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How Much & How Often to Water Seedlings: Drainage & Overwatering

woman watering spider plant

There’s something incredibly satisfying about growing plants from seeds: watching your flowers, fruit, or vegetables grow from virtually nothing and knowing that you’ve done all the hard work yourself. It also enables you to collect seeds from mature plants and continue the natural cycle. But, along with factors like lighting and temperature, moisture is an essential component in ensuring that your seedlings have the chance to mature.

Below, we look at how much water you should give your seedlings, as well as how often to water them, and even the best way to water your young plants.

garden flower divider

When to Water Seedlings

There is no set time limit for how often to water seedlings. It will usually depend on the amount of light, humidity, and the temperature your seedlings have, as well as the seedlings themselves. The level of drainage in the soil or growing medium also plays a part. Generally, you will need to water every day or 2 days, but rather than following a specific timescale, you will enjoy better results by watering when your seedlings need the moisture.

gardener watering geranium plants
Photo Credit By: Caterina Trimarchi, Shutterstock

Check the Soil

Poke your finger an inch or so down into the soil. The soil shouldn’t be soaking wet, but it should feel damp. If it is dry, it’s time to give your seedlings some water.

How to Water Seedlings

There are two basic ways of watering seedlings: top or bottom watering.

Top watering means spraying the seedlings from above, typically using a spray bottle set on the fine mist setting. Too direct and powerful of a stream may damage the seedlings and disrupt the growing medium.
Bottom watering means using a self-watering pot. There are essentially two sections to this type of pot with a water chamber at the bottom. The water soaks up through the soil rather than dripping down from the top.

watering spider plant
Photo Credit Byt: Simplylesia, Shutterstock

How Much Water to Give Seedlings

Seedlings should be kept moist but not soaking wet, and they should never be allowed to dry out completely. Overwatering and underwatering can kill seedlings, although, if you have done either, it may still be possible to save your plants before they die completely. You will likely need to check the seedlings two or three times a day because the soil can dry quickly.

Avoid Overwatering

Overwatering is probably the single biggest killer of seedlings. Overwatering means that the soil can become a breeding ground for pests, and it can also cause the roots of the seedling to rot and mold. If you notice any signs of pest infestation or signs of disease due to overwatering, reduce the moisture level straight away. You can also make a homemade pesticide using essential oils and herbs.

watering lavender plant
Photo Credit By: Mostovyi Sergii Igorevich, Shutterstock

Avoid Underwatering

Seedlings need water to grow, and while it might be possible to resurrect some seedlings that have stalled due to a lack of water, it isn’t always possible, and it is best to avoid underwatering in the first place. Indoor seedlings should be checked several times a day to ensure they are moist enough, and if you notice the soil is dry, give your little ones some water.

The Importance of Drainage

Drainage is vital to growing healthy, strong seedlings. Use a good soil or seedling mix that offers natural drainage. If you use pots with drainage holes, ensure they aren’t covered. You can also use a raised bed, which naturally makes it easier to provide proper drainage while your seeds grow.

garden flower divider


Seedlings need a combination of the right temperature, ventilation, drainage, light, and water to develop strong roots and start to grow. Overwatering is probably the most common reason that seedlings die before they have fully established, but underwatering is a common killer, too.

Check the moisture level by poking your finger about an inch below the surface. Check multiple times a day, and water the plants using a misting bottle or by watering from underneath when the soil feels dry. If you do notice that your seedlings are suffering from being underwatered or overwatered, take action as soon as possible to rectify the problem and resurrect your seedlings.

Featured Image Credit: tativophotos, Shutterstock


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