Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to our Growing Help FAQ page!
Before planting your seeds, you'll want to soak them in warm water (approx. 120°F) for 16-24 hours. This is part of the stratification process and will improve the chances for germination.
Important: Before soaking your seeds, set aside the number of seeds that you are going to plant (you should plant 5-8 seeds per pot, depending on seed size to allow the seeds to be evenly spaced).
- Place seeds in separate small bowls and add warm water.
- Allow the seeds to soak for 16-24 hours. You do not need to keep the water warm while the seeds soak.
- After soaking, immediately plant seeds in moist, not wet, soil*.
*If you have small seeds or are having trouble getting the seeds out of the water, try lining an extra-fine mesh strainer with a paper towel and pour the water and seeds out into the strainer, allowing the paper towel to catch the seeds as the water flows through. The seeds will be left behind on the paper towel allowing you to easily pick them up (use a pair of tweezers if needed for accuracy when planting, but don't squeeze too tight).
The soil discs included in your kit will expand to several times their original size when soaked in water. This will be the starter soil for your pots.
Place the soil discs in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups of warm water (approximately 120°F) directly over the soil discs. Add more water as necessary, but do not over saturate the soil.
Drain the soil: Overly saturated soil may cause mold, so drain the soil well by firmly squeezing it to remove any excess water until the soil is just slightly moist.
Potting the soil: Gently crumble the soil and place it inside the burlap pot until it is almost full, making sure to break up any clumps and evenly place the soil. The soil should be flat on top and you'll want to avoid packing it too tightly into the pots.
After soaking your seeds (Click here for How To Soak Seeds) you will immediately plant them in your moist, not wet, soil.
- Plant seeds evenly spaced apart, about 1/8" deep in the soil.
- Set the seeds on top of the soil where you want to plant them.
- Use a toothpick to gently push the seeds into the soil, paying attention not to push them too deep. Use the toothpick to gently cover the seeds.
- Your soil should already be moist, but you can add more water if needed to thoroughly moisten your soil once you've planted the seeds. Use a light shower or mist to avoid displacing the seeds.
Important: After planting your seeds, place your pots in an area that is naturally warm. You can find the recommended soil temperature for germination listed on the seed packet. Keep the soil warm and moist throughout the germination period.
You can find the average germination period listed on the back of each seed packet along with the recommended soil temperature for germination to occur. Your seeds may germinate early but in most cases they will require the full germination period. In order for germination to occur, you must keep your pots in a naturally warm area to keep the soil warm and keep the soil moist.
My Seeds Have Sprouted. What's Next?
By the time your seedlings reach 3-4" in height, they will start fighting for space, water, sunlight, and nutrients. The seedlings will need more space in order to thrive. You can help by "thinning" the weaker seedlings to let the stronger ones grow better.
Use a pair of shears (included in starter grow kits) to cut the weaker seedlings' stems at the soil level.
If you do not thin out the sprouts, they will eventually begin to wilt so be sure to complete this step in the growing process for optimal growth.
Keep in mind that you are growing your plants from seed so you'll want to allow enough time for your sprouts to get strong enough before re-potting. The biggest mistake you can make when re-potting is getting over-eager and re-potting your sprouts before they are ready. Disturbing the root system will do more harm than good, so you don't want to take any chances!
If you are growing our bonsai tree seeds, you should have one strong sprout in each pot after completing the thinning process to eliminate any weaker sprouts. These sprouts can continue to grow in their starter pots for up to 1 year before they need to be re-potted. If you have more than one strong sprout per pot, you will need to re-pot earlier so that your sprouts do not overcrowd each other. Don't forget to add more nutrients to the soil as needed to keep your sprouts healthy and thriving. For more tips on re-potting bonsai tree seeds, download our Bonsai eBook here .
If you are growing herb seeds, herbal tea seeds, pepper seeds, cactus seeds, or succulent seeds, you will want to re-pot your sprouts into larger pots once they are strong enough and after thinning any weaker sprouts. You can add more nutrients to the soil after thinning to help your sprouts thrive. When your sprouts are strong enough to re-pot, you should be able to give them a little tug without them coming completely out, but of course, you don't want to go tugging on your sprouts too soon as you'll pull them out of the soil. Once your sprouts are about 4-5" tall they will be getting strong enough for re-potting.
- Use a nutrient-rich soil when re-potting your sprouts and keep some of the original soil to help your sprouts adjust to the new soil.
- Do not re-pot your sprouts in the sun - the best time is late-afternoon/evening once the sun has started to go down.
