What Does a Stem Do For A Plant? Learn About Functions of Plant Stems

When you look at a plant, the first thing you notice is its leaves. While leaves are, in fact, the most prominent part of most plants, we tend to overlook the important qualities of the other components. 

Consider the stem of a plant for a moment. It often goes unnoticed at first sight, but it serves as one of the prime units of the plant overall. But what does a stem do for a plant? Well, besides supporting the leaves, it moves the water and minerals to the leaves for photosynthesis.

But there’s more! In this article, we will discuss them all, and you will be surprised to learn about all their crucial functions.

What Are Stems?

What are Stems

Simply put, a stem is the thin, vertical structure that keeps the whole plant upright. Branches, fruits, flowers, and leaves are all attached to and extend from the plant’s stem. 

Stems are relatively the tougher part of the overall plant formation. This is mainly because of the fact that it acts as the immediate brace after the base of the plant, which is the root. Cell arrangements and other biochemical activities within stems are what makes them stay in a straight and upstanding position.

Plant stems have a lot of key roles to play in the inner workings of a plant. Let’s go ahead and see what those are. 

What Do They Do For Plants? 

What Does a Stem Do For A Plant

The stem does a lot for the plant, including:

Support the plant

Stems consist of special types of cells called “collenchyma.” These cells are longer in shape compared to a typical plant or leaf cell. The outer walls of these collenchyma cells are also more sturdy and thick.

The width of the cell walls is uneven in places. Such arrangement is what actually makes the build to be strong and tough. Thus, it is secure enough to support the whole plant.

Transport water and nutrients

Special types of tissue called “xylem” and “phloem” are present in stems. As the roots absorb water and minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from the soil, the xylem, and phloem work together as vessels and carry those up to the leaves. 

Aside from transporting these essential nutrients, stems also store them for later use. It works as a great repository for plant food when water and minerals are not available in the soil for long periods of time. 

Produce new leaves, flowers, and buds

For a plant to get food and survive, it needs to have leaves. Flowers and fruits help to continue further reproduction. Stems have nodes at different gaps from which leaves can grow.

The nodes allow the leaves to grow laterally from the stem so that they can absorb maximum sunlight for generating food (glucose). Eventually, buds and flowers grow from the leaf bases and nodes.

Flowers are essential for the plant to continue to grow in new places and survive its species. And for that to happen, stems provide the necessary structure for buds to grow.

Store energy for plant

As mentioned earlier above, plant stems have special types of tissue and cells that store nutrients. Apart from water and minerals, stems also store energy for the plant. 

For a plant to make food, it needs water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. The resulting product is starch, a complex sugar that the plant uses as energy.

Starch can be stored in different plants depending on the type of plant, but a majority of plants store them in the stem. If the stem is green, it can even produce food directly in that area and store it as well.

Assist with reproduction

Although stems are not directly involved with plant reproduction, they still play an important role in the process. If a plant does not have the necessary organs or components needed for sexual reproduction to occur, the stem can be used for vegetative reproduction.

As a form of asexual reproduction, the stem can be cut and grafted into the soil for a new plant to grow from it. Vegetative reproduction using the stems of plants is a very popular and relatively fast way of growing new plants. 

Different Types Of Stems

Typically, the stems of plants are long and straight, but there are many different types of stems too. They can be long, short, and grow above the ground and even below the ground. 

Iris flower buds, potato tubers, and onion bulbs are common examples of stems that grow underground. But because they have nodes and small leaves attached to them, they can be classified as stems.  

Surprisingly, there are also some types of stems that grow horizontally and are very different from the typical upright ones. These are usually found on strawberry patches, cherry trees, and trees.


Who would have thought that the straight, vertical structure of the plant would be so important for its existence? As we have just seen, not all stems are even upright!

Apart from just being the main support system, the stem does a lot for a plant. It helps carry food and even store it too. So, stems are more important than you thought they were.

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Mohammed Rujel

Over the Years, I have gained a lot of experience in different aspects of gardening. I actively learned about plants and how to care for them, and also have a lot of experience in dealing with pests and diseases. My expertise is on teaching how to grow healthy plants and make them look their best.

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