Seedling leaves will often point up when they first emerge. The leaves will start to separate from each other, eventually opening and laying flat or pointing towards the sun. It is not a problem if seedling leaves are pointing up, it is just the early phase of leaf growth.
Young seedlings with their leaves pointing up are heathy and are just at the early stage of growth. If the leaves start to point up as the seedling gets bigger then there could be a problem.
Leaves should be straight out from the seedling, or pointing up when they first grow. Leaves that are drooping or pointing down can be a sign of a problem. Overwatered seedling leaves will droop so check your watering schedule if this is happening.
This article will explore the top reasons why seedling leaves are pointing up, what you can do to solve each one and how to prevent it in the future.
Why seedling leaves point up – Top 6 Reasons and solutions
Here are the top reasons why seedling leaves point up and what you can do to solve each one. These will save your seedlings and help you to grow stronger plants in the long run.
1. Leaves have just emerged
New leaves from seedlings will usually point straight up as they grow from the seed pod. Tomatoes seeds pop up easily in your garden year to year if old tomatoes are left on the soil. Their leaves start by standing straight up and then open up as over time to gather the sunlight for photosynthesis.
After a week the seedlings will be around 1 inch tall, will have 2 leaves that open up horizontally. They will bend at point towards the sun over time. As the sun tracks across the side, the seedlings lean towards it. They will bend and stay in the direction that gets the most light.
2. The seed case has become stuck on the top
The seed case can get stick on the tips of the leaves and can keep them pointing up for longer. Over time the seed casing will pop off and the leaves will open up. If this is taking a long time, you can pinch the seed case off with your finger tips, taking care not to damaging the tips of the leaves.
If you wait long enough the case will eventually pop off but you can help it along if you like.
3. Seedlings need more light
Seedlings that are not getting enough light can keep their leaves pointing up as the stem extends and searches for the light. Seedlings can get long, leggy and their leaves will continue to point up for longer. The leaves usually stay pale and the stems can bend as the leaves get too heavy.
To encourage the leaves to open out and stop pointing up, move the seedlings to a brighter position that gets morning light, or move them into a greenhouse. They will get filtered light all day which will encourage the leaves to open up and point outwards rather than up.
You can use a small greenhouse or soda bottle cut in half. Remove the lid and the humidity can escape.
For more on how to save leggy seedlings, check out my article here: Leggy Tomato Seedlings | How to solve this problem
4. Seedlings are getting too much water
Seedlings that are overwatered can struggle to absorb the nutrients they need. The nitrogen will be washed out of the soil, the leaves can turn yellow and the leaves can point upwards.
Seeds and seedlings need moist soil but too much can be a problem. It can even cause fungal growth in the soil which can destroy the seed, seedling roots and cause the plant to fail.
Reduce watering to once per day or twice if the weather is hot. Use a mister to add small amounts of water and keep the seedlings in a small greenhouse to keep it moist for longer.
5. Seedlings are not getting enough water
Seedings that are not getting enough water can also suffer, their leaves can point up and they can start to dry out. The leaf tips can turn brown or yellow and the stem can bend and droop. Seedling soil should be kept moist until the seeding has grown its 3rd set of leaves or is 3-4 inches tall.
After this time you can plant the seed out into a larger pot with good quality potting soil, into a raised garden bed or into the ground.
6. Temperature is too hot
Seedlings that are suffering through temperatures that are too hot can suffer causing their leaves to point upwards. Any temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius will cause most seedlings to suffer.
They will curl their leaves in away from the sunlight and often the edges will curl in too. Move seedlings to a shady position on days above 75 degrees and water them 2-3 times. This will keep them alive. Always plant seeds in spring if you can to avoid the hot days of summer. Tomato seeds can be started in early spring in a greenhouse and the moved outdoors when the chance of frost has passed.
Gradually move seedlings out into the sun over 2 weeks to ‘harden’ them off. This will adjust them to the warmer sunlight and avoid their leaves pointing up to protect themselves.
How to stop seedling leaves from pointing up
To stop seedling leaves from pointing upwards make sure the seeds get filtered light throughout the day, are watered regularly, are planted in good quality potting soil to support growth beyond 2-3 weeks when the seed will have run out of energy to support the plant. Use good quality seeds and you should grow seedlings with ease.
Why are my seedling leaves pointing up? | Summary
Seedling leaves will point up on healthy seedlings when the leaves just emerge. Over 1-2 weeks the leaves will open up and will become horizontal. If the seedling is under stress such as not getting enough water, too much water, not enough light or fungal growth then the leaves will point up.
Check each of these factors to see if they may be affecting your seedling. If they are caught early enough they can be fixed and your plant will thrive.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.