess nutrients and salts have been flushed off and this will help in better absorption.

Final Verdict

Now that we have understood what nutrient lockout is, what causes a nutrient lockout in plants, signs and symptoms and ways to prevent it. It is of paramount importance that we understand the problems, watch out for certain signs and symptoms at the early stages of growth and provide the right treatment for Introduction

It might seem confusing especially when you see your plants showing stunted growth even after providing them with all that they need. But it is essential to know that sometimes supplying too much of nutrients is also harmful for plants and will eventually cause the death of the plants. 

Therefore, we should provide our plants with necessary nutrients only at the right time and also to use the best products to treat them right.

Happy Gardening !