Germinating Cannabis Seeds In Paper Towel Vs Soil

Life-Changing Gardening Tip – Use the Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel and Baggie method to speed up germination overnight or very fast. hey guys i just received some seeds from kingdom organic, and im wondering should i plant them strait into the soil? the site says this: We recommend… Germinating Seeds In Paper Towels: A Quick and Easy Way to Start Seeds Without Soil There’s a faster, easier way to germinate seeds, and it doesn’t involve pots, trays, or even soil or seed

Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel Method (10 Tips)

What if I told you the secret to germinating seeds overnight? (Or at least speeding up the process big time!) Yes – I am here to teach you all about the technique of germinating seeds in a paper towel inside a Ziploc baggie!

I discovered this life-changing gardening tip from someone in one of my online gardening groups last year. It’s been amazing to say the least!

Seed starting will never be the same! Armed with tons of paper towels, plastic baggies, and grow lights for once they sprout, I am SO READY for an amazing gardening season! And now you are, too!

Keep reading to get started TODAY!

What Is Paper Towel Germination?

Paper towel germination is an easy way to speed up seed sprouting! It’s so easy that I can’t believe I haven’t been doing it all along.

Simply keep seeds consistently moist by wrapping them in damp paper towels and sealing them up in plastic baggies for the greenhouse effect.

I can’t resist checking my plastic bag greenhouses the next morning and throughout the day! Some seeds like peas will often germinate overnight!

What Are the Benefits of Paper Towel Germination?

I can’t say enough great things about starting seeds in wet paper towels! Here are some of the best benefits of seed germination in plastic baggies with moist paper towel:

  • Quicker Germination – Seeds can sprout overnight or within just a few days! (Some varieties take longer, but the overall process is definitely quicker!)
  • Less Mess – Starting seeds in plastic baggies with wet paper towels means no need to mess around with potting soil for a little while at first. Enjoy the cleaner and quicker start to your garden!
  • Seed Viability Testing – The paper towel method makes it so easy to check the germination rate and viability of your seeds. This is particularly helpful when you have limited gardening space at your disposal!
  • Small Space Friendly – If your indoor gardening setup is limited, you can still enjoy bountiful seed starting.
  • So Much Fun – With a gardening activity like growing seeds in a plastic bag, preschool kids, toddlers, school aged kids – heck, just about anyone will enjoy the discovery and adventure of this fun process. Germination for kids at its finest!

Sprouting seeds, paper towels, what could be better… If you haven’t tried this method yet, what are you waiting for?!

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I’ll wait while you go get your seeds, baggies and paper towels!

… (goes to check own seed germination in paper towel and baggies)

Okay, you’re back? Great! Let’s get started!

Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel and Plastic Bag Method: How To

The method of germinating seeds in paper towels is so easy! I am really excited to guide you through this experience. It’s my favorite fast germination gardening technique.

Here’s how to germinate seeds in paper towels:

  1. Place a half-size paper towel on your work surface or tear a full-size sheet in half.
  2. Use a spray bottle filled with tap water to moisten the paper towel.
  3. Space out the seeds you wish to germinate at least an inch apart, if possible.
  4. Lightly sprits the paper towel one last time to wet the seeds as well.
  5. Fold the towel to wrap it around the seeds.
  6. Place the folded paper towel with seeds inside the bag and leave a little air inside if desired.
  7. Seal the Ziploc baggie and place it somewhere warm!

Tip: For the most part, I place them out of direct sunlight and often more in the dark.

Where to Put Seeds Germinating in Paper Towels and Bags?

I find a little bit of heat speeds up most of the seeds I try to grow in this manner.

You can place them most anywhere that’s warm! On top of your microwave or fridge is a great starting point. You could also try near the dryer or somewhere else that gets warm.

(Just be sure not to create a fire hazard!)

I like to place mine on the floor surrounding our heating vents!

Last year I had them in the kitchen, powder room, and dining room. It may or may not have driven my husband absolutely nuts. (Sorry babe!)


Can’t wait to do it again… Every. Single. Year.

What Seeds to Start in Wet Paper Towels and Baggies?

I am so excited about this process that I will probably start most of my seeds in wet paper towels forever.

