Low success rate re:seed germination indoors

neonwrenJanuary 11, 2014

Hey-I'm new:)

Would desperately love some help! Sorry for long post....

Every year i attempt to germinate a varied range of flower seedlings indoors for garden in summer. Sadly,I only have 20% success rate :(
This year i'm trying Convulvulus, Mirabilis,Large Poppy red, Agrostemma, Cornflower,Sunflower Claret F1 Hybrid,Morning glory bi pink-purple and Californian poppy red.
I follow the instructions e.g cover with polythene&keep moist. I use a normal seedling compost. I MAY be going wrong with the temperature, because i just keep them in my room, which is fairly warm for say 6 hours but cold at night.
In the past the seedlings have appeared&then wilt in 7 days!
Not sure what i'm doing wrong? Do i need to keep them at the exact temp consistently as directed on packet? I guess i'll need a heated room/ I could not afford that.
Secondly, some e.g cornflower need planting straight into the ground. Is it possible to propagate these in a tray outdoors, as most flowers in UK don't appear till mid June, so the garden would be bare till then.I want to use the ground for something else colorful& then transplant the above seedlings in June.
I would love and appreciate any tips.

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I'm no expert but I have a few ideas.
Seedlings need warmth to germinate. You could buy a heat mat or check out the temps on your hot water heater, or even an electric blanket, you only need the heat until the seeds germinate.
Second, read the FAQ for seed starting to give you ideas about the mix to start the seeds in.
Read the FAQ also about watering, too much or too little will kill the seedlings.
Hopefully you will make some changes and have a higher success rate.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 5:48PM
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Thank you Lucille. I'm a bit short of cash at the moment! I might try a hot water bottle. Thanks for the tips, they were useful. Hopefully they will germinate and flower, i can then post a pic on here, thanking everyone :)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Hi neonwren and welcome to GardenWeb!

Well, it sounds like you might be keeping your growing medium a little cool and probably too wet. This would result not only in a low germination rate but the damping-off disease as well. You mentioned that in the past the seedlings have appeared and then wilt in 7 days! ThatâÂÂs sounds like the damping-off disease.

Exact temperature (as directed on packet) is not absolutely necessary. Heat mats (used for germination only) are very helpful but usually if the temperature is a little cooler than recommended, germination will just be a little slower. Wetness is the real issue :-) Actually, for starting seedlings indoors, cooler temperatures after germination is usually desirable. Unless your room is unusually cold, you shouldn't need to heat the room.

As lucille has suggested, reading the FAQâÂÂs will be very helpful. Go back to the âÂÂGrowing from Seedâ main page. At the top of that page youâÂÂll see the FAQ link (next to âÂÂPost a Message).


    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 7:09PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

In the past the seedlings have appeared&then wilt in 7 days!

That sounds like damp-off. I assume you are removing the plastic cover just as soon as they germinate? If not, that is vitally important to do. Plus overly wet soil also causes damp-off. More seedlings are killed by over-watering or too wet soil than anything else.

Otherwise, tho your temps are far from ideal tht usually only slows germination. Really slows it. When the soil is too wet AND too cold the seeds just rot before germinating.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 8:18PM
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Thanks guys. I was reading the FAQ's. Looks like using Vermiculite is useful.
I haven't removed the cover once they germinate because then the soil starts to dry out fast. The ones that i NEVER have succes with and i would love to are the Blue Morning Glory(Convulvulus)! They will all sprout tall in 4 days and then suddenly all wilt. Things like Marigolds and Pansies seem to do a lot better. Are any of the flowers i've mentioned notoriously difficult?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 9:28PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

neonwren, your problem is what Dave has pointed out. The cover on your containers should be removed at the first sign of germination. It is helpful for keeping seeds consistently moist only, not for maintaining seedlings.

Have you tried soaking Convulvulus a few hours or overnight before sowing them? They are fairly forgiving of temperatures, but even if sowing them warmer they may take as long as 2 weeks to germinate.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 12:40AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm sorry, I read your post too quickly and now see where your Convulvulus are germinating too then dying. Get those seed pots uncovered, into some bright light and let the air circulate around your seedlings. Many of us will even use a small fan a few hours a day, moving air. You're inviting fungal issues and damp off keeping your pots humid and still once germination has begun. First seed sprouting and the tops or plastic come off.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 12:46AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

neonwren - when are you sowing your seeds? If now, it is far too early.

