6 Mistakes I've made with my manuka seedlings (and are you making them too?)

Manuka seedlings overgrown with grasses

Manuka seedlings overgrown with grasses

I've made about 2000 manuka seedlings in the last couple of years. Purely in the interests of science, and experimentation of course. I don't actually have anywhere to plant them.

And they have been growing pretty well too. But 2 years on, some of them are taller than me.

And the flaws in the system are starting to show.

So, what mistakes have I made? (and are you making these mistakes too?). Here they are:

Manuka plant bags straight on the ground

Manuka plant bags straight on the ground

1. I put all the plant bags straight down on the bare earth.

So all the roots have gone out the bottom of the bags and into the earth. And when I go to pot them up, it's quite a mission. 

Such a mission, that some of them do not like their roots being disturbed, and they keel over. They are firmly attached to the soil underneath, and won't let go, and I end up breaking their long tap roots.

2. I haven't potted up soon enough.

This is partly the reason for issue number 1. These trees are getting quite big, and should really have been potted up much earlier.

3. I've not been that diligent with weeding.

So all the couch grass and convolvulus have grown up over the pots.

Sometimes the grass grows up through the bags, and when I lift them the plants definitely do not like it.

Manuka hospital department

Manuka hospital department

4. I've not been diligent enough with watering

Eek! This is the hospital quarters. NOT ENOUGH WATER!

Also, problem 1, their roots were disturbed when I potted them up, and they never really recovered. 

But, some water might have saved the day.

There's not all that many, compared to the 2000 originals, but they are my babies, and every death is traumatic.

manuka seedlings in the hot hot sun

manuka seedlings in the hot hot sun

5. Too much hot sun

I'm a bit short of space in my backyard, so these ones at the front (which are the tall ones) get all the hot hot sun.

Which contributes to the problem 4. and means I need to water them every day. 

6. Seedlings under dense tree cover

And just to show you can't win either way, some of the seedings behind these tall ones, are under a big dense magnolia tree. Lots of shade, but they weren't getting wet when it rained.

Which would have been alright if I had watered them, right?


All of these problems really come down to one thing - I should have planted them out when they were no more than a year old. Sure some would have died out in the field, but they would all have had a much better chance at surviving than left to my neglect.

4 Tips to avoid manuka seedling deaths

So, if you think you are in danger of doing some of these things, here are some tips:

  • Plant manuka seedlings within a year of sowing, before they get too big
  • Put your seedling bags out on cardboard not the bare earth
  • Water! Water water water. 
  • Pot them up sooner
Manuka seedlings laid out on cardboard

Manuka seedlings laid out on cardboard

If you are still thinking about getting started with your manuka seedlings, and wondering how to sow them from seeds get your free Pictorial Guide to Growing Manuka Trees from Seed here.

And if you'd like more information on all aspects of growing and planting manuka trees, check out the DIY Manuka Foresty Courses.