A Guide to Caring for Indoor Seedlings

I planted my indoor seed starts about three weeks ago and almost everything has sprouted! We have baby peppers, tomatoes, rosemary, and a few flower varieties poking out of the soil. I am eager for spring’s arrival!

You can learn the basics to starting seeds indoors over here, but now it’s time to talk about caring for little seedlings once they have germinated. Proper care helps those babies grow into healthy, thriving plants.

Tending sprouts can feel a bit overwhelming. I had many questions at the beginning, so my aim is to make all of this information user friendly. Here are a few tips for caring for seedlings.

1. Daily Check-Up

It is easy to forget about those seedlings after a week or two. I know this from experience. Sprouts need a daily check-up to make sure that all their needs are met.

What exactly are you checking for? Do they need water? Are they showing signs of under-watering or over-watering? Do they appear thin and weak? And so on.

2. Water as Needed

Consistently damp soil can cause rot or mold to your sprouts. Allow the surface of the soil to dry out before watering again.

I use the tip of my finger to check the moisture level of the soil. I do not water the seedling if the soil is still damp, but I will mist it with a spray bottle if the soil is dry.

Keep in Mind: do not pour any water directly on the seedling. Gently mist the plant and soil, or carefully pour a small amount or water on the soil.

Signs of Over Watering

  • Browning edges
  • Wilting leaves even though the soil is wet
  • Stunted growth
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Mold on the soil

Signs of Under Watering

  • Wilting leaves and dry soil
  • Soil pulling away at the edges of the container

3. Keep Them Warm

Seedlings need warm soil. I recommend keeping them in a room that remains within 65 to 75 degrees fahrenheit.

4. Are They Getting Enough Light?

Light is vital after germination. Proper light exposure will help produce strong starts rather than weak, thin ones.

There are a few options for supplying the seedlings with the light they need: direct sunshine or a grow light.

Direct Sunlight

A sunny, south-facing window works well as long as it supplies enough sunshine each day.

Seedlings should receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, so if you have a sunny spot inside that meets this requirement, use it!

Grow Light

Many people have to supplement with another source of light by using a grow light. Seedlings need 14-16 hours per day under a grow light since it is not as strong as direct sunshine.

Distance From the Light

Grow light options are either full spectrum LED lights or florescent shop lights. Either one will work, but you will have to place them at a different distances from the seedlings.

  • Full spectrum LED light: keep this light 2-3 inches above the tops of the seedlings. Be sure to adjust the distance from the light as your plants grow taller. This is the grow light we are using.
  • A florescent grow light: this light will get hotter than an LED, so don’t place your seedlings quite as close. They will bake! Keep the light 16-30 inches from the tops of the seedlings. Adjust the distance as the plants grow taller.

Keep in Mind:

  • Leggy (thin and spindly) seedlings typically mean that the light source is too far away.
  • Rest periods are just as important for seedlings as light is. Be sure to turn off the grow light during the night to give them the rest they need. 6 to 8 hours of rest per day will do.

I encourage you to plant something this spring. You may never feel inspired to plant an entire garden, and that’s ok, but there are valuable lessons in tending a plant. The process teaches patience, endurance, hope, and so much more.

And if you experience failure in the garden this year…the seeds don’t sprout, all the seedings wither, or the harvest is not as bountiful as you hoped it would be… learn from the mistakes, grieve the loss, and find determination to try again.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


May the Lord bless your gardening adventure this year. May He use it to teach and grow you. May He fill your heart with joy as you tend that which you have sown.

“Sow for yourself righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” -Hosea 10:12

Gardening Terminology

  • Seedling: A young plant, especially one that grows from a seed, rather than from a cutting, for example.
  • Germinate: To cause to sprout or grow.
  • Sprout: To emerge and develop rapidly.

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