Common Seed-Starting Problems and Solutions

Seed-starting can be a fun process to look forward to. During the days leading up to spring, you may be anxiously awaiting the sprouting of new seeds you’re starting. But, as with any gardening endeavor, things don’t always go exactly as expected. If you’ve started your seeds and you’re experiencing less than successful results don’t worry.

There are several common problems gardeners encounter when starting seeds. The good news is that there are just as many seed-starting solutions and, in some cases, you may be able to save what you’ve started.

Common Seed-Starting Problems and Solutions

Problem: Seeds Won’t Germinate
Solution: To prevent this problem, pay attention to what your seeds need when you plant them. Incorrect temperature, too much or too little watering, planting depth, and availability of light can lead to seeds not sprouting. Improperly stored seeds can also reduce their germination rate. Store your seeds in envelopes or paper packets and place the packets in glass jars with tight fitting lids. Store your jars in a cool, dry place like a pantry or in your refrigerator.

Problem: Seeds Sprout, But Die
Solution: Sometimes seedlings start out strong, but then just as quickly may die. This happens in a process called “damping off,” caused by a common soil-based fungus. To prevent this, start with clean soil, and use clean pots and trays. Overwatering can cause mold, and overcrowding can restrict airflow, which can contribute to this problem.

Problem: Seeds Sprout, But Growth Is Stunted
Solution: If you’re having this issue, consider that your sprouting seedlings have different needs as they start to grow. Again, incorrect temperature (usually cooler temps) and overwatering can result in stunted growth. If you’re seeing discolored foliage, your seedlings may be experiencing nutrient deficiencies, often a lack of phosphorus.

Problem: Seedlings Are Tall and Spindly
Solution: This is commonly caused by plants having to compete for light, whether because they’re indoors or overcrowded. A few simple ways to address this are to rotate your seedling trays, give them more space, invest in a grow light or even move your plants outside on warm, sunny days.

Have other seed-starting problems and need solutions? Let us know by calling 1-800-531-4769 or visit for the gardening supplies you need!