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Through pointer plants determine the nutrient content and texture of the soil in the garden.

While the acidity of the garden soil can be determined very easily with the help of a test kit, the nutrient content is a different matter. The fact that garden plants are lacking something is often only noticed when they become ill and hang their heads or do not want to thrive at all. Yet there are some practical wild plants that are undesirable in the garden and are fought by gardeners, but are still a bioindicator of the nutrient content and condition of the soil. We introduce you to a few such indicator plants!

These plants indicate soil compaction

Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) with soil compaction

Soil density can be determined by the following pointer plants:

The creeping buttercup loves dense soils.

Creeping buttercup, with its small, yellow flowers, is an indication that the soil is very compacted. So if some of your perennials just won’t thrive despite perfect care, it’s not because of a lack of nutrients or the wrong location, but simply because the soil is too firm.

Field horsetail in the perennial bed.

Indicator plants Examples - field horsetail (Equisetum arvense) when soil is too dense

This plant also prefers to grow in compacted soil, so it is an indication of this. So, if you want to plant there plant species that require a loose soil, you should first prepare it accordingly and loosen it well.

Dense soils also like:

  • Comfrey (Symphytum)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Common couch grass (Elymus repens)
  • Burdock ragwort (Galium aparine)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum)
  • Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)
  • Marsh zest (Stachys palustris)
  • Meadow knotweed (Polygonum bistorta)

Pointer plants Examples of nutrient-rich soils

Not only do indicator plants point to deficiencies, but sometimes they also indicate that everything is actually perfect with the soil. The following specimens are such indicators:

What does chickweed indicate?

Chickweed can be recognized by its white flowers and small leaves, and it is usually found in flower beds. Although it is pretty to look at and also tasty and healthy, it is not a very welcome weed. But at least it shows them that the soil is of very good quality. So your flowers and vegetable plants will also feel good.

The nettle as a pointer plant – Unwanted, but useful.

Nettles are indicator plants for nutrient-rich and nitrogen-rich garden soil

This useful plant, which for many is rather a weed that causes a lot of trouble in the actually well-maintained bed, indicates exactly that: that everything is fine with your soil. It is rich in nutrients, especially nitrogen, and is well loosened and humus. So before you get angry with the nettle, pat yourself on the back, because you did everything right. And besides, you can use it for your health and that of the garden!

Other nitrogen-grazing plants:

  • Earth fumitory ( Fumaria officinalis )
  • French weed ( Galinsoga parviflora )
  • Common mugwort ( Artemisia vulgaris )
  • Shepherd’s purse ( Capsella bursa-pastoris )
  • Burdock ragwort ( Galium aparine )
  • Melder ( Atriplex patula )
  • Black elder ( Sambucus nigra )
  • White goosefoot ( Chenopodium album )
  • Meadow hogweed ( Heracleum sphondylium )
  • Meadow chervil ( Anthriscus sylvestris )

These indicator plants point to nutrient deficiency

Pointer plants list - daisy grows when nutrient deficiency.


If plants thrive at all, that should really mean that the soil is good, shouldn’t it? No, because there are hardy plant species that can cope with or even need deficiency. Your precious vegetable plants and flowers, on the other hand, will not be able to grow well. So what indicator plants point to nutrient deficiencies?

Daisies do well with few nutrients

Daisies appear gradually, especially in lawns. The reason is that the nutrients are running out so slowly but surely. So you should definitely do something to give your lawn enough strength to grow. How and when to fertilize it properly, you can read in this article.

Clover as a pointer plant for lack of nutrients

White clover and wood sorrel indicate acidity or nutrient deficiency in the lawn

White clover is often found in lawns and indicates insufficient nutrients. Of course, you can counteract this with a suitable fertilizer application. But not all clover is the same. Wood sorrel, for example, as its name suggests, indicates acidic soil with a lack of lime. So you should lime .

Soil is also poor in nutrients in the case of:

  • Eagle fern ( Pteridium aquilinum )
  • Stonecrop ( Sedum )
  • heather ( Erica )
  • bedstraw ( Galium verum )
  • Dandelion ( Taraxacum )
  • Daisies ( Leucanthemum )
  • Wood Sorrel ( Oxalis )
  • Sheep’s fescue ( Festuca ovina )
  • Saxifrage ( Saxifraga )
  • Thyme ( Thymus vulgaris )
  • Meadow sorrel ( Rumex acetosa )

Determine acidity using indicator plants

Wiregrass (Avenella flexuosa) as indicator plants of too acidic soil


While some plant species even like it when the soil is slightly acidic, indicator plants for acidic soil indicate that it is now too much of a good thing. What are they?

Wiregrass means low-calcium and acidic soil.

If you find this specimen in your beds, it means that the soil lacks lime and nutrients. The plant grows in coniferous forests, among other places, which are known to have acidic soil. Accordingly, this also seems to be the case in your garden bed.

Pointer plants in the garden – The broom heather (also called heather).

Heather (Erica) is a sour pointer in the garden bed

Another acid pointer is the heather. Whether your soil is dry or variable moisture, this plant will be especially comfortable if it is acidic, as it is in its beloved woods. So if that’s the case, it’s a good idea to balance the pH with lime.

Other indicator plants for acidic soils:

  • Bracken ( Pteridium aquilinum ).
  • Brushwood ( Nardus stricta )
  • Blueberry ( Vaccinium myrtillus )
  • Dog chamomile ( Anthemis arvensis )
  • Honey grass ( Hulcus mollis )
  • Dock sorrel ( Rumex acetosella )
  • Wood Sorrel ( Oxalis )