Last year I tried SO many different kinds of seeds in paper towels. We germinated all of these seeds using the wet paper towel method:

  • Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Wax Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Turnip
  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Zinnias
  • Mixed Beans from a soup mix

I am sure there were many others since I loved this method and kept trying it. Betting my bottom dollar there will be many more, too!

I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard you can use paper towel germination techniques on lavender, papaya, cactus, and poppy seeds.

When sprouting seeds, paper towels moistened with water can often coax even the most stubborn seedlings out!

If you try any, hit us up in the comments and let us know how it goes, please!

Also, it’s worth noting that not all crops are best suited for paper towel germination. For example, kale germination time is very quick! You wouldn’t gain much by starting kale in wet paper towels. Meanwhile, a number of cool weather crops and some delicate flowers sometimes work better direct sown.

My very first experience with wet paper towel seed germination was with peas. And it was every bit of amazing.

I am not kidding you – they literally had their little root radicle popping out the very next morning when I checked them! Most of the seeds germinated overnight!

Germinating Tomato Seeds in Paper Towel

I’m not going to lie. I got tired of waiting for my tomato seeds to germinate last season.

First, I had to find and buy Roma seeds! It felt like they were sold out everywhere (stupid pandemic!!).

Then, I ordered them and they took the better part of a week to get here!

A week is major when you wanna start a garden!

Finally, they arrived and I planted them immediately. Like, right after I opened the mailing envelope.

Waited some more…

You get the idea!

Finally, I got tired of waiting so I decided to try the paper towel germination method that had worked so well with our pea seedlings.

I can’t remember how long it took, but germinating tomato seeds in paper towels was way quicker than starting seeds in dirt. Planting directly in potting soil took more than 12 days if my memory serves me.

Probably closer to two weeks, but I was very impatient if I’m being honest.

Even under lights!

Needless to say, I will be germinating tomato seeds in paper towel and baggy method for the foreseeable future.

Germinating Eggplant Seeds with Paper Towel

I couldn’t get my eggplant seeds to sprout at all in traditional potting soil! Did anyone else have trouble?

I decided to try starting seeds in paper towel soaked in water in a zip-seal baggie for my eggplants this year.

Voila! Just like magic, I got excellent results germinating eggplant seeds using the wet paper towel method.

Once established, the tiny eggplant seedlings transferred very well to egg cartons with potting soil.

The eggplant seedlings also potted up well to bigger pots and grew to maturity outside.

I love that they self-pollinate! It was so exciting to see the bright purple blossom and then the purple fruit growing.

Waiting for the eggplant to grow larger, I gave the roving groundhog ample opportunity to steal it.

And steal it he did!

We were so disappointed because we still could’ve picked the eggplant small. That groundhog is the worst!

Hoping for better luck next year!

Germinating Strawberry Seeds (Paper Towel Method)

I have not tried germinating strawberry seeds in paper towels yet, but I fully believe it will work.

Last year we grew baby strawberry plants from seed in little Dixie cups on my kitchen windowsill. They did AMAZING!

Superb germination rate and adorable little plants. The worst part was they took every moment of three weeks to germinate.

I did constant water misting at least once per day, so I have full confidence they will do well with paper towel germination.

This sounds like a good gardening starter project to help chase away the winter blues!

(By the way, if you’d like to try my method, check out my other post – Planting Strawberry Seeds in Pots.

Germinating Apple Seeds in Paper Towel

Planting apple seeds is a little controversial in some of my gardening groups. It’s well-known or at least widely suggested that apple trees grown from seed do not grow true to type.

So, they may not at all resemble the parent plant.

In other worse, you may end up with a crabapple!

Or worse, no fruit at all.

Still, I am a curious gardener and love the growing process. I have heard success stories of those who’ve planted from seed.

I’ve heard grafting is the commonly used process, but I always think it’s good to give it the old college try.

Last year we found some Granny Smith apple seeds that had sprouted inside the apple! We happily harvested them and transferred some to soil and some to baggies with wet paper towels.

All of them did really well!

Unfortunately, they did not get all the care needed once we moved them outside, and some got roasted before being hardened off. It breaks my heart thinking about it, actually.

Better luck next time and at least we have a pear tree growing that we started with this very same germination method!

