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Seedling Leaves Stuck Together – Causes & Fixes

Nothing is more exciting than those first peaks of green rising from the dirt when a seedling begins sprouting. However, sometimes the feeling of excitement is cut short when a gardener notices that there is something off about the seedling’s first leaves. These first leaves are the life support of the plant, so when something is wrong with them, it can be very alarming.

So what can you do if your seedling has leaves that are stuck together? Is the seedling doomed? What is causing the leaves to be attached to one another? How can I prevent this from happening? 

Even though having their leaves stuck together may seem like a death sentence for your seedling, it has a pretty good chance of survival if you act quickly and efficiently. Read on to learn more about why seedlings sometimes have leaves that stick together, safely separate the leaves, and what you can do to prevent this from happening. 

Dealing With Leaves That Are Stuck Together 

If you notice your seedling has sprouted leaves that seem to stick together, there are a few things you can do. The first leaves of a seedling are called the cotyledon, and they are crucial for the seedling to grow and live.

These leaves provide the first photosynthesis for the plant, taking the sun’s energy and converting it to sugar inside the plant to use for energy later. The two small leaves are responsible for growing and sustaining the entire plant. 

Because the cotyledons are so vital to the plant’s development, when they emerge stuck together, it can cause some concerns for any gardener.

There are a few ways in which the leaves can be stuck together. The two could be held together by a thin piece of lining remnants from the inside of the seed, they could be mutated and grown together without dividing, or they could be stuck inside a seed coat. 

Seed Membrane 

If you notice your first set of leaves on your seedlings is stuck together, the first thing is to identify what is holding them to one another. It is common for the membrane within the seed to stick to the plant as it emerges.

Sometimes, the membrane even sticks to the cotyledons as they unfurl, causing them to become attached. To remove this membrane, moisten the leaves and your fingers, then rub the membrane between your thumb and index finger gently until it is removed.

It should come off relatively easily and quickly. You can also use tweezers to remove the membrane if you are not comfortable using your hands. Once the membrane is removed, the plant should continue to grow normally.

Cotyledons Grown Together 

Another common problem with cotyledons is that they did not develop correctly. Almost like a birth defect, the first leaves never split into two separate ones. This is not as common, and plants that have this are less likely to make it even after you intervene.

The low survival rate is due to the process you have to do even to attempt to save the plant. Without the cotyledons being able to perform photosynthesis, the plant will die. If the leaves are stuck together physically, you must cut them into two separate leaves using a fine scissor.

Snipping the single leaf into the two was meant to give the plant a chance at survival. The seedling will need to use energy to heal itself from its minor wound, so if the leaves cannot produce enough energy through photosynthesis, it will begin to die. It is best to plant multiple seeds of each type to ensure that you can have a few successful plants. 

Seed Coats 

We notice a hard and strange-looking” helmet” on our seedlings every now and then. This is part of the seed’s outer shell or the seed coat that broke open when the seedling began to grow. While pushing up and toward the sun, the seedling took some of the original seed’s shell with it.

Sometimes, this seed coat can get stuck on the cotyledons of the seedling. A seedling’s cotyledons are the first two leaves that a seedling uses for photosynthesis to create energy for the plant to continue to grow. 

Why Do Seed Coats Occur?

Seed coats covering the cotyledons can happen for a variety of reasons. The best way to prevent a seed coat from sticking to the seedling as it grows is to keep the soil moist. Hardened soil will increase the likelihood of the seed’s shell sticking to the seedling.

As the seedlings sprout from the soil, keep them moist, especially if you see a seed coat. It will hopefully fall off on its own as the seedling develops. However, cotyledons are vital for a plant’s survival. If these leaves cannot get sunlight and perform photosynthesis, the plant will die. It is essential to remove the seed coat if it is not shed naturally. 

How To Remove A Seed Coat 

Sometimes the seed coat is not shed naturally, and you will have to intervene. While this can be intimidating, it is rather simple to do. Even with its simplicity, the process needs to be taken seriously, as any damage to the seedling’s cotyledons will most likely kill the plant.

The removal process needs to be performed slowly, carefully, and expertly, almost like surgery. Here is the list of steps to properly remove a seed coat

Moisten the Seed Coat

Use a spray bottle to moisten the seed coat thoroughly. This will help loosen the seed coat and hopefully allow for simple and easy removal. You will want to ensure that the seedling and seed coat is saturated well with water.

Wait 10 Minutes 

After thoroughly moistening the seed coat, allow the water to absorb for about 10 minutes. You will want to ensure that the seed coat does not dry out, so turn off any fans or heat lamps you have going by the seedling. 

Wiggle the Seed Coat 

Using your thumb and index finger, slowly begin wiggling the seed coat back and forth. This process may take a while. Patience is key in this procedure. The seedling is incredibly delicate, and tearing the leaves will most likely kill the plant. If you cannot remove the seed coat, moisten again and let sit for a few more minutes. After a few wiggles, the seed coat should pop right off, allowing the cotyledons to spring into their new positions. 

In Summary 

A seedling with stuck-together leaves can be an alarming and frustrating thing for many gardeners. You can prevent the odds of having your cotyledons emerge stuck to one another by keeping the soil, seedlings, and leaves moist during the entire growing process; if you notice that your seedling has leaves stuck to one another, access what is holding them together. 

If it is a membrane from the seed, some water and friction will help set them free. Sometimes seeds are born with a ”birth defect” that makes two leaves emerge as one. If this is the case, use sharp and clean scissors to cut the leaf into two.

This is the trickiest surgery for the seedling to bounce back from. Another common problem with seedlings is when the seed coat is stuck to them. To help remove the seed coat, moisten the plant and seed coat well, let the water absorb, and then wiggle the seed coat off the cotyledons. 

Always plant more than what you need for seeds once they have emerged as seedlings; thin out to one or two seedlings by choosing the healthiest and best-looking ones. This prevents one or two bad seedlings from spoiling your entire garden season. 

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