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Common Cannabis Seedling Problems and How To Fix Them

Problems with seedlings are common and can end up affecting them further into their life cycle so it’s vital you detect and fix them as soon as you can. Yellowing or deformed leaves, burnt tips, or even slow growth are signs of cannabis seedling problems, even though your seedling may be able to recover, it may have a toll on the final size and yields of your cannabis plants. It’s definitely not hard to detect when something’s wrong, but if you’re a new grower, first you should know what a healthy seedling looks like.

1. Healthy Cannabis Seedlings

Cannabis seedlings start with two tiny round leaves called “cotyledons”, these leaves are already formed inside the seed and open up once the seed has been successfully germinated, after a couple of days, the first serrated leaves will appear, which indicates that your weed seedling is starting to grow.

As your seedling start developing, the first pair of true leaves will appear, the true leaves are the typical fingered leaves everybody knows, all of the leaves up to this point should be bright green, if not, it’s a sign that something is wrong, to help you diagnose what you may have, here are the most common cannabis problems.

2. Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the most common cannabis seedling problem amongst growers, even though weed plants need water to grow, they also need oxygen to properly develop, and when overwatering, you may end up drowning your plants because of the lack of oxygen. What about plants grown in hydroponics? Well, in hydroponic setups, about ⅓ of the roots are kept out of the water, this way they can breathe at the same time that they absorb water so even though the roots are in the water, they still get the oxygen they need.

When your plants don’t get the amount of oxygen they need, the leaves will start getting droopy and if you don’t treat it for long, the leaves will start to get yellow. If you are seeing any of these symptoms, it’s most likely the problem is being caused by any poor drainage or watering too often.

How to fix it

  • Don’t leave plants sitting in runoff water.
  • Get better containers such as Smart pots or Air pots.
  • Mix perlite into the soil to increase drainage and oxygenation.
  • Make drainage holes on the bottom of the container to allow water to drain.

3. Underwatering

Just like overwatering, underwatering is very common, especially among new growers who want to prevent overwatering and it can be quite confusing because the symptoms are basically the same as when overwatering.

It’s essential you ensure your plants have access to water at all times, the roots should be kept moist always because plants are constantly losing water through the process of transpiration and they need to be able to replenish the water in the leaves. When there’s not enough water, cannabis plants stop performing their basic processes and dry out, eventually killing them so even though you should be careful when watering, you should definitely keep your plants watered to avoid seedling problems.

How to fix it

  • Ensure the top part of the soil is always moist.
  • Mix soil with coco fiber or vermiculite to improve water retention.

4. Nutrient Problems

Just like the symptoms of overwatering or underwatering, plants that suffer from a nutrient excess (overfeeding) will start to get yellow leaves or yellow spots, burnt tips, or show slower growth. Seedling problems related to nutrients are usually caused by giving nutrients too soon, giving too many nutrients at once, or “hot” super soil or pre-amended soils. Giving too many nutrients at a time can cause problems overnight, so we recommend watering your seedling with plain water and taking a look at the following table so you prevent any seedling problems related to nutrients.

The ideal water for seedlings
Medium pH PPM
Soil 6.0-7.0 100-250
Coco, clay pellets, and hydro 5.5-6.2 300-400

Have in mind that these are estimates and you should check every day for problems and lower or increase these numbers if you see signs of deficiencies. Giving nutrients too soon will overload the soil, and consequently, your seedling so remember that you shouldn’t feed for the first couple of weeks or at least give a low nutrient dose.

This can also happen with organic super soil, even though it’s organic, you need to wait until your super soil isn’t “hot” anymore, “hot” soil means that the mix is still undergoing biological activities so you will have to wait around 30-45 days before you can use it, although this is not the case with all super soils so make sure you get more information on the product you’re using to avoid seedling problems.

How to fix it

  • Ensure you adjust the nutrient dose according to the medium you’re growing in.
  • Wait at least 10 days before you start feeding your plants.
  • Read the instructions on the products you’re using.

5. Excessive Heat

Excessive heat can also affect your plants, which will end up showing signs of heat stress, you will see the edges of the leaves turning up like tacos and they will start to get dry and crispy, and in more extreme cases, the leaves will start showing a yellowish-green color.

This can be caused by elevated temperatures, low humidity, or even the fans being too strong, but luckily, this can be easily spotted before your plants start showing the symptoms because you will see the soil is dry and sometimes it will start to crack.

