How Do Plants Grow? The Life Cycle of a Plant

how do plants growIt shouldn’t come as a shock to you that plant life is bountiful on our planet. Even if you live in a city like New York you’re still going to see plants growing. So how exactly does a plant grow? What process does a plant undergo to reproduce and create new life? What conditions need to be met? I’ll try not to overwhelm you with information while also trying not to oversimplify.

In basic biology the life cycle of a plant is detailed at great length. Take this online Introduction to Biology course to see what I mean.


Plants need several things to survive, much like humans need a few vital things in order to stay alive. Like humans, plants need water and air to thrive, but they also need adequate sunlight, temperatures and nutrients (like our food) that live in the soil. Every plant is different so there is no way to universally measure how much of each variable is needed. Sunlight is the tool plants use to photosynthesize or turn light energy into chemical energy. Without light, there is no light energy and without any light energy, the plant cannot create chemical energy which is their fuel. Water is equally important because without it, nutrients cannot flow through the plant from the roots which causes plant death. Too much water causes root rot which is equally as damaging to the plant. Balance is everything. Learn more tips like this in the organic soil growing course.

Cycle of Growth

1. Pollination

Pollination is the equivalent to human sexual reproduction. One plant “pollinates” another plant and boom – there’s new growth. Some plants can reproduce all by themselves which makes them asexual. There are two types of pollination, self-pollinating and cross-pollinating. Self-pollination includes the male sperm (gametes) to be brought to the female ovule by way of pollen. Pollen, if you haven’t noticed, is everywhere. It’s on bugs, on us, in the air and on animals. Plants use these vehicles to accomplish pollination. In cross-pollination, the gametes are carried to another plant’s ovule and then fertilization ensues. The flowers are usually where the sexual organs of a plant live.

2. Fertilization

Like humans, when male sperm meets the female ovule, fertilization begins. However, the ovule is usually a bit challenging to get to for these tiny gametes. To assist the male sperm in reaching their destination, the female part of the plant reacts to the presence of male sperm by extending a tube to collect the gamete and bring him down into the heart of the female carpel: the ovule. Some plants don’t utilize a tube, instead they have a gooey substance that allows the sperm to swim to the ovule by themselves.

3. Seeds

Seeds are the babies of the plant world. The female plant, or mother plant, begins to grow seeds after fertilization occurs. These seeds then grow inside of fruits on angiosperms or they grow into cones on gymnosperms. Once a fruit or cone has finished growing it is picked off the plant by an animal, a human, or the weather. Its seeds are then spread by the elements, or hand planted by humans. Once the seed is planted (either by nature or by hand) the growing process can begin if the conditions are right. Learn how to grow your own medicinal food forest in this online course.

4. Germination

The first step in seed growth is germination. This is where a lot of home gardeners go wrong – they don’t germinate their seeds before putting them in the ground. Germination is when the seed opens up and the roots begin to grow down and the leaves begin to grow upwards. This process usually only occurs if the seed is buried deep into the soil. For gardeners, germinating your seed in a wet paper towel for a few days (up to a few weeks) before soil planting them is a good way to ensure growth. Some seeds, however, don’t require this. Read about which types of plants will grow well inside your home.

5. Growing

And so it grows! Plants are in a constant state of growth. In fact, they often adapt to the environment and needs of the plant by adding new growth to the roots and shoot as the plant matures. You’ll notice how plants can get really bushy or grow back after being trimmed, this is the plant’s meristem at work. The meristem is a call-to-action tissue comprised of cells that can be triggered by plant conditions to grow where need be.

6. Full-circle

After the plant matures and produces flowers of its own, it then goes on to begin the pollination process. It’s the circle of life!

It’s not so complicated after all. And now you know why all of that pesky pollen is actually so important. If plants interest you I recommend checking out this awesome online course all about South-West China’s incredibly biodiverse plant life.