The Q&A Archives: Impatiens Seedlings Faltering

Question: My impatien seeds seem to have germinated ok, but they don't seem to be able to throw off their seed shells and over 90 percent have died since germinating. I only had six out of three packet that have grown, yet most set out roots. What happened?

Answer: There are several things that can cause seed-starting problems. First is adequate light. As soon as seedlings appear, they need bright light. The best method is to place them under fluorescent lights for about 16 hours per day, keeping the lights just an inch or two above the plants. A sunny, south-facing window can work, but if you are not very diligent, the plants can dry out quickly. And the duration of light isn't as long as it should be.

If you are sure light isn't the problem, then water might be. Soil must be kept evenly moist--neither too wet nor too dry. I like to mist my new seedlings gently with a plant mister, and once or twice a week water them from below. The frequency depends on how fast the plants dry out.

Finally, are you using a sterile soil-less seed starting mix? Seedlings often succumb to disease if they are planted in regular garden soil that harbors all sort of things. A sterile mix is the best way to get them off to a good start. Don't fertilize until the seedlings are growing strongly, and have their first set of "true" leaves.

Don't try to pick off the seed coat. If the plant is growing well it will shed it naturally, And if it's not, removing the seed coat won't help.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

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