I can’t recall if it’s a Bartlett or D’Anjou, but the way my kids devour pears, I am going to pray whatever it is decides to bear fruit in a few years!

Tips for Sprouting Seeds in Paper Towel

Here are some of my best tips for sprouting seeds in paper towels:

  • Write the date and seed type on the baggie. I use a Sharpie for this. I get so excited gardening, I often go overboard, so it’s good to know what’s what and when you first planted them!
  • Plant those with the longest time to germination first. I found the paper towel / plastic baggie method very helpful in speeding up germination for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant especially.
  • Don’t be discouraged if the seeds won’t germinate right away. You can check out my troubleshooting steps below for a better result!
  • Use a gardening journal to track your efforts and results! I like to think I would remember everything but as a mom of two girls, I know it just isn’t true. I am definitely planning to start a garden journal this year to track our start dates, sprout dates, harvests, successes, and what to do different the following years!
  • Space it out so you have more nights to enjoy it! It’s quick and easy to pop a few more seeds inside a wet paper towel and seal it up. Give yourself something fun to look forward to at the end of each day. Do it before bed so you get all the time while you’re sleeping for those babies to grow, grow, grow!

If you have any other tips for paper towel seed germinating, please share in our comments below!

Troubleshooting: Why Are My Seeds Not Germinating in Paper Towel Method?

Waiting for seeds to sprout takes a lot of patience! Sometimes I just don’t have it in me.

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I find starting seeds in a paper towel inside baggies will give me an awesome head start!

Still, I may find some seeds not germinating in paper towel method, despite my best efforts.

Here are some troubleshooting steps to try as you begin starting seeds in paper towels.

  • Is your paper towel too wet? Seeds can start to rot if there’s too much water and they’ve taken too long to germinate.
  • Is your paper towel too dry? Your seeds may need constant moisture to sprout.
  • Does your particular type of seed need sunlight to germinate? Try taping a baggie of seeds in a wet paper towel on a window or glass door!
  • Are your seeds too old or otherwise unviable? If you’ve got a bad batch of seeds or a particularly old batch, they may not sprout no matter what you do. Try adding some heat! You can place your seed baggies on top of your fridge, microwave, or next to your heating vent on the floor.
  • Does your seed need cold stratification? Try placing your baggies in the fridge for a week or two and check them again after they’ve had some time to chill out!

Paper Towel Method: Final Thoughts

As I’ve said, this is one of my favorite gardening adventures! I hope this guide makes it super easy for you and I’d love to hear how it goes.

Please share in the comments below and spread the love if you have other gardeners in your circle who may enjoy this fun and fast seed sprouting technique!

12.03.21 – Edited to add links to clementine and lemon tree posts.

07.08.22 – Edited to convert to blocks and add info as needed.

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Can’t wait to get seeds started using this paper towel germination method this year!

I decided to try this method. After a few weeks I have a tiny sprout of a day lily seed. When and how do I transplant it?

Hi MaryJane, that is so exciting you’ve got a baby day lily sprouting! Does it have any roots yet or just leaves?

I would try to make sure you have some roots and then transfer it to a little pot or paper cup with potting soil.

Lightly mist with a spray bottle to keep it from drying out and set it in your window or under some grow lights where you can keep an eye on it and make sure it’s watered enough.

I’d feel comfortable planting outside when it’s about 6 inches tall, with at least 4 leaves. (Maybe 6-8 weeks old?) But, you can also keep it under lights until you are ready.

Good luck – please let us know how it goes!

Avocados and mangos work great this way as well, and they’re so beautiful!I look forward to trying ginger Thank you for such a thoughtful post, I’m trying ALL of these with my kids this week!

Hi Susie, thank you so much for your kind feedback – I hope you and your kids love this! We had so much fun seeing how quickly different seeds would germinate.

I’ve never grown avocados or mangos but really want to try now! Thanks for the tip. So far our favorites are the baby lemon trees and baby clementine trees we were able to start using the paper towel and baggie method – they really took off once we transplanted them to soil and wintered over indoors. (Wish I could get my hands on some lime seeds now!!)

Love to hear how everything goes for you guys – good luck and have so much fun!

