Why are Leggy Seedlings Bad?

yumtomatoes(10a/FLA)August 21, 2011

It is very hot here. My seedlings get at least 6 hours of direct sun a day and then I bring them onto a covered patio with an overhead fan going along with an oscillating fan. Some of the varieties are looking leggy but otherwise healthy.

Why is it bad to have leggy seedlings? Can't I just bury the long stems when I transplant them and if so, won't the plant be fine?

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its kinda a good thing for me anyway. plantem deep. you will get a larger root system. i give mine 12 hrs or more light in a day.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 9:00AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Yes, they will be fine in the long run, and you can bury the stems. If you can get them more sun, or use a flourescent light 2"-3" above them, 16 hrs per day, they'll grow much better.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 9:01AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

They have compromised circulatory systems. Usually salvageable by burying all the stem but it's something to be avoided and easy to prevent.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 9:46AM
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One thing I've found to be a problem with leggy seedlings of all kinds is the long, skinny stem is really easily broken, either when being handled or just from the wind, cats messing with them, etc. Broken stem usually means dead plant.

Plants that have gotten enough light are short and fat and much sturdier.

You're right that for a tomato, being leggy is not an automatic death sentence, but it is something worth avoiding if you can help it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 12:21PM
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I don't think this is a light problem, rather a heat problem. They get at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight, usually closer to 8. And then they still get indirect light for another 4 hours. I can't do anything about the heat except the fans, and they are running non-stop.

Hopefully I won't break them when transplanting them. Should I move them into pots as soon as the true leaves appear since they are leggy?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 1:02PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Probably a combo of the 2 issues - heat and light. Unlike established plants, seedlings are normally given 16-18 hours (some use 24 hours) of heavy light exposure daily and growing temps of 60-65 degrees. Heat outside you can't control so you do them inside where you can control it and you use intense supplemental lights for 16-18 hours, like most do.

If they are already leggy then transplanting then to other containers now and planting them as deep as possible - up to the cotyledons - is the standard recommendation. But without additional hours of supplemental light and cooler temps they will quickly get leggy again no matter what you do.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 1:50PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Were they growing indoors or outdoors? The light is alot different outdoors.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 4:19PM
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My leggy tomatoes seem to be slower to bear fruit and not be as filled out as my short ones. Any tomatoes plants I have that wind up leggy get special treatment. I plant them as deep as I can and set a raised container (usually a tire) over the top of them. As they grow, I fill in the tire with soil and mulch. This gives me really good root systems and a chance to plant about three weeks early. A plexiglas frame makes it a nice hotbox. One day I will pick a ripe tomato in May, I've gotten close a couple of times.

Dave...you were dead on about pepper feet liking shade.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 7:20PM
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zackey - growing outside in south florida. They get direct sunlight from 7am to whenever it starts raining, which is usually between 2pm and 4pm, although some days it starts earlier and some days we have had rain all day due to a tropical system.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 8:22PM
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