Asked February 2, 2018, 10:49 PM EST

Over the yrs with thousands of veg and flwr seeds planted inside, some germinate and form cotyledons, but then stall - so FTL (failure to launch). Seed shell remains as cap for weeks. Is this a defect of the seed, lack of a nutrient(s), moisture, temp, or ??????? I have assumed it is a defect in genes, hence the plant would always be stunted or otherwise defective. Yes or no?

Anne Arundel County Maryland

6 Responses

This does not sound like a defect. Sometimes based on growing conditions such as humidity, etc. the seed coats may stick.


I should have been more clear, that the growth is stunted, so not just at start with the shell remaining.
The pic shows asclepias tuberosa 4 wks after planting seed. Note height of one in top cell vs the lower one.
Obviously both have same culture. Should i assume that if the shorter one survives, it will likely always be stunted and inferior? I measured today, and it, still only with cotyledons, is .5" high, while the one at top, with 2 sets of leaves, is 1.75".

Several thoughts:
Yes, genetics could be playing a part. There are always minute differences between seeds, just as identical twins are not truly identical. Because seedlings are somewhat slower or shorter at first, does not mean that their overall growth will not be similar or almost identical as mature plants and not be productive plants.

Although culture is the same based on human observation and normal guidelines, there may well be little differences that we can't discern which can impact growth of seedlings. A difference between a seed being planted 1/3" and 1/4" deep in the soil will affect seed growth. Once again, however, this doesn't mean that slower/smaller plants won't necessarily catch up to their siblings. (We did notice that your soil is rather coarse. Large particles could impede growth temporarily or at a crucial time.)

The problem with seed shells that don't shed is especially noticeable with thick-shelled seeds, such as limas. These shells can sometimes be given a little help, provided they can be plucked off without damaging the cotyledons. You could do a really interesting experiment comparing those you "saved" by removing the shell and those seedlings that successfully removed the shell themselves.

Of course, be sure seedlings are getting enough water, light, and fertilizer to have the strength to shed/push off seed shells.


Thanks for extra info. I removed the shell (easily) and have labeled it a runt. Will continue to grow to compare to others.

Your thorough response provided sufficient optimism to save the runt, which at the time i wrote had remained stagnant for several weeks (seed was planted 4 weeks before my inquiry). Several weeks later it was growing normally, then overtook its sibling, as it remains now 11 weeks after planting. I'll continue to be less impatient with future seedlings. Thanks again for the good advice.