The Q&A Archives: weak seedlings of Canterbury Bells

Question: I'm trying Canterbury bells from Burpee seed. the seeds sprouted to about2" but many died and the remainder won't stand up. Theyre in Miracle Gro potting soil and get light through a glass block basement window (Indirect) is this normal?

Answer: Based on your description it sounds like the seedlings are suffering from lack of light and possibly crowding as well. When started indoors, seedlings need to be in very bright light for about 16 hours a day, and most windows are simply inadequate. Instead, you might try fluorescent lights placed about two inches above the tops of the plants. The seedlings also need to be thinned in order to allow excellent air circulation. If they are not, they may be subject to fungal problems and possibly damp off. Finally, they also need to be kept moist yet not dripping wet. Over or underwatering can be lethal to small seedlings.

Having said all that, in my experience these plants are usually fairly easy from seed if you can meet their basic requirements. If the indoor procedures are too much, you might try planting the seeds outdoors. I suggest this because many gardeners find that these plants will naturally self sow in the garden and thus never start them indoors at all -- by planting seed outdoors in summer (and keeping them moist if it doesn't rain) you will be taking advantage of the plant's natural growth cycle.

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