The Q&A Archives: Leggy Seedlings

Question: I planted my Burpee impatiens seeds in sterile seeding soil and have kept them under growing lights for 14 hrs per day (lights approx 4 inches from trays). They are leggy and limp, and without strong color. Please help...the growing light cart was a Christmas gift from my family and so far nothing is coming up right. Thank you!

Answer: There are a couple reasons your seedlings are leggy. You don't mention how large the seedlings are, and this might be a factor in determining just what the problem is. First of all, if they've just sprouted, give them a week or so to "green up". Legginess is often caused by insufficient light, so try moving the lights so they are just an inch or so above the seedlings. Also, it shouldn't be too warm. 60-70 degrees F. would be best. Maybe try keeping the lights on a little longer too,say 16 to 18 hours per day.<br><br>Also, poor coloring can be a sign of lack of nutrients. Try fertilizing once or twice a week with balanced fertilizer solution diluted to half strength.<br><br>If the plants are a little older, and they are starting to get crowded--then maybe it's time to transfer them to their own containers. Fill pots with a nutrient-rich mixture of planting medium. Gently scoop one or more seedlings from the flat, separating their roots as gently as possible with your fingers. Hold the seedling by its leaves rather than the stem. Make a hole in the soil of the new pot deep enough to accomodate the new seedling's root system. Transfer it, firm the soil and then water it lightly. Place the pots away from direct light and wind for a day until the transplanting shock is over.<br><br>After that time begin stroking them gently with a pencil... or blow on them to move the stems a bit. Some people keep a fan on low in the room--not blowing directly on the seedlings but keeping the air moving over them. This will help to strengthen the stems.

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