Daylilies forum: Perlite and seedlings

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Name: Sandi
Franklin, WI (Zone 5a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Daylilies
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Seedsower
Mar 9, 2016 6:27 PM CST
The milled sphagnum moss I used to purchase to help prevent damping off is no longer sold at my local garden center. I usually used this for my annual flower and vegetable seeds. This year however, I have used the "organic" seed starting mix (for my dayliliy seeds) which contains coconut fibers. I am having damping off of my seedlings which I've never had happen in five plus years of growing my daylily seedlings during the winter months.

Can I use perlite on the surface of the soil to help combat damping off? Not sure how to remedy the problem for my poor seedlings.

Any input is appreciated, thank you!
Name: Fred Manning
Lillian Alabama

Charter ATP Member Region: Gulf Coast I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Seller of Garden Stuff Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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spunky1
Mar 10, 2016 4:59 AM CST
I have seen white sand used, know nothing about using perlite.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
Mar 10, 2016 6:02 AM CST
I've never heard of perlite having antifungal properties, I assume if it would do anything it would be to keep the media surface drier (same idea as sand). If you have a bad case of damping off you may want to use a fungicide. There are all kinds of "home remedies" also such as cinnamon and chamomile tea but I've never looked into them as far as effectiveness is concerned as I've managed to avoid getting damping off in seedlings in the first place by other measures.

Excessive water is one major factor that contributes to damping off. Bottom watering could help, and letting the media surface get dry between waterings. You can't do much about the medium at this point but I wonder if it is too dense? The temperature needs to be optimum for the seedlings so that they grow to get past the damping off stage more quickly, avoid temp extremes. A small fan blowing gently on the seedlings is another thing that may help as it increases air circulation and dries up the media surface. Don't mist the seedlings, and don't keep them covered with a dome or anything like that once the first one is up. What else......oh, try not to give them too much fertilizer as well. You probably don't need to fertilize new daylily seedlings for their first month or so.

You may already be doing much or all of this but just tossing out the things that help since I don't know how you're currently managing them.

Name: Sue Petruske
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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petruske
Mar 10, 2016 8:21 AM CST
sooby said:I've never heard of perlite having antifungal properties, I assume if it would do anything it would be to keep the media surface drier (same idea as sand). If you have a bad case of damping off you may want to use a fungicide. There are all kinds of "home remedies" also such as cinnamon and chamomile tea but I've never looked into them as far as effectiveness is concerned as I've managed to avoid getting damping off in seedlings in the first place by other measures.

Excessive water is one major factor that contributes to damping off. Bottom watering could help, and letting the media surface get dry between waterings. You can't do much about the medium at this point but I wonder if it is too dense? The temperature needs to be optimum for the seedlings so that they grow to get past the damping off stage more quickly, avoid temp extremes. A small fan blowing gently on the seedlings is another thing that may help as it increases air circulation and dries up the media surface. Don't mist the seedlings, and don't keep them covered with a dome or anything like that once the first one is up. What else......oh, try not to give them too much fertilizer as well. You probably don't need to fertilize new daylily seedlings for their first month or so.

You may already be doing much or all of this but just tossing out the things that help since I don't know how you're currently managing them.



Thumbs up Lots of great info in a nut-shell. Thumbs up

Name: Karen
Butler County (Zone 6a)
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taylordaylily
Mar 10, 2016 11:59 AM CST
@ Petruske I think you also give great advise to people here on ATP. You and Sooby are a great resource of information. Thank You! to both of you!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
Mar 10, 2016 1:05 PM CST
I tip my hat to you. I remember many, many years ago (decades even) getting damping off in a tray of annual seedlings, it's so devastating when they all keel over. I was able to save some with a fungicide complex that was available at the time but I don't think still is - but lesson learned and I've managed to avoid it ever since.
Name: John
St.Osyth Nr Clacton on Sea. E
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midnight21
Mar 10, 2016 2:04 PM CST
I don't know if you can get it over there, but Cheshunt compound is very effective. It is a copper based fungicide which you use the moment you sow. Have found it very good. If you use it though, be careful not to open it too near your face, as it smells like very strong smelling salts, and has the same effect.

John
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Mar 10, 2016 3:16 PM CST
Coir holds a lot of water, plus, if it's finely textured, it can pack pretty tightly. It doesn't appear to have any of the antomicrobial properties of peat.

Perlite isn't antiseptic, but it's theoretically sterile, and you could always sprout your seeds in pure perlite, but you'd also need to transplant them when they're a couple of inches tall.

Try a 50-50 perlite/coir mix, also try a taller container, which will keep the top layer of mix well out of the standing water table that is in every pot.

Dampen the mix, tamp it lightly to level the surface, sow the seeds 1/4-3/8" deep, then water once after sowing with a fine spray/mist nozzle. You shouldn't have to water again until they sprout, if they've been stratified adequately.

Or you could fill the bottom of the container with your 50-50 mix, and use pure perlite for the top inch. Perlite isn't that good of a growing medium on its own, (poor ion-exchange) so having some real mix below will let the roots quickly find a better growing environment. Since pure coir has no available nutrients, you'll need to feed with a complete fertilizer as well as a calcium-magnesium supplement when they're an inch tall or so.
[Last edited by CaliFlowers - Mar 10, 2016 5:33 PM (+)]
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Name: Sandi
Franklin, WI (Zone 5a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Daylilies
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Seedsower
Mar 11, 2016 10:27 AM CST
Thanks for the input everyone! I found this on YouTube, the guy said it was successful, I'm going to give it a try.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO5aQaQOnN4

Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Mar 11, 2016 10:52 AM CST
You had fungus gnats as well as damping off?
Name: Sandi
Franklin, WI (Zone 5a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Daylilies
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Seedsower
Mar 11, 2016 12:34 PM CST
Yes, I guess I got off track. I start thinking maybe the damping off was related to the gnats that have appeared suddenly so I started doing some research on that too. The more I read, the more I think it is due to the gnats. I didn't think I would have them because I baked the soil before sowing my seeds.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Mar 11, 2016 12:50 PM CST
How can one tell the difference between damping off and fungus gnats damages? Which one caused the the root to be severed from the crown and the seedling but the top foliage remains green?
Name: Amanda
St Louis Metro (Zone 6b)
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Badcat
Mar 11, 2016 1:41 PM CST
Kousa thats caused by damping off.

Try putting small gravel in the bottom of containers you are growing in.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Mar 11, 2016 3:57 PM CST
Kousa, it can actually be difficult to tell. Fungus gnats can also carry the damping off fungi and spread them. You may see brown, water soaked lesions on the seedlings with damping off, or signs of actual fungus. Some plant seedlings just keel over at the base. Some may just wilt.

Amanda, putting gravel in the bottom of containers actually makes the drainage worse because water doesn't move down into coarser material until the finer media on top has become saturated and can no longer hold any more. It sounds counter-intuitive but it creates what's called a "perched water table". I actually tested this myself once and found it to be true.
[Last edited by sooby - Mar 11, 2016 3:58 PM (+)]
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