Amazing article! It featured well the advantages of germinating seeds in different ways. As well as those methods and applicable seeds for germination. Thank you for sharing this one. Worth reading and applying.

Hi Lewis, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful feedback – I am so glad you found value in my germination tips! So easy, clean and quick with a great success rate! Best wishes and happy gardening!

Hi, i used this method for sprouting coriander seeds and the roots are starting to get longer just One week later. When I transplant them into soil, do I place it root down into the soil or root up?

Hi Shazia! Great job with sprouting your coriander seeds! I’ve done one of two things in this case with similar seedlings.
1. Plant with the roots down and the top of the seedling above the soil. DO NOT expose to direct / harsh outdoor sunlight straight away as it could scorch your baby plants. Gradually!
2. Plant the WHOLE THING in the potting soil! Roots down but the baby plant will know what to do. I’ve completely buried sprouted pea seedlings outdoors and then those ones didn’t need to harden off with the natural sunlight.

I hope this helps! LMK if any other questions!
– Kate

I don’t know how I found your website, but I’m so glad I did! Such great tips and info!
I run a Garden Club at an elementary school and this year we’re “training” the Kindergarteners to learn basic gardening so they can join the garden club in 1st grade
I was wracking my brain on an easy yet fun activity for the kinders and thought of germinating seeds in paper towels. Your step-by-step instructions make it so easy for me to plan it out for the students.
Do you have any specific tips for kids ages 5 and 6?
Thank you!

Hi Suzan! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! I am so glad you’re going to try this activity with the Kindergarteners to get them excited about gardening! My youngest is in K also and she is my little gardening buddy. I can definitely put together some seed starting tips for age 5 and 6. I’ll try to do something more visual but in the interests of a speedy reply, here are my thoughts!
– Use spray bottles to moisten the paper towels for sure! Remind the kids to space out the seeds so they aren’t touching, if possible.
– Get gardening themed stickers and let each child decorate the plastic baggies!
– Write names on the bags with Sharpie so everyone remembers whose is whose.
– Put together a fun guessing game of gardening facts, with questions like, what do plants need to grow!
– If possible, bring in seed pods or seed heads from your own gardens. Pass them around and show the kids how to harvest the seeds too!
– Schedule time to peek and check on the seeds a few times each week!
– Use different kinds of seeds (labeled in different bags) and make predictions of which ones will germinate first.

Love that you are doing this! Good luck and feel free to let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear!

Thank you so much! I can definitely apply this to the lesson for the Kinders. I love your idea of seed heads. Nothing in my own garden to show them right now, but I might just have to get some special flowers to do that!

Hi Suzan! I am so glad these ideas on germinating seeds for kids may work for your kindergarten pre-gardening club kiddos! I have tried both methods – planting directly in the ground works best when you bury the whole seedling so it isn’t immediately sunburned, in my experience. Also keep in mind your growing zone and expected hard frost date if applicable. When planting in pots, you can grow them indoors or harden them off and move them outside as appropriate. (I have posts on hardening off if that is of any help.) Any of these can be great teaching moments!

Let us know how it goes and if you have any other questions!

Thank you, Kate! Will let you know how it turns out!

Quick question – once the seeds have germinated and sprouted, can they be planted directly into the ground or is it better in pots?
Thank you!

Hi Thank you for this lovely info. I am trying to plant Kakabeak seeds and did what you said with the paper towel, but used a plastic bag, I put it in the bottom of my boiler (hot water) cupboard. I was excited that 5 days later I saw a sprout . I have put them on seed mix soil now, in the paper towel and a little soil on top. Thinking the towel will rot away. Now I am questioning whether to dig up and plant straight into the mix? What do you think? Kakabeak is a native bush plant in New Zealand and has the most beautiful 3-4 inch long pea type flowers. Mine is white, but you can get the in yellow and the most common red colour. Thank you for any info. Regards Fay

Hi Fay, lovely to hear from you! Thanks so much for your comment! Kakabeak is new to me – thanks for explaining its origin and appearance. I’ll ask my husband about it as he studied for a semester in New Zealand. Did you bury the paper towel as if it were part of the seed? In other words, is soil around it on all sides? I can assure you that the other seeds germinated in paper towels in my experience have grown successfully even with a bit of paper towel still attached. I didn’t want to disturb the roots and I agree with the belief that the paper towel would break down in the soil much like compost. How are your seedlings doing at the moment? If they look healthy – unless the plant is known to be finicky or temperamental, I would leave them be and continue caring for them! If they look in need of something, check sunlight / grow light, moisture, etc. before anything else.

