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How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Posted by mzmalik none (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 2, 13 at 20:05

Primarily, my question is that how much of the seedlings' stem (below the growing point; from where all of the leaves appear) should be left above soil level? Or is it dependent on the species of the plant?

I ask because, unfortunately, some of the stems of my seedlings, coreopsis & salvia, are almost totally under the potting mix and the leaves on top seem to be getting bigger and dividing but I have no clue where their stem lies -_- Should I replant them into the same container with their stems above the potting mix? If so, how much of the stem should I leave above the mix level?

Secondly, there are some seedlings whose stems are above the level of the potting mix, but these seedlings, unfortunately, are not developing strong, thick stems and their leaves on top are growing and dividing; so much so that the weight of the leaves is bending the stem to the point that one of the leaf touches the potting mix. Should I replant these a bit deeper?

PS: I am growing all of these seedlings under 16 hours of 6500K, 2 T8 light bulbs indoors. While the leaves are growing and dividing, the stems do not seem to be making progress. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

I have no problem adding more mix, even bringing it up to the cotyledon or seed leaves. Be sure your light source is close enough to your plants to prevent legginess. Al


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Would it be problematic to bury the whole stem of the seedlings under the potting mix so only the leaves are above it? Because this seems to be the only solution coming to my mind for the seedlings who are falling on side due to thin stems and huge leaves. Thank you.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

You give no clue as to where you garden, but if possible I would move your seedlings out into the garden a little at a time to start them to harden and beef up the wimpy stems that will not support the foliage. The added light and air movement should help. Keep in the shade and only an hour to start. Al


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

I always transplant deep. This makes for much hardier plant down the road.

I like to plant the seedling with the complete stem underground in small pots. Then do the very same thing when I out them into the ground.

Otherwise you end up with a weak plant that will be knocked over the first bit of wind. Vegetables in particular.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

@calistoga: I live in zone 6a but right now, all of my seedlings are indoors and most probably I will overwinter them and transplant them outside in early spring next year.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

It's way too early to start seedlings for next year indoors in zone 6. You'll have to transplant them into bigger pots as the winter goes on, and keep them always an inch from the grow lights to prevent legginess (too long stems).

You can bury stems up to where the first seed leaves are. Have fun with it, and read up on seed starting as a hobby over the winter.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Thank you for the suggestion. I actually started pretty late for this fall's transplants hence I will just overwinter them this year for next spring.
Here's the thing: my lights are approximately 2-3" above the tallest leaves of the seedlings, but the stems don't seem to be getting TALL, but the leaves keep appearing and getting bigger and bigger, so much so that my purple palace seedlings' stems are slightly bent because of the weight of the leaves or the thinness of the stem and the leaves are resting sideways on the potting mix.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

A picture would go a long ways in diagnosing your problem. Al


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Ok so this is one of my Salvia seedling, which you can clearly see is bent to one side even though it is places directly beneath the light.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

In contrast, this is Salvia seedling with the stem below the potting mix and the leaves seem to be doing great but I dont see a stem growing out; is this ok? And is this better the last situation?


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

This is my purple palace seedling and you can clearly see that the stem is bent to one side and the leaves are resting on top of the potting mix. The stem can not seem to hold the weight of the leaves? Should I bury the stem below the potting mix to rid of this dilemma?


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

The middle picture looks good to me too. I would bring the soil level up on the other two seedlings as well. You have plenty of room in the pots to do that. Al


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

They look pretty nice, tp me.
Not every plant will have a long stem. Actually, shorter stem indicates that the seedlings are getting good amount of light. Spindly , leggy seedlings on the other hand, is a sign of poor light. Thee seedling in the first picture is leaning to right. Is it slightly away from the light source? You can pile some soil around its stem and straighten it up.

You are doing fine, I must say.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Something I remember reading a couple of years ago, right or wrong, it seems to work for me, so far:
If a single stemmed plant, it can be planted deeper (can actually help a plant like tomatoes and marigolds.) If plant branches at the ground level, plant up to the branching only, not deeper-- preferably no deeper than the original position in the soil.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Well NOW, both of these seedlings are doing ok as per their stem is concerned. And I ask this for the sake of knowledge: when do you know that a seedling is ready to be transplanted outside? When the roots start showing from the bottom of the container?


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

When the roots start showing at the drainage holes, will work. If in doubt I just slip it out of the pot and take a look. If a number of the roots are visible reaching the pot sides and the root ball holds the mix together, that is good enough for me to plant into the garden. Al


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

But an important thing is: what size container are you talking about? :) I mean to ask, once your seedlings emerge, what sized container do you transplant them to? From where you transplant them outside.


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RE: How much of seedlings' stem should be above soil level?

Your seedlings appear to be in 4 inch pots, and that is ideal for the size to plant from, into the garden. My seeds are started in mostly 4 inch pots, with from 9 to 50 seeds per pot. For most seedlings, from the seedling pots, they go into salvaged sixpacs, and from there into the four inch again, one per pot. I am growing ornamental plants with tiny seeds. If you are doing vegetables, seed into either the sixpacs, or directly into the four inch pots. Most vegetables are sowed directly into the garden. Al


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