There aren’t many situations more frustrating to any grower than pouring your time, energy, and money into your indoor grow tent setup only for your seeds to fail to actually germinate.

While it might seem like every seed and clone that you plant should turn into a full-grown plant, that’s simply not the case. Regardless of how hard you work on your grow, there will sometimes be seeds and clones that do not quite turn out the way you hoped.

If you’ve set out with the hope of growing healthy plants and find yourself stuck with seeds that never reach their full potential or come to fruition, there’s no need to worry. This guide will explain why plants fail to move out of the seedling stage and solutions you can put in place to prevent this from happening.

Table of Contents

  1. Reasons Why Plants Fail to Grow
    1. Poor Genetics
    2. Improper Propagation
  2. Helping Your Plants Make It Out of the Seedling Stage
    1. Plant as Many Seeds and Grow as Many Clones as Possible
    2. Use Best Practices for Propagation
      1. Seed Germination
      2. Cloning
  3. Set Up Your Seeds and Clones for Success

Alright, let's get started so we can get your plants started on the right path.

Reasons Why Plants Fail to Grow

Even when you have reputable seeds or clones for your plants, you will not always see these seeds and clones grow and germinate. Before you can find a solution to address the problem, it’s important for you to know and understand the two main causes of this disappointing problem: poor genetics and improper propagation.

Although it’s easier to address poor genetics than improper propagation, there are simple solutions to both of these issues. First, though, you’ll need to know which of these problems is directly affecting your plants.

Poor Genetics

When you use low-quality seeds or clones with bad genetics, it will be harder to get them to leave the seedling stage and grow, even if you provide them with plenty of attention and the right growing environment.

If your seeds are consistently failing to germinate, you should look into their genetics and consider using different seeds or clones for future grows. You should always opt to buy seeds from a trustworthy seed bank or retailer. It’s good practice to make sure the seeds and clones came from high-quality plants, especially since clones are genetic copies.

While being diligent about looking into your seeds’ genetics might help resolve this issue, there are still times when reputable seeds with great genetics do not germinate. Nevertheless, there are solutions you can use to minimize this particular issue and guarantee you’ll be able to grow some healthy plants, even if you have several seeds that will not germinate.

Improper Propagation

The other major reason some plants are unable to develop fully is due to improper propagation.

In simple terms, propagation means creating new plants from existing seeds, roots, stems, or other plant parts. Whether you’re cloning them or using seeds, it’s important to make sure your plants get off to the best start possible. If done incorrectly, your plants won’t germinate the right way and therefore won’t develop properly.

For instance, if growers are not careful to use sterilized equipment when propagating their plants, they can actually infect a plant and hinder its growth. Likewise, seemingly small mistakes like planting your seeds too deeply or too soon can cause them to rot before they’re able to grow.

If your seeds and clones have high-quality genetics, be sure to grow them properly at the infant stage of their lives. Incorrect propagation can set your harvest time back significantly and make it that much harder for your plants to reach their full potential.

Not sure how to propagate the right way? Unsure of what equipment you’ll need? Find out everything you need to know about propagation in our guide on seeds and clones.

Helping Your Plants Make It Out of the Seedling Stage

From clones to seedlings, getting your plants into the vegging stage can be tricky. Even if you have the best genetics and propagate like a pro, you’re bound to face a bad plant every now and then. Thankfully, with a little preparation and foresight, you’ll be able to get the consistent yields you want.

Plant as Many Seeds and Grow as Many Clones as Possible

If you’re unsure of the genetics of your seeds or clones, or you’re already aware that you can’t trust the genetics of your new plants, it’s best to play it safe and plant more seeds than you normally would.

Depending on the genetics and the way your clones and seeds propagate, it can be difficult to measure their quality. That’s why you may want to consider starting with as many clones and planting as many seeds as possible. It’s a matter of numbers: The more plants you grow, the higher the chance you’ll get more high-quality yields. This will ensure you’re not wasting time nursing low-quality plants, and it will allow you to focus on making as many plants thrive as possible.

Use Best Practices for Propagation

If you’re able to pinpoint your growing issues to improper propagation, you should consider implementing the steps and best practices detailed below for future grows.

Seed Germination

When germinating seeds, the best way to ensure that they root properly is to use a wet paper towel and follow these steps:

  • Wet a piece of paper towel with warm water, squeezing out any excess water so that you can hold the paper towel without any dripping.
  • Place your wet paper towel on a plate and put your seeds on half of the towel. Make sure you line them up in a row with adequate spacing, and turn them so that they all face the right direction.
  • Fold the unused portion of the paper towel over the seeds, press down around your seeds, and place a single droplet of warm water on each seed.
  • Cover the plate to lock in moisture and place it in a dark, warm location.
  • After a few days, you will begin to see taproots from your seeds. Transplant these seeds into a pre-moistened seed and clone starter tray so they can grow into seedlings.
  • Place the trays into a propagation tray — the Yield Lab Heavy Duty 10 x 20 Inch Propagation Tray is a great option — making sure to add water to keep the seeds moist. Set this tray under direct light. Note: You should avoid using grow lights during this stage.
  • Once your seeds start sprouting and become more mature (entering the vegetation stage), you can use grow lights until they are ready to be placed into their growing medium. We suggest using the 50 Watt Advance Spectrum All Blue LED Grow Light Panel.


Cloning plants helps you use part of an existing plant in order to create a copy that has the same genetic makeup as the original. To take cuttings from your plants properly, follow these steps:

  • Place your cuttings in a cup of warm water. This will prevent them from becoming damaged from air exposure.
  • Grab a pre-moistened starter tray and prepare to place your cuttings into the tray. You should make sure you are cutting at a 45-degree angle to maximize branch mass exposure. It is vital that you use sterilized, disposable tools like Gro1 Scalpels for cutting in order to prevent infection.
  • Use a cloning gel, like X Nutrients MX Clone Gel, to help your plants propagate. You should dip each cutting into this gel before you put them into the starting tray.
  • Place the tray into an area with high humidity to help them grow. We recommend using a dome with your tray.
  • About halfway through the germination process, you should lower the humidity levels slightly to help dry out the starter tray and help your plants’ roots grow strong.
  • By the tenth day, you should significantly lower the humidity levels and look for roots on your plants.

Set Up Your Seeds and Clones for Success

It can be disheartening when your plants fail to meet your expectations, but there are ways to drastically increase your seeds’ and clones’ chances of successfully growing into healthy plants. If you follow the steps outlined in this article and use high-quality propagation, cloning, and rooting tools, you’ll be well-equipped to ensure the best possible outcome for your seeds and clones.

Even if your first few attempts at growing plants have been unsuccessful, it’s never too late for you to follow this guide and turn things around for your next grow.

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