Many people in the US use grow lights and heaters to start seeds indoors. In the UK we tend to be a bit lower tech and therefore we need to start later. I have a heated propagator but I do not have lights. So I do seeds in the glass porch. It sounds to me as if you do not have sufficient warmth for good germination and the seeds which do germinate are then too cold and too damp and die off.

You need to try to find a way of keeping a consistent warmth. A hot water bottle won't do it. How about putting them on the top of the fridge at night? Or do you have ã40 for a heat mat? (Google for suppliers)

Are you growing blue annual Convolvulus or Ipomoea when you refer to Morning Glories? I have tried both in the past and have found that they just don't do very well in our dull summers. Same goes for Mirabilis. They only open in direct sun and spend a lot of days shut up.

The poppies, the corn cockle, the Escholtzia and the cornflowers could be sown outdoors later in the year but the Morning Glories need sowing inside for reliable germination.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 9:05AM
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If you're looking for early color in the garden, plant some bulbs (crocus, snowdrops, etc.) and perennials. Many perennials are easy to start from seed. You can add the annuals as the early flowers are finished.

Scatter poppy seeds on ground outside while it's still cold out. They do better direct seeded.

Ditto on removing plastic, bottom watering, and air circulation. Have fun!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 4:37PM
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Deleted triplicate post.

This post was edited by susanzone5 on Mon, Jan 13, 14 at 18:02

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 4:39PM
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Deleted triplicate post!

This post was edited by susanzone5 on Mon, Jan 13, 14 at 18:00

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 4:40PM
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Hi Terry, I only grow veggies and herbs (for the most part), but I start everything from seed. I'm including a link to a website you may find really helpful! His methods have dramatically increased my success at starting from seed. Hope this helps :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Tom Clothier home page

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 4:52PM
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Thanks for the responses
Morz8-I will invest in a fan. Did not realise the importance of ventilation. Thanks
Floral uk-I tend to plant the seeds as instructed on packet. So, Feb-March for alot of them. IâÂÂll have a look at the heat mat. Thought it would cost a lot more. I think my room gets too hot sometimes and then they go the other way and dry out!
IâÂÂm growing the blue annuals .Shame. Really wanted to see them climb over a wall. Thanks
Suzie-I have some tulips planted. My only problems is that if i plant Cornflowers, poppies etc outdoor where they are to flower, now..then i canâÂÂt plant anything else there for Feb to May because it will disturb the seedlings and plants. So, was thinking i could plant the poppies etc in a tray OUTSIDE and then transfer. Thanks

Amunk-Thanks for that link mate. IâÂÂll check it out.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 6:31PM
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I have a wildflower mix that I direct seed in the fall, it contains poppies. The mix is created so that the flowers bloom in succession, and there seems to be plenty of room for all of the plants.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 8:21PM
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jduren(5 MO.)

To eliminate over watering you could try this method. Instead of using a heat mate try a fluorescent light to keep them heated till germination. You will need at anyway and get two for one money....Jack

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 8:36PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

Hi again neonwren - the blue convolvulus you have will not climb - they are a short bushy annual, not a climber like the dreaded white convolvulus which is a horrendous weed here in the UK.

Regarding the fan - I have never used one but many US growers seem to like them. I feel guilty about using electricity when I could open the window or pop the seed trays outside for a while. Even the propagator makes me feel bad but it provides the steady warmth seeds need. Your warm day/cold night room temperature is not ideal.

Feb - March is fine for indoor sowing - I was just wondering if you were trying to sow too early.

In our climate I would not sow seed outside until soil temperatures are adequate. Because our winters are damp and have fluctuating temperatures seeds have a tendency to rot or get eaten by pests. Then we don't get reliable enough warmth in the spring to get them started and to continue growing steadily.

