The Q&A Archives: Seedlings Grow, Then Die

Question: I have planted many perennials from seed this year for the first time. When i put them outside they die within a couple of days. I have tried Zinnia's, forget-me-nots, jacobs ladder, korean hyssop, lavender(which hasen't even sprouted yet) and some sunflowers. The seedlings get about 2 or 3 inches and i move them outside to a shady area and they seem to die overnight sometimes, what am i doing wrong? Would it be better to plant them outdoors to start with?

Answer: Hardening off or conditioning seedlings can be tricky. You are on the right track with starting them in the shade. Make sure the location you have chosen stays shady all day, rather than being shady in the morning and then sunny in the afternoon. Then gradually move them to where they recieve early morning sun, then sun for a longer period each day until they are toughened up and can be planted in the garden or a nursery bed. Also make sure it is not windy, as wind will dry them out very quickly. Keeping the soil moist but not soggy should also help because the little pots can dry out quickly especially if the seedlings are relatively large for their pots.

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