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Stubborn seed shells

HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
edited August 2019 in Problem solving
This applies most to people who raise their own plants from seed. You know when your seeds begin to germinate and often times you will have at least one, but sometimes more, seedlings which pop up with their leaves still encased/trapped in the husks of the seeds that they germinated from?
What is the best/most practical way to ensure that the leaves are freed and the seedling can continue to grow and develop as normal?

I have tried to release the leaves by using tweezers to gently manoeuvre and pull the seed shells off, but this is not ideal as the plants are so small and delicate at this stage of their life.

How do you deal with this problem?

It is a fairly common affliction among my seedlings and does cause me a degree of frustration.
Here is the latest of my seedlings which has its leaves trapped inside. This is a Sceletium plant.

In the past I have opted to be patient and leave them be to see what happens, but the result is usually that struggle as the plant may it cannot release itself and the seedling ends up dying.


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,386
    If the seedling has adequate moisture and warmth its cells will continue dividing and it will burst out of its seed casing.  If it doesn't, it may just be a weaker specimen that wouldn't grow into a decent plant.   You could try misting with a spray of water to help soften the seed casing.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,427
    I find that they grow out of it. I have two honesty seedlings doing that right now (one of Chedglow and one of Somerset Marble).  The seed case might end up stuck to one of the seed leaves but they get dropped sooner or later anyway.  Misting is a good idea - I might try that.
  • HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
    edited August 2019
    Checked in on the seedling today and it does seem to be shedding the shell slowly but surely.
    Thank you for the helpful advice. I followed Obelixx’s advice by moistening the seed shells, but with a drop of water on my finger tip rather than misting as the compost is already a bit too wet.

    Here is the seedling

  • HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
    The other seedling has almost shed its shell completely with the shell just hanging off the tip of one of the seed leaves.

  • karen paulkaren paul Posts: 230
    I'm probably a bit more brutal in my approach, I just try to crack the casing as carefully as I can to weaken it and peel off what I can, sometimes with a flat seed if I squeeze it's sides it just pops right open and the leaves spring apart  totally unharmed. The majority of the seedlings survive, just the ones I've clumsily torn a chunk off or left encased too long  seem to die.
  • HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
    A quick update on how my little Sceletium project is coming along.

     All ten seeds have since germinated, but two died for whatever reasons.

     I’m not at all disappointed with an 80% survival rate.

  • HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
    Thank you Philippa. 😁
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,386
    Well done.  Maybe time to prick them on into small pots?  Remember to hold them by the leaves, not the stems, and t ease them out gently witha  fork or a spatula type stick.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • HippophaeHippophae Posts: 154
    Hi Obelixx. Yes the three largest plants look like they probably could be pricked out, but the others are still too young. I’ve got them in the heated conservatory where they will stay over winter so not going to rush to pot them on. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,386
    If they're in seed compost they will run out of nutrients so either pot on or feed if they're in an environment that's warm enough for growth.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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