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8 Signs Your Seedlings Are In Trouble

In many ways, nurturing seedlings is a lot like parenting. It requires love, attentiveness, and lots of patience (a good sense of humor doesn't hurt either). To keep your seedlings healthy, you need to learn to recognize when they are sick. Here are eight signs your seeds are in trouble and what may be causing it.


1. Seeds fail to germinate.

Possible Causes:

  • Temperature is too hot or too cold.
  • Seeds are planted too deeply or not deeply enough (they may need more contact with soil).
  • Your growing medium was allowed to dry out.
  • The seeds are old or improperly stored.
  • Damping off disease (seeds rotted in soil).
  • Improper light (some seeds require light or darkness to germinate).

2. Seedlings fall over or start to decay at soil level.

This may be a sign of damping off disease (organisms attacking seeds and young plants). Once plants have been afflicted, reviving them is not possible.

Possible Causes:

  • Soil not sterilized.
  • Dirty growing containers.
  • Improperly spaced seedlings.
  • Poor air circulation.
  • Excessive moisture.
  • Stress from low light or cool temperatures.

3. Leaves start to curl under.

Possible Causes:

  • Too much light.
  • Over fertilization.

4. Growth appears stunted or dwarfed.

Possible Causes:

  • Poor soil fertility.
  • Low temperatures.

5. Seedlings have pale, or discolored leaves.


Possible Causes:

  • Insufficient lighting.
  • Fertilizer burn.
  • Excessive watering.
  • Nutrient deficiency (nitrogen and phosphorus)

6. Seedlings have leggy, spindly growth.

Possible Causes:

  • Insufficient light.
  • Overcrowding of seedlings.
  • Too much fertilizer.
  • Temperatures too high.
  • Excessive watering.

7. Seedlings have poorly developed roots (as seen when transplanting).

Possible Causes:

  • Poor drainage.
  • Low soil fertility.
  • Damage from fertilizer salts.
  • Low temperatures.
  • Compacted soil (lack of air space in growing medium).

8. Moss or mold is taking over your growing medium.

Possible Causes:

  • Lack of air circulation.
  • Excessive moisture.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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May 30, 20090 found this helpful

I am so glad this was on your site! I am just getting ready to plant some seeds and have no idea what I am doing! Thanks again!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
December 31, 20160 found this helpful

What if the the leaves start curling up? They look pretty pale too. My first plant.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 12, 20190 found this helpful

Great info. I planted so many seeds and most of the seedlings died.


With this information, I should have a better success rate this year.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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