Importance of the sun In Soil Formation: Fully Explained

If your indoor or outdoor plant lacks color, has a slow growth rate, and is drooping to the side, you must check its sunlight exposure and soil quality. Read here to learn more

All plants need sunlight exposure to grow and survive. However, while most people understand the importance of light for a young growing plant, not many know how soil can impact a plant’s growth, health, and chances to survive.

This is why, even when people give their green plants ample direct sunlight, poor potting mix eventually causes the plant to die.

Keep reading to learn about the Importance of the sun In Soil Formation and how deprivation of either can kill a plant.

Why Do Plants Need Sunlight Exposure?

Every plant species needs sunlight to survive and grow.

While the exact amount of sunlight exposure varies from one plant species to the other, complete deprivation will almost always push any plant to its death.

However, what makes sunlight so crucial for a growing plant?

Just the way we humans need food, air, and water to survive and function, plants have their own requirements and needs. Two of these most critical requirements are carbon dioxide and water.

When a plant absorbs carbon dioxide from the air around it and water from the soil, its cells use the two ingredients to undergo a process called photosynthesis.

This is the process that allows it to synthesize plant food, sucrose, which is then broken down to provide the plant energy for growth and other vital processes.

Sunlight is the main catalyst of the photosynthesis process. Not only does it enable the plant to convert water and air into food, but it also speeds up the process to make sucrose production much faster.

The more sucrose sugar the plant produces, the higher its growth rate, and the chances of long-term survival will be higher. 

Hence, you cannot expect it to grow and survive unless you provide a growing plant with some light.

Why do Plants Need Soil to Grow?

One of the most crucial plant organs that allow the plant direct exposure to its surroundings is its roots. Since most plant roots grow into the ground, most plants need soil to grow.

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Good-quality potting soil generally contains water, minerals, micronutrients, and air.

As the roots spread around the soil, they can soak up water, take in minerals and micronutrients, and absorb air from the various air pockets in the ground.

Moreover, apart from providing a plant with its key survival ingredients, soil also gives it the structural support it needs to grow vertically upwards and spread out.

The deeper the roots go into the soil, the greater structural stability the plant will have. This allows the plant to withstand animal attacks, strong winds, and heavy rainfall.

Importance of the sun In Soil Formation

Role of the sun In Soil Formation

Soil formation is the transformation of rock pieces into soil via a range of physical, chemical, and biological processes.

The sun, which contributes to weathering, photosynthesis, and the creation of soil organic matter (calcium, copper, iron and nitrogen), is one of the most essential variables in soil formation.

A. Climate Change

Weathering is the process of breaking down rocks into smaller bits that can later be turned into soil.

Sunlight plays a vital role in climate change because it causes physical and chemical changes in rocks that lead to their breakdown.

The following are some instances of sun-influenced weathering processes:

  • Thermal Expansion: When heated by the sun, rocks can expand and compress, cracking and breaking apart.
  • Hydration: Sunlight can induce water molecules in rocks to bind with minerals, causing them to expand and eventually break apart.
  • Oxidation: occurs when sunlight interacts with particular minerals in rocks, causing them to rust and degrade.

Photosynthesis (B)

Photosynthesis is the process through which plants transform carbon dioxide and water into organic matter by using sunshine.

This organic matter is subsequently absorbed into the soil, where it helps to develop soil structure and fertility. Plants that contribute to soil formation via photosynthesis include:

  • Legumes: are plants that can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, which is subsequently absorbed into the soil as organic matter.
  • Grasses: Grasses have vast root systems that can aid in soil stabilization and structure improvement.
  • Trees: Trees contribute significantly to soil formation by breaking up hardpan soils and improving soil structure.

C. Organic Matter in the Soil

The term “soil organic matter” refers to the dead plant and animal material that is absorbed into the soil.

Because it improves soil water-holding capacity, nutrient cycling, and soil aggregation, organic matter is important for soil fertility and structure.

Because it contributes to the decomposition of plant and animal material, the sun plays an important role in the formation of soil organic matter.

The following are some instances of organic matter that are influenced by the sun:

  • Leaves: Sunlight can aid in the breakdown of chlorophyll in leaves, which can subsequently be absorbed into the soil as organic matter.
  • Animal waste: Sunlight can aid in the drying and breakdown of animal feces, which can then be absorbed into the soil as organic matter.
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Signs an Outdoor Plant is Deprived of Proper Sunlight and Soil Quality

If your plant is not getting sufficient sunlight during the day or is grown in poor quality or infected potting mix, it is almost impossible to miss the signs of weakness and poor growth.

