The Q&A Archives: Ice Plant Seedlings Topple Over

Question: I have started Ice Plant Lunette from seed, they are up with two leaves, but the stems are very fragile. They are bending over causing breakage and death. What can I do to save the rest of my crop?

Answer: It sounds like your seedlings aren't getting enough light. If you're growing them under a growlight, adjust the set up so the bulbs are within an inch of the seedlings' leaves. If you're growing them on a windowsill, place some kind of reflective surface behind the plants to maximize the sunlight coming through the window. Room temperatures that are too high can also result in leggy seedlings. Generally, seeds require less heat for growth than for germination. Seedlings also keel over at the soil surface when they "damp off", which is actually a fungal disease. Conditions that favor damping off are: Crowding of seedlings, high humidity, and lack of sufficient aeration. The fungal spores are pretty much everywhere, so your best betis to maintain good air circulation and to not overwater. Keep seedlings thinned, and place a small fan set on low somewhere nearby will do the trick to keep air moving. Try to keep the growing area relatively cool (60-65F), since the fungus likes it warmer. The fungus enters the plant at the soil line, so you can try this method, too: once the seeds are planted, but before they germinate, cover the soil with a fine layer of "play sand" (this is sand that has been sterilized; you should be able to find it at a hardware store or lumberyard). This provides a sterile, dry surface at the point where the fungus prefers to enter the stem. Hope this helps!

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