How to choose the Best & Healthy seedlings

How to choose the Best & Healthy seedlings
How to choose the Best & Healthy seedlings

Spring is here and the markets are full of young seedlings of vegetables, plants, flowers, and other agricultural crops. The sale of seedlings is carried out by private individuals, professional farms, garden associations, and specialized stores. Where to buy seedlings and how to choose quality and healthy seedlings?

After all, every gardener is familiar with the feeling of resentment and disappointment when a seedling planted in a vacant plot for 2-3 days droops and never again spreads its leaves to the sun. Some practical tips will help you to identify and buy quality healthy seedlings by their appearance.


Sellers in the South bring the first seedlings to market already in late March to early April (cabbage early, some flowering). Do not rush to buy them. These seedlings may be poorly hardened, sown early, and the owner is eager to get rid of unsuitable goods. Such seedlings often die 50-70% and require additional care in the form of temporary shelters.

It is necessary to wait for the soil in the root zone to warm up to the recommended temperature and frost-free period. For cold-resistant crops (cabbage, lettuce, celery), the soil should warm up to 50-53°F (10-12°C) in the root zone in the 4-6inch (10-15 cm) layer. For tomatoes, which prefer heat 53-57°F (12-14°C), and peppers and eggplant 59°F (15°C) or more.

For seedlings with particularly fragile root systems that do not tolerate transplanting – cucumbers, zucchini, squash, watermelon – 62-64°F (17-18°C). Crops planted in cold soil are stressed for a long time, do not start to form young roots (“freeze”) and the plants take root and get diseases for a long time.

It is best to wait until the air temperature is consistently positive, not less than 57-58 °F (14-20 ° C), depending on the type of culture and variety. In recent years, fluctuations in temperature are difficult to predict. Even in southern areas, morning frosts may strike all seedlings after mid-May.

Of course, it is not forbidden to buy seedlings too early, if you plan to plant them in a warm bed or under a temporary cover.

Do not buy seedlings in advance. That is, do not leave them in water or wet linen for 3-4 days. Such seedlings take not 3-4 days to root, but 8-10 days to acclimate to the open ground, which takes a long time and requires extra work/care.

Do not buy seedlings of all crops at once. Hastily sown seeds, especially in unheated soil, are fraught with undesirable consequences. It is best to buy seedlings in time before 10-11 am and plant them after 3 pm the same day. The heat of the day will disappear and overnight the plants will adapt slightly to the environment. If the weather is hot, don’t forget to shade the plants from the hot sun for 11-12 to 15 hours.

In the market, check out the products before buying seedlings. Give preference to official organizations that prominently display licenses and other sales permits.

Choose seedlings that are clearly arranged in individual boxes, trays, preferably grown in separate boxes, pots, or cups, and labeled with the variety and hybrids. Special care should be taken with seedlings of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and other crops that have a negative effect on transplanting. They should be in separate containers with closed root systems.


It is necessary to pay attention to the following external indicators.

Root system of seedlings

Today, sellers offer buyers seedlings were grown in 2 ways – open and closed root systems. Seedlings with an open root system usually go through a harvesting procedure. Ultimately, the quality of the seedlings is not affected by the harvesting or non-harvesting cultivation method.

Carefully inspect seedlings with open roots. Each variety or hybrid should not just lie in a pile but should be placed in a separate box. Fresh roots have a slightly open developed root system and are folded into a thick or sprouting mass of young roots.

The soil at the roots of the seedling should be fresh and moist, not wet and easily crushed by the grain when shaken. Roots in thick bolls with closed buds hanging are evidence of a seedling that is not fresh, even if the plant’s leaves look fresh and are not drooping. The root system in a bush should be obvious, without nodes and without tubercles. The tips of the roots should be white and vigorous, not yellowed and coarse-skinned.

It is more practical to purchase seedlings of all crops grown in individual containers, pills, boxes, pots, and cups. New seedlings with thick roots will easily take root in new locations, but seedlings with tap roots generally will not.

Cultures such as cucumber, watermelon, zucchini, and pastry should always be purchased with a closed root system so that the central root is not damaged when transplanting/transferring. It is considered that the most suitable for planting are seedlings of such crops grown in pots of peat soil.

