Nooooo! (Seedlings in Peril)

When I started my “succulents from seeds” projects, I knew my first go would likely be educational but likely not successful. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it though.

I was quite proud of myself this morning for not obsessively checking my seedlings in the basement as I have been every morning and night for the last few weeks. That was going to be a mistake, as it turns out. I was not counting on the fact that my partner was home all day today, which meant the furnace was running higher than usual, which keeps the basement area where the seedlings are set up quite warmer than days when we are both at work and it keeps the house cool. I also had accidentally left a basement fan on that I try to run a few hours each day for air circulation to combat the algae that had started in the echeveria pots. Those, which are in plastic cups, were in better shape that the lithops, which were in small terracotta pots. Oops.

When I got home from work, I came back to find that a few of my formerly largest/healthiest looking lithops seedlings were shriveling and looking crispy. The pots and the topsoil was extremely dried out, and the drainage cups had gone dry. (I’ve been trying to keep at least 1/4″ to 1/2″ of water at the bottom of the cups at this stage to retain moisture and humidity. With dismay, I dunked the pots into a few inches of water, gave them a good spritzing from a spray bottle and hoped that the possessed an innate ability to rebound from a dry period even at this tender stage. Time will tell, and I’ll probably continue to obsessively peek in on them throughout the evening.

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Looking a little less crispy already, and hopefully that’s not just unvanquished idealism.

I was already a little worried about these seedlings, because starting two days ago I started to notice yellow spots on the leaves that are, I think, from light burn.  A few of the much smaller echeveria seedlings also showed some yellowing.  This is likely my fault – the same day that I was reorganizing/cleaning up the basement, I had read online a warning about starting succulents in the winter indoors that they may get too “leggy” from insufficient light.  When I was putting the basement setup back together at the end of my cleaning, I moved the lights down a few chain links closer to the plants… which I corrected immediately when I began to notice the spots.  It hasn’t gotten worse since then, and I was hoping that as long as the pulled through, this would probably be a minor issue since it was mainly the cotyledons (starter seedling leaves) which would fall off as soon as the tiny plants started developing their first sets of “true leaves”.

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Mysterious yellow marring on lithops.
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Also seen on a very small echeveria.

I still have several lithops seeds left that I can try to start again if these don’t rebound; but with trepidation.  In one of the four small pots I’ve started, I have been unable to get seeds to germinate. The first round of two failed to take … and after the others were firmly established and I was brave enough to poke about the wayward pot with a toothpick, I found the seeds completely fell apart.  Duds. I had a few theories about what the problem might have been, most related to the time of sowing, so I cleaned up the pot a bit and put in two more seeds and replaced the cover about a week ago to see if I could get a “second chance”.  These have been running about four days to get a sprout, and since the second wave was started… pot #4 still has failed to show signs of activity.  I have read that some lithops seeds can reportedly take months to germinate, but given that the other three pots all generally showed signs of activity within a few days, I have to wonder whether this particular little pot is cursed or if there’s something else I’m doing wrong that’s killing these small seeds.

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