Some of these signs include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Leaves and stem lose their bright green pigment and turn yellow
  • Leaves develop dry tips and brown-black spots
  • Excess leaf loss
  • The plant does not grow any new leaves, flowers, or fruit
  • Dehydrated and dry leaves and stem
  • Shriveled-up plant body
  • Plant drooping sidewards

How to Provide Your Plants with Sufficient Sunlight?

If you enjoy gardening and care to see your plants grow healthy and tall, you must find ways to increase sunlight exposure.

The best way to do it is to plant your plants directly under the sun, where they are not shaded by a neighboring structure, your house, or taller plant species.

Moreover, if you are growing most of your garden indoors, place as many potted species next to surfacing windowsills or out on your balcony. 

Furthermore, you can also use mirrors or other reflective surfaces to reflect the sun’s light on your growing plant species. 

However, the real gardening challenge begins when there is not enough sunlight due to an extended period of cloud cover, during the cold winter season, or during rainfall.

If the sun does not shine for multiple days, the deprivation can impact the plant’s growth rate, immunity, appearance, and overall health.

In such conditions, it is best to invest in artificial light sources such as infrared lamps. These lamps will provide both heat and light and will give the plants a chance to survive the cold or rainy season.

When is Direct Sunlight Dangerous?

Although some plants need direct sunlight, some will die if left under the sun for too long.

These are plant species that thrive under indirect sunlight and need some form of shade to retain their beauty and health.

If you plant such plant species under the direct sun, their internal temperatures can go up. When this happens, the plant will transpire water from its leaves in an attempt to cool down. As the transpired-out water evaporates off a leaf’s surface, it leaves a cooling effect.

This will bring down the plant’s internal temperature and will save it from overheating. However, if you continue to leave your plant under direct sunlight, the plant may lose too much water.

As a result, the dehydrated plant will lose its fresh and plump appearance and its ability to photosynthesize plant food. This will negatively impact the plant’s growth rate and kill the burnt plant prematurely.

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Moreover, too much sunlight can also cause water to evaporate out of the plant’s soil before it reaches its roots. Once again, this leads to severe dehydration and weakens the overall plant.

How to Provide an Outdoor Plant Shade from Direct Sunlight Exposure?

If your outdoor plant is suffering under the direct sun, invest in a canopy that can provide your garden partial shade from the sun.

This way, the plant will be able to photosynthesize its food without burning it out.

Moreover, you also dig out your sensitive plant species and repot them into containers to be moved indoors during the hot summer weather.

How to Check a Growing Plant’s Soil Quality?

Usually, it is hard to instantly tell if potting soil lacks quality. Since most commercial potting mixes have a similar appearance, you cannot decide which will be best for your plant.

However, if you want to check the soil’s quality before bringing it home, read up on its list of ingredients. You can give the mix a shot if the mix contains peat moss, plant compost, perlite, limestone, etc.

Moreover, another way of testing a plant’s soil quality is by inspecting the health and condition of the growing plants.

If your plants lack pigment, are pale and yellow, are losing too many leaves, have slow growth, and not bearing any new flowers or fruits, you should replant the plants into better-quality potting soil.

Moreover, it is also important that you inspect the soil for infectious diseases or pests. If the soil has a white, yellow, or light green mold growing on its surface, it contains a fungal infection that can cause root rot and premature plant death.

Moreover, if you find tiny, winged insects or white-black bugs buzzing or crawling around the soil, either spray it with a pesticide or change it.

Top Potting Mix Ingredients and Their Respective Benefits in Gardening

Top Potting Mix IngredientsRespective Benefits of the Potting Mix Ingredient
Peat MossAllows the soil to retain moisture for longer
PerliteImproves the soil’s water drainage
Pine BarkAllows the soil to hold in more air
BiocharIncreases the soil’s water and nutrient retention
LimestoneReduces soil acidity and balances the overall pH
VermiculiteIncreases the soil’s water and nutrient retention
CompostImproves the soil’s water drainage
Sandy SoilImproves the soil’s water drainage

Final Thoughts

Gardening is an extremely therapeutic activity that can instantly improve your mood and help you be more productive during the day.

However, when you lack proper plant knowledge, your plants dying can frustrate and discourage you.

If your indoor or outdoor plant lacks pigment, has a slow growth rate, and is drooping to the side, you must check its sunlight exposure and soil quality.