Poppies don't transplant well because they grow a long tap root fairly early on. In situ sowing would be better.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 5:17AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Hi, I sow all my seeds and manage without heat mats or lights. There is no need to rush into sowing annuals. Many of the hardy ones will do well if sown in September - they will overwinter outside and flower early. For this year, I would wait till the end of March to sow yours, using seed trays or even sown directly into the ground. The little seedlings will grow away and catch up with ones sown earlier under lights or in propagators. In truth, I rarely germinate or grow seeds indoors because light levels are never high enough and temperature differences mean that a long period of acclimatisation is needed. Instead, you could try to start yours outside, perhaps on a table or bench, with a lid (until germination occurs) - you can make a temporary coldframe, using a box and a pane of glass (I scrounge those polystyrene boxes from asian supermarkets, then wedge many small 3inch square pots into each container and cover with fleece or polythene or netting - whatever is to hand. I like to use a sterile John Innes seed sowing mix and make sure the trays are clean....but, as a precaution against fungi (which cause many seedlings to keel over and die), you can spray the little seedlings with a mild fungicide based on copper....although, as long as air can move freely around the plants, 'damping off' should not be a worry.
The poppies will appreciate being sown where they are going to flower - they do not transplant well. Sunflowers can be planted 1st April - 1 in each small pot, where they can stay until May. Agrostemma is also better sown outside, but can be sown in pots then transplanted. I also sow Phlox 'Moody Blues' as these easy annuals will flower right through summer - whereas many of our common annuals from seed will run out of steam fairly quickly, especially if we are a bit slack at dead-heading (which, of course, I am).
Plant your seeds in batches - you can sow these right up till end of June....for a late blast of colour....and you will have time to have several attempts.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 12:19PM
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Thanks so much for the replies.
I will try a few different things.
Floraluk-i always fantasised that the blue convulvulus was a creeper like the white one we have all over Yorkshire and it would create sapphire like display all over my ugly wall lol
I think because I've kept the seedlings in my bedrrom, they have either become too dry or too wet and then died.The latter more so. Still not sure where i'll plant the seeds outside in garden as they will get disturbed when i plant other flowers early spring.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 4:14PM
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Sounds like the people on here have given you some good ideas and suggestions. If you follow them I'm sure you will have much better success!

The first time I planted tree seeds I knew nothing about the heat/moisture stuff, or about what kind of soils would be best for seed germination. All I did was collect some seeds, dug up some regular garden soil, placed the dirt and seeds in a container, and watered them daily. Of course, you can guess what happened. Most of the seeds germinated, but only a few survived. Most of them died due to damping off problems as you experienced.

Once you have the proper knowledge and do this a few times it gets to be fairly simple and fun to start seeds. Trust me, if I can do it anyone can do it!


    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 7:05PM
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Thanks guys and gals, you've been stars

I have success in the very hardy plants eg marigolds..but most of the other do wilt.

I'll use these posts as reference and the FAQ to ensure a better success rate. Hopefully take some pics for you all and show the results of all your kind help and input.
Would be good to interact some more whilst i'm growing them, if i run into any issues.

Cheers people

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 7:25PM
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Floral-Uk-These are the type of morning glory seeds i have and this is the effect I've been wanting for the past 7 years with no success. They die at seedling stage after say a week.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 7:25AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I'm afraid to tell you, neonwren, that that picture is something of a fantasy in our climate. The one at the link is more realistic. Even if they survived you would not get that density of bloom - and as I said - they shut up when the sun goes in ;-( I don't know if Campanula has grown them, she's the real UK based flower expert on here. She's absolutely right that you don't need artificial heat. I just thought you seemed to want to start off indoors. I have found my propagator very handy for getting vegetables started. But I wouldn't have bought one - it was a present. I find that sowing veg in situ too soon on my allotment just provides an early salad for the slugs. In our climate the spring is long and we have a lot of leeway over timings. In the states people seem to often have a very short period between being too cold to sow and too hot to grow.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ipomoea

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:24AM
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Campanula UK Z8

Oh yes, you certainly can grow these in the UK and, if we get a good autumn, they will provide waves of colour but......(there's always one of those)
First off, as you discovered, they germinate easily and fast - less than a week. However, they are fussy and tender, they get leggy, chlorotic, simply turn up their toes. Don't bother sowing them till mid May - they grow away fast (although Heavenly Blue, I.tricolour, are slower than I.nil) and are in bloom by August.
I guess you could grow them under lights on a heat pad - they probably do commercially, in heated glasshouses - but that is quite a faff and is tricky since MGs will get big, fast and are hard to keep restrained in a greenhouse.....so I just tend to wait until night temperatures are high enough for them.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 5:35PM
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Thanks Floral

