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When to Thin Seedlings

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Thinning is the term used to describe the removal of some plants in order for others to grow and develop. Thinning ensures that you have one plant per cell/pot that is going to grow healthy and strong as opposed to 2 or 3 per cell/pot that is going to compete with one another.

Determining When to Thin

Thinning is better to be done sooner rather than later as seedlings need plenty of space to grow early on in life. Failing to thin early enough may cause stunted growth, and plants may or may not fully recover. To determine when to thin, you want to take a look at the leaves of your seedling. Thinning can be done as soon as a plant has its first set of true leaves. (*Note the difference in leaves pictured to the left, true leaves have veins and look more leaf-like. Visually, they are the second set of leaves a seedling produces). Seedlings are typically 2-3 inches tall with at least one set of true leaves when they are ready to be thinned. Make sure to have your seedlings thinned by the time they have 3-4 sets of true leaves.

The pepper seedlings pictured to the right are ready to be thinned. They are crowded and need more room to grow and develop their root systems. 


As disappointing as it may be to simply get rid of tiny seedlings that you have nurtured from seed, it is necessary and important. We hope this post will help you to determine when your seedlings are ready to be thinned.

Good Luck, Have Fun, and Get Gardening!

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