8 Reasons your Seedlings Grow Too Slowly

Seedlings are supposed to grow fast, that is the definitely of what they are, but there can be times when certain conditions are not met and your seedlings end up growing too slowly.

What is slowing seedling growth? It can be any number of things, from the seeds being of poor quality to your preparations being inadequate. Some seeds require certain nutrients in order to even sprout and if the soil is too compact, you can forget about seeing the seedlings of plants that thrive in loose soil. Lack of moisture is also one of the most common causes.

It is your job to make sure that your seedlings will have a good environment to grow in and if they don’t, it means that you messed up somewhere along the way.

Reasons for Slow Seedling Growth

One of the most telling features of seedlings is just how fast they can grow and if your seedling is not growing at all, this can only mean that something has gone wrong. It could have something to do with the seed, the soil, or your own methods. The key now is to identify which one is which and you can start by understanding the most common reasons for slow seed growth.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that it would be far better to prevent this issue from cropping up, to begin with. You do so by:

·         Having the right seeds

·         Preparing the right soil

·         Getting the right containers

·         Knowing the right methods

·         Being equipped with the right tools

These are how you will be able to grow your seedlings quickly, as we will be discussing in more detail in a bit. For now, just know that even the simple fact that you are unable to see growth in your seedlings even after a few days is indicative that you failed at one of those stages.

To help you get a better grip on exactly what went wrong, here are the most common reasons why your seedlings are growing so slowly or are not growing at all:

Bad seedsThe seeds were already bad from the start by either being too old or too poorly stored
Wet seedsThe seeds are too fresh and have yet to be activated via maturity, which is activated by drying
Poor nutrientsThe soil has no nutrients for the seedlings to draw from, thus stunting growth or preventing growth outright
Bad soilThe soil is either too dry, contaminated or has the wrong pH level
Wrong soilYou are using the wrong soil for the job, with topsoil and garden soil being different from one another
Too much or too little sunlightSeedlings need light sparingly, so too much or too little of it could impact the growth
Too much or too little waterOverwatering is a common occurrence in gardening and is just as problematic as not water seedlings enough
Too much or too little fertilizerFertilizer does help with seedling growth in the right amounts but too much can cause fertilizer burn

Please take note that the reasons listed in the table above only refer to the most common and do not include those that might be of the rarer variety. Depending on the plant that you are trying to grow, you might be planting in the wrong season, temperature, and even humidity. So, if you are looking for reasons why your exotic plant is stunted, the cause might be quite specific.

In any case, it would be far better to just take a look at the reasons listed above first.

Bad Seeds – No matter what you do, there are just some bad seeds out there and you just cannot make those grow fast or at all, regardless of the effort you put into it. This basically refers to seeds that are old, that are diseased, that have been poorly stored, and many other undesirable aspects. These are the kinds of seeds that will only disappoint you.

If you are interested in getting better results from them, the only thing you can really do is hope that there is still enough life in the seeds to sprout. However, your time would be much better served by getting better seeds and then just planting those, instead.

Wet Seeds – Wet seeds are not necessarily bad seeds, but they are not exactly the best options for growing seedlings, either. These wet seeds come directly from the fruits that you might have purchased from the market for the purpose of consumption. If you intend to plant them, you will first need to clean them and then dry the seeds for a day or so.

This will basically activate the seeds and prime it for germination as soon as it comes in contact soil that is rich in nutrients and is full of water. The wetness of the seed via the remaining flesh and juices from the fruits basically acts as a barrier between the catalysts for its growth and it. Drying the seeds removes this barrier.

Poor Nutrients – Seeds require nutrients in order to sprout and sprout quickly. Seedlings that do not receive this nutrient will be sick and stumpy, and this is not exactly the best way to start the plant’s life. This is why the soil you use must be treated with compost and fertilizer beforehand to fatten it up nice and plump.

Bad Soil – Another reason why your seedlings might not be growing at the rate that you are looking for is the fact that the soil you are planting them in is just bad. It could be diseased thanks to the previous plants that went through it or harmful organisms have just settled in that particular soil. Pests and parasites might have lingered, as well.

This is why it is very important for you to make sure that the first soil that your seedlings come in contact with are pure and uncontaminated. This will help make sure that by the end of the process, you would have seedlings that are as healthy as can be. It would be no exaggeration to say that you have to treat seedlings like babies, which is why their greenhouses are called nurseries.

Wrong Soil – Even if you got the best, healthiest, purest soil available, your seedlings can still suffer if it is the wrong kind. There are several types of soil that are available in most places and they can be combined to form either topsoil or garden soil. Depending on what you are trying to grow and where you might need to get exclusively one or the other.

You see, topsoil is a lot looser than garden soil and this is a very important point to bring home. When the soil is looser, roots move around easier. This then means that plants like grass will thrive more with topsoil than they would with garden soil, which is a lot more packed and dense. And if you even try to use garden soil for your potted plants, you can forget about them thriving.

Too Much or Too Little Sunlight – You might already know that plants need sunlight in order to grow but seedlings are essentially just babies. They need time in order to acclimate with the heat and the intensity of the radiation. If you leave them exposed to the sun, especially noonday sun for too long, they are liable to wither and die.

On that note, if you don’t give your seedlings enough sunlight and keep them in the dark altogether, you had best believe that it is going to be the same thing. So create a schedule so that your seedlings will be bathed in gentle sunlight for a few minutes per day, all throughout the day.

Too Much or Too Little Water – As is the case with sunlight, seedlings do need water but too much of it can kill them. This is why a lot of growers tend to water their seedlings from the bottom up, which basically means soaking the pot in water. However, you don’t really need to go that far if you prepared your soil accordingly.

