It makes sense: baby chicks benefit from heating lamps when they are small and vulnerable and so do geranium seedlings; however, there are pros and cons in using a heat mat for geranium seedlings. If you have many questions about using heat mats for geranium seedlings, it’s a very good thing. Improper use of a heat mat may cause potential problems and may even lead to the death of seedlings, something devastating for all the geranium lovers out there! Here are some important things to know about when using a heat mat for geranium seedlings.
The Purpose of Heat
What’s the purpose of heating mats for seedlings? They are crafted to provide bottom heat which can be beneficial for the germination process of seeds and may also help geranium cuttings put roots. Seeds grown over a heat mat will germinate much faster as they are provided the benefit of constant warm temperatures without abrupt shifts during day and night.
Many people assume that growing their seeds by a window sill is the best option, but turns out a window sill gets very cold at night and can get very hot during the day. These changes in temperature affect rooting as strong roots benefit from consistent temperatures. A heat mat, also known as a seedling mat or germination mat, comes handy for the purpose of more rapid germination and healthier seedlings; however, geraniums are hardy plants and their seeds can cope with colder temperatures compared to other types of seeds. So geranium seeds can be more forgiving compared to other types of seeds.
“Seeds of some species, such as geraniums and delphinium, germinate in temperatures cooler than most rooms.”~ Robert Edward Gough, Cheryl Moore-Gough
How to Use Heat Mats
Heat mats are meant to be used 24/7 as the seeds require consistent temperatures. Turning on and off the heat mat defeats its main purpose. While heating mats may be helpful for growing geranium seedlings, there are always risks that misuse may cause more harm than good. For instance, if the temperature happens to get too high, there are risks that the soil may exceed the optimal germinating temperature. This is why it’s important to choose a mat that has a thermostat so the heat can be adjusted. If not, you’ll need to use a cooking thermometer or a soil thermometer to monitor those temperatures and ensure they don’t get too high. Also, consider that a heat mat will dry up the soil quickly so you must keep an eye on moisture levels!
Alternative to Heat Mats
For those not wanting to spend money on heat mats, an alternative may be placing the seedling tray on warm appliances such as on top the fridge, water heater or nearby the radiator. Because the majority of seeds do not need light to germinate, it doesn’t matter if the seedlings tray is temporarily placed in a darkened area.
And for those who feel crafty and don’t know what to with their Christmas lights after the holidays here is a fun DIY heat mat for seedlings project. Note: for this project don’t use LED lights, they won’t heat up, you’ll need incandescent lights for this.
A word of caution for those planning to try an electric blankets or a heating pad. These are best avoided as these are not designed for 24/7 usage and wet environments. And as always for any DIY projects practice the maximum caution, consult with a pro to help you out for safety sake.
Length of Use
The heat mat for geraniums seedlings is great for the germination process, but once the first geranium seed starts sprouting, it’s time to get them off of it. Just like baby chicks needs less and less heat as they grow, same goes for those seedlings. So once those seedlings have sprouted and broken through the soil’s surface, it’s time to remove the mat and move the plants to another area where they can keep growing at a slower pace under ample of light. Failure to remove the mat, may cause the roots to become scorched. Also, if kept for too long, some plants may tend to become too leggy as they search for light, which is not desirable in a future geranium plant.