Starting Seeds Indoors: Unhealthy seedlings and what you can do about them

By Amy Grisak

What if my plants aren't looking the healthiest? What am I doing wrong? Our Home, Lawn, and Garden Expert, Amy Grisak, walks you through the potential problems you can run into with your seedlings, and how you can solve them.

Video Transcription

Common Errors for Unhealthy Seedlings

This is Amy with North 40 Outfitters and today we're going to talk about what might be going on with your seedlings if they're not looking very healthy. Are a few common errors that new gardeners make, and even old gardeners make, that you can remedy usually pretty quick before it's time to get your plants out in the garden.

It's a Light Problem

One of the number one issues is a light problem. If your plants are leggy, if they're really tall and they're skinny and the leaves aren't looking real great, it's probably because you don't have enough light on it. So if you're putting them in a window sills, you're either going to have to try to move them more frequently to follow the sun, or better yet, find one of these fantastic new growing lights that they have, to be able to give them the optimum light that they need because this is their fuel source. This is how they're growing and getting stronger every day.

Nice Water and Soluble Fertilizer

Next issue is feed. You know, seedlings don't need a ton and a lot of times the grow mixes do have a fertilizer in them. But if your plants are looking kind of weak, it's good to use a nice water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Grow. That's a longtime favorite or this fertilizer is it's a fish fertilizer, is actually fabulous too, because it is not going to burn any of your seedlings and it just gives a nice balanced fertilizer to them. Now, it can... It smells a little bit, but it's fine. I mean, it's really not bad at all and it works fabulously well. So I highly recommend that one.

Damping Off

Other issues that you have are more serious. If your seedlings just start falling over at the base, at right at the soil line, that's called damping off and it's a fungal issue and something like that, you probably can't bounce back from. So, if you have a tray or container that's damping off, I recommend just getting rid of that whole thing and reseeding as quickly as possible. It typically happens in the earlier stages, so hopefully you're going to have time, but that's something to look forward to because you don't want that around everything else.

White Flies and Insects

Other issues that you might have, that aren't quite as common, is sometimes you'll get white flies or other insects, especially if you have a lot of other house plants in your house. One of the easiest ways to handle those is to use sticky traps, which are usually yellow and they just stick to it. So you don't have to spray your seedlings with anything and you're collecting the insects that you don't want on your plant. Worst case scenario, you can use an insecticidal soap, which is a very mild, often organic, and just kind of taking care of those little pests that might be on your plants that you want them to be putting all their effort into growing and not fending off flying, sucking insects.

So if you have problems, definitely visit North, one of our North 40 stores, because a lot of people there have the answers and you can also check us out at