- Be gentle! Re-potting can be a stressful experience for your sprouts so be careful not to damage the roots or the plant. Gently squeeze the sides of your pot to loosen up the soil so that you can easily remove the sprouts without pulling them.
- Once you've re-potted your sprouts, water the soil enough to thoroughly moisten.
- The new soil will have nutrients so you do not need to add more nutrients right away when re-potting, but you will need to add more later on down the road. Read the instructions on the packaging for feeding instructions and don't forget to dilute while your sprouts are still small.
Your seeds will consume the majority of the nutrients in the soil during the germination process. Once your seeds have sprouted, the seedlings will get nutrients from the cotyledon which is the first set of leaves that emerge from the seed. The cotyledon is an embryonic leaf that functions as an energy source, providing the initial growth for your plant.
As your plant continues to grow, it will produce its first set of "true leaves" and this is a sign that your plant will soon depend on you to provide essential nutrients for continued growth. You will want to use a water-soluble plant food to feed your plants so that you can easily dilute the solution while your sprouts are still small. Be sure to read the instructions and dilute accordingly, feeding as often as instructed.
Troubleshooting Grow Issues
Double-check germination times on seed packets to ensure that enough time has elapsed since you planted your seeds for germination to occur.
If you have waited the germination period and your seeds have not sprouted, here are some :
- Planting too many seeds. You should only plant 5-8 seeds per pot, depending on the size of the seeds, so that your seeds are planted with about 1" of space in between them. Too many seeds in the pot can prevent germination or lead to an early death of sprouts due to overcrowding.
- Planting seeds too deep in the soil. Your seeds should be planted 1/8" deep in the soil, otherwise they will not be able to get enough oxygen to germinate. Click here for tips on planting your seeds.
- Not keeping the soil moist and/or overwatering the soil. Too much water will lead to overly saturated soil, causing the seeds to rot and mold growth which can prevent germination. Not enough water will dry the seeds out and prevent germination. In order for germination to occur, your soil must be kept moist.
- Not keeping the soil warm enough. Your seed packets include a recommended soil temperature for germination. If the soil is not kept at the proper temperature, the seeds will remain dormant and will not germinate. It is important to keep your pots in a naturally warm area during the germination period.
If you have leftover seeds, use the tips above for your next grow to ensure a successful germination. You can also try to save your current round of seeds by adjusting watering habits and relocating your pots to a warmer location.
Mold is a sign that your soil is too wet and your pots are in an area that isn’t receiving enough light and airflow. Avoid scheduled watering and only water your soil if it is no longer moist.
Here are some tips for getting rid of mold:
- Remove plant markers and clean using a diluted solution of 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar mixed with 32 oz. of water. Allow to dry completely before placing back into soil. When placing markers back into pots, do not stick them all the way to the bottom but, instead, push them down far enough so that they are supported (about 1 1/2" deep).
- Sprinkle cinnamon lightly over top soil. Cinnamon acts as a natural fungicide and will quickly get rid of any mold that is present.
- You can also use the diluted vinegar/water solution as a spot treatment for mold, but avoid treating your plants in direct sunshine as this can lead to leaf spotting.
Again, to prevent mold growth do not overwater your soil. Your soil should be moist and never flooded with water. Check the moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil about 2 inches deep.
After your seeds have germinated, it is important to thin out any weaker sprouts from the pot to help your strongest sprouts thrive. Having too many sprouts in one pot will cause the sprouts to fight for nutrients and space, eventually wilting due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen.
If your sprouts are shriveled and dry, the reason for wilting is likely a lack of water, too much sun, or a combination of both. Make sure to keep your soil moist so your sprouts are getting enough water and avoid leaving the sprouts in full sun until they've grown to be 4-5" tall. Unfortunately, if your sprouts have shriveled and wilted they are more than likely dead and you will need to start a second round of seeds.
If your sprouts are still green but have wilted or fallen over, this can be a sign of overwatering, not enough sunlight, or a lack of nutrients. Too much water will cause the sprouts to be waterlogged and noodle-like, so be sure to only water the soil when it is no longer moist. Be sure that your pots are kept in an area that is naturally warm and receives sunlight. If you re-locate your pots to an area that receives more sunlight and avoid watering again until the soil is no longer moist, your sprouts should perk back up. Additionally, if you have too many sprouts in the pot, a lack of nutrients can cause the sprouts to wilt - so be sure to thin out any weaker sprouts and add more nutrients (diluted) to the soil after thinning.
If you are unable to save your sprouts, you will need to start over with a fresh round of seeds and keep the above tips in mind when growing your second round of seeds.