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What Do Carrot Seedlings Look Like? (For First Time Carrot Planters)

Carrots are very common in gardens. Their seeds are typically sewn into the soil and heavily watered for several weeks. In their mature forms, carrots are easy to recognize. But when they have just germinated, carrot seedlings are quite difficult to distinguish from grass and weed. 

If you are new to planting carrots, it is important that you know the answer to “What do carrot seedlings look like?” After all, identifying carrot seedlings is the first step to getting a bountiful carrot harvest. 

As a gardener myself, I have (unfortunately) gone through a fair share of failed carrot ventures because I mistook the seedlings and weeded them out.

Do not be like me! Read this article and learn exactly what carrot seedlings look like and how to tell them apart from grass and weed. 

What Do Carrot Seedlings Look Like?

What Do Carrot Seedlings Look Like 2
Carrot Seedlings via Reddit

Carrot seedlings look a lot like blades of grass. Usually, they have a single or double growth leaf. The leaf is very slender, so for the first few days, it can easily be missed. However, over time, the leaf will thicken and become more visible. 

For more details in identifying carrot seedlings, read on! 

Identifying Carrot Seedlings 

If you have planted your carrots in their own raised bed of soil or pot, it will not be too challenging to notice the carrot seedlings. However, on a shared soil patch with grass and weed, it will be much more difficult to pinpoint. Still, it’s not impossible. 

To recognize carrot seedlings, there are a few things you can do: 

1. Picture what carrot seedlings look like with our description here

As said briefly earlier, carrot seedlings are just like blades of grass and quite similar to weeds. Carrot seedlings have leaves that grow out of a single spot in the soil. The leaves are silky-looking and feel delicate. They are also very thin and slender. 

At first, there will only be one leaf. As time passes, another leaf will grow from the first. The two leaves will not be too tall at first, generally around one inch tall after three weeks of planting. 

The first two leaves are embryonic leaves called cotyledons or seed leaves, which “feed” the infant plant so that it can grow its own true leaves.

At first, the leaves’ tips will be held together by a coat. Only after the true leaves appear will the coat fall off, and the carrot takes on its shape and form. 

Contrary to the cotyledons, a carrot’s true leaves are distinctly fern-like. The grown leaves are formally called rosette leaves. Later, compound leaves will also emerge, arranged as a spiral.

The mature leaves look like cilantro, parsley leaf, or celery. At this point, you should be able to easily recognize the carrot’s lacy green top. 

What Do Carrot Seedlings Look Like
“Did we plant our carrot seeds too close together?” via Reddit

2. Use the rule of elimination to remove grass from the picture

Carrot seedlings look very much like grass, but they grow differently. Carrots sprout up from a single spot in the soil while grass grows from multiple spots.

Carrots are dicots, which means they have “two seed” leaves. On the other hand, grasses are monocots with only “one seed” leaves. 

Dicot leaves have branched veins. The veins can branch out to the sides of the leaves from a vein in the middle, like a feather. Or they can branch out all over from a single vein, like fingers on a hand. 

Monocots, however, have parallel lines with no branches.

Based on these two main differences, you should be able to easily differentiate carrot seedlings from grass. 

3. Smell the seedlings 

If you cannot identify a carrot seedling with your eyes, use your nose. Simply pinch a part of the lead and smell it. Carrot leaves should smell like carrots (Duh!)

You can also brush the seedling slightly to stir up the scent. Grass will have a distinct smell that you should be able to easily notice if you have been anywhere with grass before. 


Here is a section dedicated to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the same topic. Take a look at the answers we have provided; maybe your questions have already been anticipated! 

How long does it take for carrots to germinate? 

On some occasions, carrots can germinate quickly in about a week. However, more commonly, carrots are slow germinators. They can take at least two to three weeks to germinate. Once they do, you can start looking for seedlings. 

What are other things to do to tell seedlings from grass and weed?

If you know you are going to have a hard time identifying carrot seedlings by eye, it is not a bad idea to use markers as reminders. When you are sowing in rows, mark the row’s start and end, so you know where the seedlings will pop up. 

You can use plant labels or recycle the items around you, like pebbles and sticks. Anything works, as long as it will not be washed away or blown away. 

You can also plant a “control group” of carrots to compare them to the ones you have in the garden during sprouting. It is best to have the control group in their own pot or container. 


You just need to be able to identify carrot seedlings the first time. Every time after that should be easy. After pinpointing the carrot seedlings, you will want to take care of them by thinning or transplanting them.

Putting in a little work will reward you with a plentiful harvest. Hopefully, this article was able to help you answer, “What do carrot seedlings look like?

Good luck with your garden! If you have any additional questions or thoughts you would like to ask or add, reach out to us in the comments. We would love to hear from you.