The following table shows the parameters of seedlings for growing basic vegetable crops. When selecting healthy seedlings, the following characteristic parameters are to be noted.

Characteristic parameters of high-quality healthy seedlings – Table

CropHeight / inchNumber of leaves/pieceFlowers, buds/oneDiameter of stem / mmRemarks
Early tomato8-125-6Flower cluster, 1-2flowers7-8
Medium tomatoes10-148-10Flowering racemes7-10Medium-sized tomatoes may have immature flower buds
Pepper4-65-71-3 buds1.5-2.5Smaller leaves than bell peppers, pointed
Eggplant6-106-71-2 buds6-7Buds are usually found in early cultivars

4-65-6 buds3-4
Zucchini, squash6-82-3buds5-7

8-103 true leaves5.0(pseudostem)
Early cabbage

5-6(Stem)5-6Stem – Distance from root neck to the first leaf
Characteristic parameters of high-quality healthy seedlings

Seedling height

The height of pseudostems of tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, and onion seedlings should be 10-12inch (25-30 cm).

Early cabbage stems are 5-6inch (13-15 cm) long and late cabbage stems are 6-8inch (15-20 cm) long.

Consistently sized, sturdy seedlings – a clear indication that the plants are growing in accordance with all requirements for nutrition, irrigation, lighting, soil, and air temperature.

Seedling Stems

Stems are straight, not twisted, smooth, without cracks, and raised (if it is not a biomarker of culture). Seedling stems do not break when gently bent (overeaten and overfed), but bend easily and return to a vertical position.

Stems of early tomato seedlings are 7-8 mm thick/diameter and later ones are 7-10 mm, slightly pubescent and purplish.

Stems of eggplant and bell pepper at the root neck were 6-7 mm and 4-6 mm in diameter, respectively. The stems of eggplant are slightly coarse due to pubescence, while those of peppers are dark green and smooth. The internodes do not exceed 0.8-1inch (2-2.5 cm). The plants are stout and of the same color throughout.

In cabbage, the stems are 1-2inch (2.5-5 cm) tall from the root neck to the first leaf. The larger the diameter of the stem, the better. A perfectly developed seedling is when the thickness of the stem is at least 8-10 mm. Plants with weak shoots and stems that do not exceed 3-4 mm in diameter should not be purchased.
The stems should be straight and without any bends. If the stems are bent, it will take longer for the seedlings to root and the crop will mature in 2-3 weeks. Smooth, without overstretching and black spots. All colors that deviate from a single color indicate disease or the presence of pests.

Seedling Leaves

Leaves of all seedling varieties should match the color characteristics of the variety. Unnaturally dark green leaves are a sign of nitrogen overfeeding. The plants themselves are brittle and break easily. If you are not familiar with the natural color of the leaves of a particular variety of culture, you can check several sellers of seedlings, find the desired variety in several owners, and look closely at the leaves of the plant (folds of the leaf disc, leaf color, pubescence).

In early tomato seedlings, the number of well-developed leaves is about 5-6. Plants should have a raceme, preferably with 1-2 spreading flowers. Seedlings of medium- and late-maturing varieties form 8, sometimes as many as 10 true leaves before planting.

Seedlings of early-ripening peppers ready for planting have 6-8 leaves and flower buds, 8-12 – in medium- and late-ripening varieties. If the color of the leaves is light green and all other indicators are normal, then within 5-6 days after planting the seedlings should be fed with a chelated (easily digestible) form of fertilizer, infused with ash or acid with trace elements.

Early cabbage seedlings have 5-6 true leaves before planting, in the middle and late stages – 6-7. All leaves should be intact, unbroken, with a light waxy sheen (possibly a light purple hue). Yellowing of the lower leaves may be a sign of a common disease – cysts.


You should not buy overgrown seedlings. It will not form an earlier and fuller harvest because it needs more time to acclimate and root.

Pale, unevenly colored leaves, elongated translucent stems with wilted bud-like roots – such seedlings are not suitable for planting.

Stems with traces of removed leaves, stems with black spots and small blotches, mosaic of underdeveloped leaves, with withered leaf tips. It is better to reject such seedlings. It is also unsuitable for planting.

We hope that the tips given in this article will help you to buy high-quality, healthy seedlings and grow a rich harvest.

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