Dry seedlings? Here’s what to do.

Sometimes the best of us forget to water our seedlings after we’ve picked them up from the shops, unloaded our shopping and popped inside for a cuppa. Coming out and finding them shrivelled and wilted (or worse if you’ve forgotten about them for a couple of days) can be quite a shock.

Maybe not too far gone...
Maybe not too far gone…

If you can get to your dry, wilting, babies while there is still a little green on them, there is, often, some hope of resurrection.

The roots may still be OK even when the tops look terrible. Check out the potting mix too – when potting mix, soil or seed raising mix dry out, they pull away from the sides of the container they are in. This is because the material in them is shrinking as they dry out. This also allows a lot of cavities to be formed in the mix and allows air to be drawn in. If this hasn’t happened or is just starting, you still have a chance.

The Mint family (Labiatae) respond particularly well to the technique in this post. This includes all Mints, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano and lots of your favourite herbs. I’ve had the driest sticks spring back to life with a little moisture and love.

Let’s revive some plants!

Fill a bucket with fresh water and add a little soluble or liquid fertilizer and a tiny drop of seaweed solution.

Pulling away from the sides.
Drying potting mix pulling away from the sides.

Submerge the seedlings, container and all in water for at least half an hour. This allows water to get into the soil and a little to be absorbed by the plant through the stomata in the leaves.

When you submerge the seedling container in water, make sure that all of the mix is below the surface. You will see bubbles coming out of the soil as water flows or is drawn in. Wait at least until the bubbles stop. That means that all of the air cavities are full of water.

Bubbles are good but wait 'til they stop.
Bubbles are good but wait ’til they stop.

More water wil be absorbed into the dry soil particles and organic material in the mix as time goes on, so depending on the size of the pot, you may need to leave the pot on a saucer of water so that capillary action and other factors can draw water in until the mix is at ‘field capacity’. Field capacity literally means that it’s full of water.

Let them sit for a couple of hours at least.
Let them sit for a couple of hours at least.

Sit the plant somewhere out of direct sunlight in the hot weather to prevent and cut the uppermost leaves and most damaged leaves away. Leave anything that’s green for now. You can prune for shape later.

Let the plants sit somewhere shady.
Let the plants sit somewhere shady.

Keep the soil wet until you see new leaf growth and then you can water normally.

Hopefully you will see new growth or at least, retain flexibility and greenness in stems after a week or so. Persevere for a couple of weeks before giving up. I’ve recovered a wide range of, literally, dead plants this way. Of course, there are always some that don’t make it…

It's alive!
It’s alive!

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