Campanula-wow, plant them that late? I normally plant the convulvulus feb..it says so on the packet. Maybe this is where i'm going wrong..yes, you are exactly spot on, they do get very leggy and weak and then collapse after this short intense 7 day growth. I think this may be partially the answer with the convulvulus. Would you say generally it's better to sow the seeds in march for most of our flowers in the UK?I'm in the Leeds area.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:19PM
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Campanula UK Z8

The little non-climbing convolvulous minor (such as Royal Ensign) can be sown much earlier....but the climbing Heavenly Blue morning glory really will be OK if you hold fire till the nights are absolutely frost-free (which, in Yorkshire, can be as late as the end of May). The suggested sowing times on seed packets often assume you are using heated germination aids and extra lighting.
I have 2 main sowing periods for annuals, including veggies (apart from the perennials which are sown all over the place). March, for the hardy types (cornflowers, poppies, sweet peas (although I do a lot of these hardy things directly into the soil in autumn)agrostemma, calendula) and May for French beans, zinnia, cosmos, tagetes, dimorpotheca. ursinia. I start my tomatoes between 15th March and 1st April. I will use a cold-frame for some things (such as the dahlia tubers) but in general, I wait for annuals till the weather is good because they catch up easily.....and I hate that hardening off, bringing them in, taking them out, moving around stuff.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:12PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

You've clearly had more experience and more success with Morning Glories than I have Campanula. I gave up on them years ago. I ended up with nothing but straggly stems and few flowers. Maybe my gardens have all been too shady.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 3:02PM
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I've never has success either floral. I love the bi color ones you see. I bought some maroon ones and was praying they would grow, but did the same thing shot up to about 4 inches and then all died! I wonder if these hybrid type e.g Maroon, pink and white etc convulvulus are harder to germinate?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 3:22PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

neonwren - you are talking about two different species of plants. Convolvulus and the Ipomoea. It's getting a bit confusing as to which you are referring to. The picture you posted is Ipomoea aka Morning Glory, not Convolvulus. I think you may be getting the two mixed up?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 1:05PM
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You're right, i'm getting the 2 mixed up lol I mean Ipomoea!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Campanula UK Z8

The easiest ipomeas are the old Granpa Otts, Kniolas Purple, Scarlett O'Hara (Japanese ipomeas, aka I.nil)....although the Chocolate I.nil x imperialis can be tricky) while I.tricolour Heavenly Blue is considerably slower to make decent growth (hence the late flowering in Late August September). The I.nil tend to have hairier stems, smaller seeds and flower around late July.
The most disappointing are/were Moonflowers (I.calynoctium) which was so slow to get going, the November frosts did for the one or 2 blooms.
If you want an easy, RAMPAGING climber, you could always consider Cobaea scandens (Cups and Saucers).

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Hi Campanula

Thank you ever so much for the tips. I've just ordered some of those climbers. and the Granpa Ott's. They look beautiful.. Hopefully they will grow and i can get some pictures up. I'm really excited. Have a great weekend all.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 7:03PM
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winstella(10b los angeles)

I'm no expert on gardening but I just planted seeds for the first tme 4 days ago. 10 tomatoes of 5 different varieties, several lettuce types & oregano.

I presoaked my seed starting soil before planting, planted them about 1/4th in deep in small seed containers... Then left them on my wireless router which is warm for 3 nights. First seed sprouted last night, as of this afternoon I have 6 total seedlings. 3 tomatoes, 3 lettuce. I have now taken them off my router and moved them under grow lights and the growth from this morning til now has been significant! Quite amazing, not what you think of when you "watch grass grow" ;)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 7:39PM
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Hi All

Just wanted to give you an update on the Ipomea that you all gave me advice on.

I can't believe that i actually had some success with growing them , after years of not getting past the germination stage.

I found that i was planting them too early as the packet suggested, in April, I planted them end May and this seems to have worked, I found that they produced an abundance of leaves(first pic) and the flowers seemed to appear under the leaves so were very hard to notice among the dense foliage. Only a few flowers have come out, although there are many buds. I guess it's the Leeds climate!The same thing has happened with some cup and saucer seedlings. Lots of foliage and buds, but no flowers. I've added a couple of pics for you to see. Cheers and thanks for the advice it really helped.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 8:29PM
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Here's a flower that the Ipomea produced under the leaves. I was so happy! (wasn't sure how to upload more than one file. The first picture is off all the foliage and no flowers.)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 8:31PM
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