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What Are the Best Tips for Caring for Seedlings?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Seedlings, or new plants, often require more care than an older, well-established plant. One of the best tips for caring for seedlings is to make sure that the container in which the plants are growing has excellent drainage. It can also be helpful to keep the seedlings warm by maintaining an even temperature in the air and watering them with lukewarm water. Starting the seedling in a flat and then transplanting it to a larger container indoors can aid in strong root development, making it more likely that it will eventually thrive outdoors.

Although seedlings require a fair amount of water to grow into sturdy plants, too much water can rot the delicate roots. The easiest way to avoid this is to start seeds in a container that has excellent drainage. Ideally, each plant will have its own pod of soil in which to grow, with the pod being slightly raised above the container. This allows for space at the bottom to catch excess water, preventing it from collecting in the soil and rotting the roots. Using a container with several drainage holes at the bottom, and placing it on top of a shallow tray that can catch excess water, is also a good tip for caring for seedlings.

The vast majority of new plants require an even, warm temperature in which to grow. One of the best tips for caring for seedlings is to keep them in an area with a maintained temperature of 60°F (15°C) to 70°F (21°C). A space free of drafts, especially when seedlings are started during the late winter or early spring, is also important. The need for warmth also extends to the water used during watering, as very cold water can shock a new seedling, stunting its growth or weakening it substantially. Watering plants with lukewarm tap water is one of the best tips for caring for seedlings.

Not placing new plants in an oversize container is also a good tip for caring for seedlings. In general, it is best to allow them to grow in a starting flat, available at most hardware stores or easy to make at home. Once they begin to develop mature leaves, which are typically the second set of leaves that grow, seedlings are still too small to transfer outdoors, yet they will stop growing in the flat due to lack of space for the roots. At this point, one of the best tips for caring for seedlings is to move the plants to a slightly larger container and to let them grow until they are large enough to withstand the outdoor climate.

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