The Q&A Archives: Leggy Seedlings

Question: I planted several packets of seed and put them under a grow light--about 6-8 inches from the light. Why are they really tall and skinny and now they are turning yellow and flopping over? Mostly the tomatoes, baby's breath, and sunflower seeds are doing this but none of them seem to be thriving. Also, it has been almost three weeks since I planted my blue angel impatiens--only two seedlings have sprouted. Should I expect any more and can I get a replacement?

Answer: Your seedlings may not have received enough light. Position the lights 1-2" inches above the seedlings to keep them from getting leggy. Make sure the plants get 14 hours of light a day. Did you plant the seeds in a commercial sterile seed-starting mix? That's the best medium for starting seeds. Garden soil can contain harmful fungi and other disease-causing organisms.<br><br>You don't mention how long ago you planted the tomatoes, etc. If the plants have outgrown their pots, that may be contributing to the stunting. If the rootball fills the pot, repot to a larger container.<br><br>If you haven't been feeding your plants, you might fertilize them with a weak, balanced fertilizer. Use at about half-strength. Is it very warm or very cool where the plants are growing? Try to maintain a temperature of 65 - 70F. <br><br>Impatiens are unusual in that they require light to germinate, so don't cover the seed. Instead, press the seeds firmly into the moist planting medium. They like temperatures between 70-75F for germination, which can take 15-20 days or more. Since your tomatoes germinated (and they required similar temps) you may want to wait a while longer. If you don't get them to germinate, call Burpee Customer Service at 1-800-333-5808 or e-mail them at to inquire about replacements.<br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br>

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