Keeping Seedlings From Dying

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March 3, 2010

aster seedlingsWhen trying to start seeds for this spring, if you have trouble with your seedlings dying after they come up, called "damping off", run a small fan on low. That way if you overwater them, you won't have the trouble with mold growing and your seedlings dying. I also use a heating pad on low under my pan that holds the seedlings.


By Elaine from IA

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Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

March 11, 2009

When I plant my seeds they grow thin and spindly to about an inch and a half then fall over and die. Any idea why?

Dave from UK


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March 12, 20090 found this helpful
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That's called 'damping off', caused by soil pathogens taking opportunity of wet soil conditions. Use the sterile soil and don't overwater, keep the soil fluffy and damp like chocolate cake.


Then make sure they are in a south-facing windowsill for maximum light. Rotate the box every day.

March 12, 20090 found this helpful
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It amazes me how little water seeds need to sprout. I often use a spray bottle filled with water to wet the surface soil until the plants get bigger. I have not always used sterile seed starting mix, and have had green mold or fungus grow on top of the soil. I scraped it away with my finger being careful not to disturb the seed sprout. It worked. When sprouting seeds with artificial light, I keep the light about 1 to 2 inches off the soil. When the seedlings are about to touch the artificial light, I raise the light another inch or two, and continue repeating this until it's time to transplant outside. Good Luck!

March 13, 20090 found this helpful
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In my early years of gardening the same thing happened to me. Then I educated myself by reading gardening books, articles found on the Internet, and talking with other gardening enthusiasts.


The previous posters were correct in saying your problem is a condition called "damping off". My suggestions to you are to:
1. Purchase a seed starting kit that has either peat pots or pellets, and a tray with a lid, or buy just a tray, peat pots, and seed mix. There are instructions on the Internet for making your own peat pellets.

2. Buy or build your own light rack. There are instructions on the Internet for building your own racks out of PVC. My very first rack was made from PVC.
3. Water your pots and pellets from the bottom. The seed starter mix and peat pellets will soak up the water from the bottom eliminating the damping off issue.

4. Purchase 2-lite shop lights from a local home supply store for your lighting source. Depending on where you live they cost between $8.00 to $10.00. Buy 2 Grow Light bulbs for Aquariums and Plants, or if that's too expensive, buy 1 cool light bulb and 1 warm light bulb. Keep the lights as close to the trays as possible until they germinate, then raise to approximately 4 inches above the plant at all times. Keep raising the light fixture as they grow.


5. Every other week I add a table spoon of Miracle Grow to 1 gallon of water and pour into the trays.
6. I also set up a fan on low speed for 20 minutes a day to blow over the seedlings. The fan creates a wind effect thereby causing the seedlings to grow thicker and stronger. Professional greenhouses do this, too. I hope some of this info helps. Have fun!

March 13, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

That's damp off -- and you can buy a treatment to put in the water you are using to control it. I used No-Damp - add drops in the watering can and it keeps it at bay. Damping is a fungus and can be in soil -- use a commercially prepared soiless mix for growing seeds, use No-Damp, make sure there is enough light and you should keep the loss of seedlings to a minimum.


Good luck! It is so discouraging to lose plants - and can be heartbreaking when the seeds are very special, rare ones.

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April 2, 2019

I have grown lots of flowers from seedlings. My sunflower plants sprouted and started to grow, but slowly they started moulding and at last dying. I really don't know why this happening.

Is it because I'm watering them daily? I have used 50% soil, 15% cow manure, and 45% coco peat mixture for seedlings plantation.


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April 2, 20190 found this helpful

The soil could have something in it that is causing the issues.

I know some people swear by backing their potting soil mixture in the oven and baking it (EWWWW--that is where I draw the line--that is NOT happening in my oven).


When I want to sterilize a batch of potting soil mix, I just put it out side on a cookie tray specifically for dirt, cover it with saran wrap and let it "bake" for a few days in the sun. Now in Pittsburgh, that is not often (sunny days), so I may have to bring it back in if it rains and take it out another day.

If you are still having issues with "clean" potting soil, it is possible they just aren't draining well and you are getting the rot from that. You may want to put a few bigger stones at the bottom of your pots (starters).

The other thing you can do is reduce (or eliminate) the manure. I am NOT a big fan of any fertilizer when I plant...esp. manure. It has too much of an ick factor for me. I grew gardens for many, many years and never used it and my flowers and veggies always did well. Now my mother used to swear by fish emulsion and when I was very young, we would use that on our family garden, but when I went my own way, I never used it.

Hope you find the solution. Sunflowers are so lovely!! The seeds are yummy too!


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April 2, 20191 found this helpful

I would not water daily. This contributes to root rot. Water deeply once a week or so. I stick my finger in, and when it feels dry, then I water.

April 3, 20190 found this helpful

Too much water, and it's not drying out enough. Don't water at night, indoors or out. High humidity drops in the air as temps drop, trapping more water.


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April 3, 20190 found this helpful

Most likely you have a fungus in the soil that is affecting your seedlings. It would be good for you to try again with sterile soil even if you "bake" it yourself or buy it that way. Fungus thrives on extra water so I would cut back there too. This type of fungus growth is often called "damping off". A number of gardening sites on the web will tell you more about it.

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April 22, 2012

I've been growing my seeds outdoors next to the house and I water daily, but this morning I thinned them and replanted them so they'd have room to grow and now they're all wilted! Are they going to die on me? I use Miracle Gro soil.

By Ali


April 22, 20120 found this helpful

It's not unheard of for transplanted seedlings to look wilted and dried up when you first transplant them. Give them time and they'll probably come around.

Until they reestablish you might want to water carefully so as not to disturb the new root growth. Good luck.

April 22, 20120 found this helpful

Give them a little time to adjust. Too much water is not good. It's the roots that are establishing so don't worry so much about the leaves.

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April 21, 2012

I'm new to gardening in Arizona. I started my seeds in the Jiffy pellet with the tray and lid. Everything was going great until I transplanted them into 3 inch peat pots outside being that the weather has been warm. I water them regularly with the misting nozzle on my hose about every other day. So far I have lost most of what I had started. Please can anyone help me out.

By Saddie


March 17, 20140 found this helpful

I heard that you have to "harden off" seedlings when placing them outside. Maybe that is the problem. If you already did that, then I am not sure.

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February 25, 2017

Growing garden plants and flowers from seed is often a less expensive alternative to buying full grown or starter plants. This method does require a level of patience and attentiveness to your young sprouts. This is a page about 8 signs your seedlings are in trouble.

Seedlings growing in small containers.

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