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How to Plant Seedlings

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017

Whether you start your own seeds indoors or purchase nursery seedlings, the time comes to plant the seedlings into the garden. Planting outside occurs only after the seedlings are strong enough to weather the elements and when the outdoor temperatures are suitable for young, growing plants to thrive. Doing it properly gives your seedlings their best chance of survival and helps them grow into healthy adult plants that will produce a profusion of blooms or vegetables.

Wait until the recommended outdoor planting time for the seedling variety, usually after the last spring frost in your area. Check that the seedling is mature enough for outdoor planting--it should have developed at least two sets of true leaves.

Set the seedlings outdoors in a protected area, such as a porch, two weeks before you plan to transplant them into the garden bed. Set them out for two hours the first day then gradually increase the time each day until they spend the whole day outside by the end of the two weeks.

Prepare a well-draining garden bed that receives the proper sun requirements for the plant variety. Work in a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost into the soil to aid drainage and nutrition before planting the seedlings.

Remove the seedling from the container by grasping it lightly around the stem near the soil surface. Pull the pot off with your other hand. Loosen the roots at the base of the root ball with your finger tips.

Dig the planting hole to a depth 1 inch deeper than the length of the seedling's root ball. Set the seedling into the hole and fill with soil, gently firm it around the base of the seedling. Space seedlings the distance recommended on the plant labels for each individual variety.

Water the seedlings thoroughly after planting in the ground. Keep the soil moist at all times, providing approximately 1 to 2 inches of water in a single, weekly watering session.


Things You Will Need

  • Compost
  • Spade


  • Plant seedlings outdoors on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to avoid sunburning the young plants.
  • Remove any leaves on the stem that will be under soil level once the seedling is transplanted into the garden.


  • Keep the garden beds well weeded, especially in the first three to four weeks after planting outside as weeds can quickly choke out young seedlings. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants to help prevent weeds.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.