Transplant seedlings or not?

lisa-regina(5)December 17, 2008

I have a real problem with growing flower seedlings after they have been transplanted, since they usually die before they can establish their roots. It is so frustrating! They germinate great and look beautiful until moving them to their new home in individual pots or flats. I always bottom water since they are so fragile and my pots are always clean, I also use sterile soiless mix to transplant them in. So I don't believe disease is the problem, but I am not sure. Every book that I have read reccomends transplanting seedling flowers into their own individual container after they have germinated. Some are very tiny and are difficult to transplant, even if I allow them to grow for a while before transplanting them into flats. Is it possible to just place a couple seeds in a container and after germination snip off the weak one and let the healthy strong seedling grow into a plant without moving or touching it until it is ready for transplanting into the garden? I want flowers badly, but I don't want to fight with dying seedlings everytime I try to transplant them, plus the money that I have spent just makes me sick when I lose them. Is there a better way? I have no problem with vegetables, but those flowers!

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I transplant my seedlings after the first true set of leaves develop. I also pick them up by the leaves not the stem. I place my transplants in pots. If I sowed them in a flat because of being a smaller seed I thin them out by placing them in a different spot in the flat.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 5:35AM
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You might want to give the wintersowing technique a try. It has saved me tons and I have overflowing, stuffed-to-the-gills flowerbeds every summer. I usually end up giving away about twenty-five percent of the seedlings because I don't have the room. Sometimes it works too well!

I still start a lot of things inside just because I enjoy it, but WSing saves me a LOT of trouble and money every year.

It has a forum of its own here on GW - WS forum
and a website ( and there's always the FAQ's.

If you still have questions, just pop over to the WS forum and ask away. They're very friendly people.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 7:52AM
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WS is an option with limitations.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 11:30AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Lisa - there are many tricks available to use but they are often specific for each variety. Can you tell us what varieties specifically you are trying to grow?

EX: "sheet transplanting" works well for some of the very tiny seedling like petunias. Shallow seeding and what is called "pricking" works well for others.

Also, what are you using for germination trays? Are the shallow or deep? How much soil in them? Are you spacing your seeds of just planting them in a cluster?


    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 12:37PM
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Please post again with more info on what your growing and tell what exactly it is you are doing step by step. I think you'll get better answers that way.

You should definitely look at the winter sowing link. There is a transplanting article that illustrates how one can quickly and easily transplant finicky seedlings outdoors without losing too many.

As for growing the traditional way, it's hard to help you without knowing exactly what you are trying to grow. Some plants, such as poppies, are more susceptible to transplant shock than others.

You said: "I also use sterile soiless mix to transplant them in."

Once seedlings are transplanted (After their first true leaves appear.) they will need food to grow to their best. Sterile soiless mix has no food. Are you fertilizing with a weak fertiler after transplanting?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 4:41PM
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You must be doing something different in your flower seed growing/transplanting versus vegetables. I don't know why you would have issues with transplants.I grow vegetables from seed with no issues.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 6:52PM
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unless you very tough on the seedlings, tearing them apart with no regard to stem or roots I do not know why ALL seedlings will not develop well. Use some kind of picking tool, like barbeque stick or fork to gently tease out seedling and roots apart, try to do it right after first true leaves appeared and did not develop big roots yet. Water well. There is also transplant solution which has some vitamins in to help with transplant shock.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 10:38AM
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I am so sorry that it took me so long to get back with all of you. I had abdominal surgery and am just now feeling well enough to do normal daily things again. To answer some of the questions that you all have asked, yes I do transplant using the pricking method. I have tried petunias(their root system is so tiny), I also have tried to grow balloon flowers and bellflowers with no success. They are just too tiny, I can't get them transplanted right or something and they will not live. Most of the time they germinate but do not thrive. Larger flower seeds are not a problem for me, just the smaller ones. Bellflowers are almost impossible for me to transplant, the seedlings are so tiny and not much of a root system. I don't know what I am doing wrong...depressed...Lisa

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 4:38AM
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Bellflowers do better direct seeded in the fall and winter. They grow taller and are much healthier.

With balloonflowers and petunias, thin to one plant per pot using scissors.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 6:15AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

No one commented on your question of planting two or three seeds to the cell and sniping off the unwanted ones. There is nothing wrong with doing that. For my seedlings I start in paper pots to avoid transplant shock, I do this snipping off the extras all the time. When you water from the bottom use a weak fertilizer after you have roots. Al

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 10:03AM
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gardenerme(z9/21 inland socal)

I have been starting seedlings outside in Al's gritty mix. I can usually pull the seedlings out when very tiny because the mix is so loose. In addition, the root systems are huge compared with the little plant, which is a result of having a lot of airspace in the mix allowing the roots to grow fast.

I usually leave them in until they fully grow their second set of leaves. Then I move them to gritty mix again with much more spacing and let them grow until they are an inch or 2. It is so easy to get the roots out of the gritty mix, I can usually use a fork, and when the mix falls off, it's fine with me because it does not attach to fine feeder roots so the roots remain vastly intact.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 12:50PM
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busylizzy(z5 PA)

All the tiny seed/transplants you mentioned I have just gone to winter/Spring's just so much easier with the amount of seeds I sow, they can be left alone till planted out

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 11:31AM
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