Sprouting seedlings in rapid rooter plugs

Nutrition During Propagation and Seedling Stages Of Hydroponics

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Propagation is the first stage of a plant’s hydroponic journey. When it comes to nutrient needs, this beginning stage is definitely the easiest. Here’s what you need to know about nutrient needs during the propagation and seedling stages of hydroponics.

Hydroponic Propagation Is All About The Roots

Propagation is all about the roots. The end goal of the propagation stage is for your seedlings or clones to develop a healthy root system.

A healthy root system is important so when the plant is ready to go into the next stage, the vegetative stage, the plant is ready to take in a lot of nutrients for foliage growth.

Nutrients Needed During Propagation Stage Of Hydroponics

When it comes to nutrient needs during the different stages of hydroponics, the propagation stage is definitely the easiest. Most of the nutrient needs are already provided so for some time there no need to add any nutrients at all.

Seed Germination

Seeds don’t require nutrients to germinate, just proper moisture, warmth and darkness. After a seed germinates the seedling initially uses nutrients stored in the seeds until it forms leaves and roots.

Once the seedling develops a few leaves and a small root system it will be ready for some mild nutrients.

Sprouting seedlings in rapid rooter plugs

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to germinate seeds in rapid rooter plugs.


Like seeds, fresh clones cut from a mother plant do not need any nutrients. Since clones don’t have a root system, there is nothing to absorb the nutrients from the water.

Though not a necessity you can dip your clones in rooting hormone to increase the speed and success rate of your clones producing roots. I’ve also been pretty successful getting clones to form roots using no rooting hormone and placing them in a heavily oxygenated hydroponic cloner. Once clones develop a small root system with some branches then they are ready for some mild nutrients.

Hydroponic plant ready to be transplanted

Giving clones nutrients too soon can actually be counterproductive, and instead slows the growth of the roots. I suggest being patient and making sure the root system is ready. Don’t worry about them dying, they can live quite awhile in just oxygenated water.

You can clone a plant using a grow medium like rapid rooter plugs or without grow medium like shown above.

Nutrient Needs During The Seedling Stage Of Hydroponics

Once your plants are ready for nutrients it’s best to start them off slow. I typically would recommend 1/4 strength to start.   If they are still small seedlings  I then increase to 1/2 strength the next week and then to full strength the following.

When starting with clones I typically skip the 1/2 strength step and go straight to full.

Recommend One Part Nutrient Regimen For The Seedling Stage

For those looking for a one-part nutrient solution, I recommend Dyna Gro nutrients. Dyna Gro offers 2 options, a “Foliage-Pro” formula and a “Grow” formula. Both nutrient regimens are higher in nitrogen and geared towards the vegetative stage of plant growth.

Typically I use Foliage Pro for growing leafy greens and the Grow formula for those plants that will fruit and flower. You should check out my review of Dyna Gro Foliage-Pro.

My go-to 3 part nutrient solution is General Hydroponics Flora Series. This nutrient regimen can be customized for any stage of plant growth so you will just need to follow the recommended dosing for the vegetative stage.

Final Thoughts…

There’s are not many nutrient needs when it comes to the propagation and seedling stages of hydroponics. While there isn’t much to do with nutrients, it is important to maintain good temperature, humidity and moisture levels to prevent things like damping off.

Getting off on the right foot with your hydroponic garden increases your chances of having a healthy harvest at the end.

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