How to fix it

  • Make sure the temperature and humidity are at the right levels.
  • Place your hand under the light fixture, if it’s too hot for you, it definitely is for your plants.
  • Ensure your fans are not too strong for the stage your plants are in.

6. Too Much (or Too Little) Light

Another common problem among new growers is not providing enough or providing too much light in the seedling stage, if your seedlings are not getting enough light, they will start stretching and the stem will get super long, which is a bad thing because they can easily snap and there’s no way to fix it.

Now, when your seedlings are getting too much light, or the lights are too close to them, the seedling will get dehydrated and the leaves will get burnt, showing symptoms like burned and wrinkled leaves.

How to fix it

  • Adjust the light fixture’s distance from the seedling every day, try to find the sweet spot.
  • Use CFLs instead of potent LEDs or HPS to avoid this kind of problem.

7. Seed Shell Stuck on Seedling

Sometimes, when a seedling comes out of the substrate you’ll see how the seed shell is stuck on the seedling and won’t come off naturally. When this happens, your seedling won’t be able to develop properly and you’ll probably see a lot of stretching, and if left for too long, the seedling can end up dying. This happens because of the humidity levels, so in order to minimize the damage, there are a couple of things you can do.

How to Fix It

As mentioned, this happens because of humidity levels, low humidity levels to be precise, so what you need to do is hydrate the seed shell. So go ahead and spray the seedling with plain water or just drop one or two droplets of water on the seed shell, this will hydrate it enough for the seed shell to fall off. Keep in mind that sometimes the seed shell falls off but a membrane covering the cotyledons can remain stuck and your seedling will not be able to open so make sure to grab some tweezers or remove the membrane with your fingers but do it very, very carefully.

If you need to do it asap and don’t want to wait for the seed shell to fall, you can remove it by hand without spraying it but keep in mind that if the seedling’s roots have not grown enough, you can end up removing the seedling from the soil so do not use excessive force. It’s highly recommended to hydrate the seed before just to avoid shock or stress, especially to avoid removing the seedling from the substrate completely.

  • Make sure to keep the humidity levels in range with the help of a humidifier.
  • Place a plastic dome (like a cut-out plastic bottle or plastic cup) on top of the seedling to help keep higher humidity levels.

8. What To Have in Mind During The Cannabis Seedling Stage

In order to avoid all the cannabis problems mentioned throughout the article, here are the main tips that will help you avoid them and keep your cannabis seedlings healthy and happy.

The Perfect Environment

The relative humidity and temperature will directly affect how your seedling grows so make sure the light is not too strong but your cannabis is still getting enough light and the temperature is around 21-23 ºC and the relative humidity ranges from 70-80%. Failing to provide good conditions can affect plant growth and can ultimately kill your plants if left untreated for too long, so here’s what to expect in the different conditions:

Substrate is too wet

If the substrate is too wet, the seeds can drown. Despite seeds being germinated in water, it’s not okay for the substrate to be extremely wet so always make sure the substrate is moist but not soaking.

Substrate is too dry

Cannabis seeds need moisture to germinate so make sure the substrate is moist but not excessively wet as excessive dryness can make your seeds not germinate and die.

Watering Properly

Watering cannabis seedlings properly is the hardest part for beginner growers, watering too much can result in an overwatered cannabis plant, and watering too little can result in an underwatered weed plant so make sure you start watering with around 100 ml and increase the amount according to how your plants grow.

Seeds were planted too deep

1 – 3 cm is the deepest you should go in order to provide support to the roots and cover the seeds with the substrate. If you plant the seeds too deep the seedling could have a hard time sprouting out of the substrate so do not plant it too deeply.

Environment is not warm enough

Seedlings prefer warmer temperatures ranging from 22 -26 celsius and will grow at a slower rate in colder temperatures.

Environment is too humid

It’s recommended to use a plastic dome for newly born seedlings but remember to remove them as soon as the seedling starts developing the first pair of one-fingered leaves after the cotyledons as a high humidity can cause damping off, which results in seedlings folding over and dying.

Light Intensity

Marijuana light burn can indeed hurt your plants if the light is too strong. Seedlings are more fragile than adult weed plants so make sure you dim down the light or adjust the fixture’s light to avoid stressing them. Also, if your seedlings are stretching a lot it means they need more light so, if this happens, increase light intensity or place the light fixture closer.

9. FAQs About Cannabis Seedling problems

Here are the most frequently asked questions about cannabis seedling problems to help you understand a bit more and help you deal with them. Just remember that different problems may have similar symptoms so make sure you are 100% sure about what the problem is before taking drastic measures.

