Picking Seedling Plugs from the Garden Tray

The use of a garden seedling tray is a practical way to grow garden plants from seeds and cuttings. A garden seedling tray has multiple cells where one can sow seeds or stick cuttings for propagation. Each cell has its own drain hole to let out excess water. Seedlings can be watered with light spraying or sprinkling or even by soaking the entire tray in a soaking tub.

But the most practical use of the seedling tray is the convenience in picking seedlings mature enough for transplanting. Because cells are partitioned in a seedling tray, it's easy enough to harvest seedlings without disturbing the other seedlings in the adjacent cells.

Tender Roots of Bougainvillea Cuttings

One of the many garden plants that this gardener has propagated through cuttings is the Bougainvillea. Unlike many other plants though, the roots of young Bougainvillea cuttings are very brittle. The roots of young Bougainvillea seedlings are not robust nor thick enough to adequately hold the root ball. So the seedlings should never be held by the stems or the leaves. Doing so may cause the root ball to fall off the stem, bringing with it all the delicate roots of the seedling.

Exercise utmost care in handling these seedlings especially when taking them out from the garden seedling tray and when repotting.

Picking Seedling Plugs from the Garden Seedling Tray

  • Seedling tray with seedlings ready for repotting
  • Concrete nail - 3", 1 pc.
  • Water sprayer


  1. Thoroughly moisten the root ball of the seedling inside the cell of the garden seedling tray. This can be done by misting the root ball with a sprayer as shown below. If the root ball is dry, there is a big chance that the dry soil will crumble when the seedling is taken out. When this happens, some of the tender roots may be cut when a big chunk of soil separates from the root ball.

  2. When the root ball in the cell is moist enough, the seedling's root ball can be safely taken out from its cell. Reach at the bottom of the seedling tray's cell to feel for the cell's drain hole.

    If the seedling tray rests on a solid rack, carefully raise the edge of the garden seedling tray with one hand and put the other hand under the tray. But with a rack made of wire mesh as shown below, lifting the tray is not necessary.

  3. This is the view at the bottom of the garden seedling tray with a finger poking the root ball through the drain hole.

  4. After feeling the root ball's soil in the drain hole with the finger, gently push the root ball upwards so the entire root ball slides upwards. If the finger is too big to fit in the drain hole, an alternative is to use a 3-inch concrete nail.

    Hold the concrete nail with the nail head pointing upwards as shown below. Insert the nail's head in the drain hole from the bottom to push up the seedling's root ball.

  5. While the root ball is sliding upwards, hold the rising root ball with the other hand. Do not hold the seedling by the stem or the leaves, because a seedling's tender roots can easily be broken this way.

  6. As the root ball slides out, try to gently wrap the entire root ball with the fingers. This prevents clumps of soil from separating. Notice the concrete nail below that was used to push up the root ball.

    Carefully pull out the seedling from its cell in the seedling tray, taking care not to disturb the other seedlings beside it.

  7. Shown below is the root ball and its healthy roots still intact.

    After taking out the seedling plugs from the seedling tray, there is a safe method to repot the garden seedling plugs.

Go ahead, post your comment below!