The soil should have already been watered before planting the seeds and covering the container will keep the water from evaporating too fast. After that, you just need to spray water regularly to the point where the whole surface becomes moist and soft.

Too Much or Too Little Fertilizer – Finally, we have the matter of having too much or too little fertilizer. Generally speaking, you apply fertilizer to the soil that you will be planting the seeds in, way before you do so. This will ensure that the soil will be healthy enough and the fertilizer itself will have degraded, somewhat.

If you use too much fertilizer, there might be a lot of it left by the time you plant your seeds. The chemicals could then kill the seeds before they sprout.

How to Grow Seedlings Fast?

Now that we have gotten to this point, this would be a good time to ask how you can make your seedlings grow fast. The answers are pretty much the opposite of the reasons why your seedlings are growing so slowly. However, for the sake of just getting the information out there, let’s take a look at some of your options, shall we?

To start with, you need to dry your seeds. Have you ever noticed how all of the seeds in your local garden shop are packaged? Not a single one of them is wet and there are two reasons for this. One is that wet seeds don’t last that long when packed and the other is that dry seeds grow faster than wet ones.

Of course, there are seeds that can get too dry because they have been in the pack for too long. However, if the seed is relatively young, there should be no reason why it would not sprout after a day if the conditions were right when the planting occurred.

Speaking of which, your soil, container, and nursery must all be prepared ahead of time before planting even occurs. Your container should have already been set up and the soil you will use must have been made healthy through mulch, fertilizers, and nutrients.

Getting all of that ready will basically serve as a springboard for your seeds so that they will have the very best start of their growth and they will only accelerate through the right conditions. Consequently, if you get any of those wrong, you had best expect that you will not be seeing much growth from your seedlings no matter how long you wait.

Way to Make Your Soil Ready for Planting

Speaking of priming your soil to take in your seedlings, you are definitely going to want to choose store-bought topsoil for the seedlings. As already mentioned, topsoil is looser than garden soil and if you want your seedlings to grow fast, you need to remove as many obstacles from their path as possible. However, you should not make it too easy because the pressure is another catalyst for growth.

With your topsoil chosen, it is time to make it as healthy as it possibly can without making it toxic. Now, your store-bought topsoil will likely already be quite healthy by the time you get it and if you wanted to, you can use it for planting right away. However, since we are trying to make sure that your seedlings will grow as fast as possible, you can’t let up on this particular instance.

You need to mix in some mulch with the soil as you place it in the container so that it becomes fatter and ready to feed the seedlings. Of course, it goes without saying that you should only use enough fertilizer for this purpose without leaving any trace. In fact, if you can avoid using fertilizer altogether, this would be even better.

Related Questions

Why Are My Seedlings Long and Thin?

Seedlings that are leggy or look longer and thinner than they should be are those that are not exposed to the right amount of sunlight. You are supposed to move your seedlings every now and again to get exposure. If you don’t, they will try to reach for that sun, forcefully stretching as they do.

Should Seedlings Be in Direct Sunlight?

The exposure of seedlings to sunlight should be carefully controlled in that it should be done during only the right times and only at the right degrees. Noonday sun can be quite harsh on the seedlings, after all, and could cause damages. As such, only early morning and late afternoon will do.

Fixing Seedling Growth Issues

Assuming that things have already proceeded as far as they have and now you have seedlings that are not growing at the rate that you would have liked. Can you still do something about it? Well, you could, but the success rate would depend on the level of damage that was already done.

Your first clue that something has gone wrong is when your seedlings have not grown even after 24 hours have passed. When this happens, it can only mean that something has gone wrong and you need to think about what you have done thus far that could have been the cause.

Among the changes that you could do is varying the sunlight exposure, adding more mulch, poking holes in the soil, or changing the spot where you place the container of the seedlings. If none of those make a difference after a day or two, this means that your seeds are ruined. The best you can do, at this point, is to start over with a new batch and try not to screw up again.

You do have to keep in mind that what you are trying to do, at that point, is to make sure that whenever you are planting seeds, you will be keeping your failures into consideration. There are hardly ever any guarantees that your first attempt at gardening will be successful, even if you do have guides to base on. There are simply too many variables to consider.

It can take years to develop a green thumb, after all, so this is just something that you will need to accept. You will have to put in a lot of time and effort into honing your skills and instincts whenever you are caring for plants. Sometimes, you just know when there is something wrong with your seedlings even if there is no viable explanation for it.

How Long to Wait for Seedling Growth?

As already mentioned, seedlings that have been planted properly and in the right conditions will sprout roughly 24 hours after initial planting. If it doesn’t, something has already gone wrong and you can give your seedlings about seven days to sprout. However, even if the seedlings do sprout during the seventh day, it could still show signs of growth issues.

For example, it could be leggy, which is what happens when the seedlings are enough exposed to enough sunlight. At that point, they literally trying to force themselves to grow just so they can get more of their food. There is also the possibility that the seedlings would simply take too long to develop, thus stunting their growth and delaying your gardening progress.

Normally, you would take seedlings that have sprouted true leaves from their containers and transplant them over to their final spot. However, seedlings with growth issues might take longer than normal to grow true leaves, which will make transplanting them too much of a risk.

At that point, you have already invested so much into the project that you continue it anyway instead of wasting all of that time and effort. However, at the end of the day, you will still need to make a decision, sooner or later.

In the event that your first foray into growing seedlings does end in failure, don’t worry too much about it. You have to remember that this is just part of the game and that your failure does not necessarily mean that you will never succeed. It just means that you still have room to improve. 

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