“Why are my seedling’s leaves turning yellow? Could it be a cannabis nutrient deficiency?”

When the leaves start yellowing it’s probably a sign of nutrient problems, this means they’re either lacking nutrients, are getting too many nutrients or getting the wrong type of nutrients.

“When should I remove the plastic dome of the seedlings?”

The plastic dome helps raise humidity for faster germination so you can remove it as soon as your plant has completely developed a pair of leaves (after the cotyledons).

Remove the plastic dome once the seedling has developed the first pair of leaves after the cotyledons.

“Why are my cannabis seedling’s leaves curling down?”

This usually happens when you overwater your seedlings or when they’re exposed to higher temperatures so make sure the temperature ranges from 20 – 25 ºC and pay attention to how much water you’re watering with.

“When is it safe to put my cannabis seedlings under the light?”

Well, your seedling needs to be under light since germination but you can use a 15-20 W fluorescent light during the first 1-2 weeks and once the first pair of true leaves have completely developed, you can go ahead and place it under the LED or MH bulb.

“Is there a better light schedule for marijuana seedlings?”

The best light cycle for both autoflowering and photoperiod cannabis seedlings would be 18/6 from seed.

“Is the substrate super important for seedlings?”

Of course, the substrate mix is super important for a healthy start. Some growers prefer a “light mix” which can provide nutrients for the initial weeks and others make their own blends with perlite and coco fiber. There’s no best substrate but a substrate mix that allows for good oxygenation and water retention is ideal.

“Why are my marijuana seedlings growing so slow?”

This is the hardest question because it can be caused by several things. Your cannabis seedlings may be lacking nutrients or it could be caused by lack of proper lighting and extreme temperatures or humidity.”

“How far should the grow light be from the cannabis seedling?”

If you’re using a CFL light, the lights should be 5 – 10 cm from the seedlings. If you’re using HPS or MH, the light should be around 25 – 40 cm from the seedlings and if you’re using LEDs, the fixture should be at around 75 cm from the seedling with 40% light intensity if possible.

“How long does it take for the seeds to germinate and the seedling to come out of the soil?”

The germination process is usually quite fast but depending on the quality of the seeds, it may take up to 5 days or even more. Once the seeds have germinated and been planted in the pot, the seedling should take around 3 days to come out of the soil if the growing conditions are proper.

“Is it possible to know my plant’s sex during the seedling stage?”

No, you’ll only be able to tell whether your marijuana plant is a male or female during the pre-flowering stage. This happens because cannabis plants need to sexually mature in order to show either male pollen sacs or female stigmas.

10. In conclusion

Marijuana seedlings are super fragile and sensitive so you should take good care of them, avoiding cannabis growing problems at this stage is vital because even though your baby plants may recover, the size and structure may be affected, which will end up affecting your harvest.

If you have tips you can share with fellow growers to help them take care of their baby plants, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below!

Seedling Problems Solved: ID and Fix 10 Common Problems for Indoor Seedlings

Your indoor garden is never more vulnerable than in the first few weeks after you plant. Whether you start with seeds or clones, the tender seedlings can suffer from overheating, underfeeding, and lethal fungi. Check on your little plants every day and when you see any of these symptoms, take quick action to fix the problem and keep your crop growing strong. Looking for more gardening information? Check out our Organic Gardening 101 for more tips.

We have compiled a list of the 10 most common seedling problems and solutions below.

Seedling Problem No. 1

Seeds don’t come up

Cause: About 90 percent of fresh seeds should sprout, but after six months or more in storage, germination rates can begin to decline. If you get low germination with fresh seeds, your soil mix may have dried out before the tiny sprout could take up enough moisture to start growing.

Solution: Before you plant, soak your seeds in water for 30 minutes so the seed coats start to soften and they begin absorbing moisture. Dampen the soil mix thoroughly, and then sow the seeds. After planting, be sure the mix stays consistently moist. Even a few dry hours can stall the sprouts’ growth.

Seedling Problem No. 2

Seed coat stuck

Cause: When the outer shell of seeds stays on top of or around the tiny new leaves, you may not have planted them deeply enough in the soil for the sprout to shed the casing before it breaks through the surface. The problem of a stuck seed coat also can occur when the soil is too dry.

Solution: To fix, spritz the casing with water. After waiting a few moments, ease it off with your fingers. Prevent the problem by pushing seeds into the soil to a depth about three times its size–that is, plant a 1-inch seed 3 inches deep. Be sure the soil stays consistently damp while the seed is sprouting.

