The seed of eucalypts and many other species contain two tiny leaves (cotyledons) which emerge when the seed sprouts. As the plant grows in size, the first pair of true leaves appear and these in turn are followed by a second pair. When a small shoot rises above the second pair, the seedlings can be pricked out into their individual containers. Alternatively, some growers prick seedlings out as soon as cotyledons emerge from the seed.

Plants with a different leaf growth pattern, such as she-oaks (Casuarina and Allocasuarina spp.) are generally ready for pricking out when they are 10 to 20 mm tall. Roots 10 to 20 mm long are ideal for pricking out - longer ones are more likely to be damaged or kinked. Root kinking can slow a tree's growth or even lead to its death in later years.

As soon as the seedlings become large enough, transplant them into their individual containers because over-sized plants in a germination tray are under stress and more prone to disease and to root problems. When pricking out, pick up the young seedlings gently by a leaf, and do not squeeze the stem or the growing tip. If the dibble stick lifts out more than one seedling, the roots of uplifted plants should be kept moist. In warm dry weather, uplifted plants can be placed in a shallow container of water prior to potting them up.