Seed germination question

If a seedling; after popping up in the tray,appears to have a difficult time after the hard shell is split in getting rid of it, does it harm it if I help it along a bit to get the cotyledons out? I have had a few that have sat for many days before the shell dropped, and some that and have not shed the shell at all and died. Is the root growing and it sheds the shell when “Mother Nature” says it’s time? Or if I help it along, the root might not fully develop and it will be a weak plant anyway? Thoughts?

I have if it has been too long. Damage is highly possible. What I do is take the ends of sewing needles and press in opposing direction where the seed has split in order to pop off the seed coat with the least amount of pressure on the plant as possible.

It is a gamble, though.

I did it a lot and didn’t have any problems with it. I just toke off the shell of 8 bonica OP seeds. I did it with 200+ rugosa OP seeds and all came up. 2 of the 1000+ did crushed because of my own mistake.

If you’re careful, you can do it without harming the seedling. I take a knife and hold the edge of the blade firmly against one of the sides while pulling on the other side with the thumbnail of my other hand.

Sometimes the covers don’t come off because the cotyledons are fused along one edge. Usually these seedlings are defective, but I always give them the benefit of the doubt and, after removing the seed coat, I carefully split the fused side, working from the end toward the base of the cotyledon. This is a bit ticklish, but so far I’ve not destroyed a seedling this way, and a few of them have turned out OK (but most that are defective in one way are defective in other ways). Even if you damage the cotyledons, you probably won’t destroy the seedling unless you hit the growing point in the center.

I should add that before I intervene with these seedlings I give them about 3 days to shed the seed coats on their own. If they can’t do it, I help them.


Planting seeds too shallow can cause seedlings to have difficulty separating from seed shell.

I used to, but I don’t bother now. In most cases, the first true leaves will push out the side of the cotyledons anyway.


Paul is right. It amazing. Those tiny leaves find a way out of there.

I do it fairly often - to get an earlier start on getting light to the cotyledons earlier, and to help out a seedling that has a seed coat whose seam is dense and won’t separate. Most of the time the seedlings do well. Occasionally, when the reason for the inability of the plant to throw off it’s coat is due to being a weak plant, it doesn’t usually help.

Since I grow my seedlings under lights at this time of the year, that is why I want to speed the process. Having to push the true leaves out the side will slow the seedling by at least a week, and that is a waste of my very limited lighted space.

I still do this with many seedlings, but have damaged some (and killed others), so will just leave them to themselves when it appears that too much pressure needs to be applied to remove the seed coat.

I have noticed that many seed coats that feel very tight will loosen up considerably after being watered - then the seed coat just easily slides right off. Occasionally, the seed coat is extremely tight and doesn’t split open at all. Those seedlings are pretty much doomed.

Jim Sproul

Jim - agree that those that are so tight are doomed anyway, but as Peter suggests I have been leaving them for several days before messing with them. Thanks to all - some good comments that I am sure have helped a lot of folks who have been wondering, but never took the time to ask.