Seedling Problem No. 3

All seedlings die suddenly

Cause: If a batch of otherwise healthy seedlings fall over and wither seemingly overnight, they are likely victims of damping-off, a fungal disease that attacks stems at the soil surface and is usually deadly. Excess moisture or nutrients create conditions that promote damping-off.

Solution: While it’s too late to cure seedlings that are infected with damping-off, you can prevent it. After sowing seeds, sprinkle sphagnum peat moss on top of the soil or other planting medium to absorb moisture. Be sure to feed seedlings with fertilizers formulated for the early stages of growth and follow recommended dilution rates carefully, so there are just enough nutrients to meet the plants’ needs and no extra.

Seedling Problem No. 4

Long, spindly stems and tiny leaves

Cause: Seedlings need lots of light as soon as they begin to grow. Artificial lights being much less bright than the sun, seedlings try to stretch toward them when they are too far from the plants’ tops tiny leaves.

Solution: If you are using fluorescent or LED lights for your seedlings, set them up so they are about 4 inches from the tops of the plants and raise the lights as they grow. High-intensity lamps should be about 18 inches from the tops of the plants — any closer and the tender seedlings may burn.

Seedling Problem No. 5

Droopy leaves and stems

Cause: Overwatering plants actually drowns them by depriving the roots of air. When the roots don’t get air, the leaves hang down and the stems droop. Excessive water is a common result of growing a small plant in a large pot, because the plant isn’t absorbing much moisture each day so the soil in the container stays soggy.

Solution: Never start seeds in potting soil, which holds too much moisture. Instead use a mix containing peat moss or coir (coconut husk fiber). Plant seeds in small containers (4-inch size is the maximum) and be prepared to transplant them to a larger pot as they grow.

Problem No. 6

Curled, crumbly leaves

Cause: Even a few hours without water can slow a seedlings’ growth and after a day the plant may begin to curl its leaves to conserve moisture. Hot grow lights and the dry air inside heated homes can rapidly dehydrate plants, too.

Solution: Plant in a mix that includes perlite or vermiculite, naturally occurring minerals that hold moisture and disperse it as needed. Keep the mix consistently damp but not soggy so the plants don’t dry out or drown.

Seedling Problem No. 7

Yellow or brown leaf tips

Cause: Warm temperatures (70 to 75 degrees F) are ideal for seed germination, but tender seedlings can overheat from high-intensity lighting, lack of ventilation, or other reasons, causing the foliage to begin to burn at the edges.

Solution: Keep your indoor garden around 65 degrees F while the seedlings are getting established. Leave a fan blowing gently around the seedlings to bring in fresh air and prevent stagnant air from heating up.

Seedling Problem No. 8

Stalled growth, pale or yellow-streaked leaves

Cause: Seeds contain all the nutrients they need to germinate and grow their first pair of leaves, but after that you need to provide the food. When a plant appears to have stopped growing for a few days and the leaves are pale or yellow, it’s in need of nitrogen, the critical nutrient for healthy green growth.

Solution: After the two embryonic leaves (known as “cotyledon”) appear, begin feeding seedlings with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for seedlings. Follow the dilution recommendations–excess nutrients that the seedling can’t absorb can be a breeding ground for destructive fungi.

Seedling Problem No. 9

Purplish or reddish leaves and stalled growth

Cause: Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for root development and when it is in short supply, the seedlings’ growth stops and the veins in leaves can look like they are tinted purple or red.

Solution: Begin fertilizing with a phosphorus-rich nutrient formula after the leaves appear. Test the nutrient solution’s pH to be sure it is right for your growing system – soil or hydroponics – because if the fluid is too acidic or alkaline, the seedlings won’t be able to absorb the phosphorus.

Seedling Problem No. 10

Yellow spots or black mold on first few sets of leaves

Cause: Whiteflies are common pests of indoor gardens that may prey on weak seedlings. They suck sap from plants, leaving behind yellow spots. Worse, when they suck out more plant juice than they can digest, the pests excrete the excess as a sticky substance (called “honeydew”) on leaves. The sooty black mold grows in the honeydew.

Solution: The safest way to protect seedlings is with sticky traps that capture the flies before they can do any damage. When the plants get a little larger, you can eliminate whitefly infestations with insecticidal soap, a spray that’s compliant for use in organic gardening.

How to Help Seedlings

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