Congrats on your sprout – that is very exciting, especially for a plant that sounds so exotic and fun! Feel free to ask any other questions and definitely let us know how it goes!

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Happy Gardening!
– Kate

I sprouted a star fruit when i lived in florida. I havent had any luck here in michigan. Im trying your method tomorrow. I got 16 seeds from 1 star fruit. The trees are so beautiful and delicate.

Hi Rebecca! So great to hear from you and about your experience with sprouting star fruit! I have not tried those seeds yet, but I just looked them up and the starfruit trees are gorgeous! I may give it a whirl as well! That is definitely a big climate change but I am confident you can do this. Please let us know if you have success with the germination. Wishing you all the best!

The baggie method works great. Even better when you spray the seeds with a 10:1 mix of water : hydrogen peroxide (3%). Hard shelled seeds (okra, etc.) can be snipped with fingernail clippers (away from the radicale) and the peroxide dramatically speeds up germination. Mixture can be made with 1 cup water (minus 1 tbsp) + 1 1/2 tbsp hydrogen peroxide. Using the baggie method with H2O2 (for broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage) I had 90%+ germination rate in two days this last weekend. Sometimes even helps with seeds that should no longer be viable.

Hi Douglas, thanks so much for taking the time to share this great tip! I am definitely interested in trying that. I’ve had luck snipping the corners of really tough pumpkin seeds before and scarifying canna seeds so that makes perfect sense about the other tough-shelled ones. I have heard of using hydrogen peroxide in seed starting but have no personal experience. I am so glad to hear of your positive experience with it and hope to give it a whirl this year. I’ll try to remember to update the post if so! Thanks so much – wishing you a wonderful garden this year!

Hello! Is the Author and creator of this page the same person? I would love to hear how they created this page!
I will be using it for a school write-up and I have chosen this page.

Hi Amber, thanks so much – I am happy you found value in my content for your school project! Yes, I am the creator and writer for this site and my young daughters are my helpers in the garden. Please email me if you need anything further! Thanks so much and good luck. – Kate Van Druff

I read your article. I like germination method. My question is if towel is dry should I keep spraying water.? If near heat vent, and it gets dry should I moist towel every day?

Hi James, excellent question – I should update the article with this information. Yes, if your paper towel dries out, please do spray it with water to moisten it again. It doesn’t need to be soaking/dripping but lightly spraying will help the seeds continue to germinate. Thanks for stopping by and best of luck! Happy Gardening.

I used the paper towel – baggie method on several seeds last night. After reading these comments, I realize I may have over-
moistened. Should I go back and unseal the bags to allow some drying out?

Hi MG – thanks for your comment and good luck with your seeds! Are they large that you can remove them and replace them? If so, maybe try that and squeeze out some of the liquid from the paper towel. If you want to open the bag to allow a bit of drying, that should be okay too – just remember to reseal after a little while.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Hi I’m growing kiwi, how long do the roots have to before I put them in soil

Hi John,
That’s great to hear you’re growing kiwi! I moved mine into little nursery pots pretty soon after I noticed successful germination. I think they didn’t even have a true first set of leaves yet, just the cotyledon. I think you can put them in a little container or flower pot and baby them for a few weeks under some grow lights. Make sure you check the variety and your grow zone to avoid the cold temperatures freezing / killing them. The brown fuzzy kiwis need to come indoors in certain zones during the cold season. Wishing you all the success with your kiwi plants!

Hi, I just found your site and am very interested in trying this method. You only show vegetables but I’m wondering about flower seeds, specially as they are so much more tinier. Wondered if you have tried this.
Thank you

Hi Jan, what a great question and point you bring up – thanks! I will try to snap some photos of flower seeds starting in wet paper towels. I have successfully germinated Celosia and Zinnias using this method. Some like Bachelor Buttons may do best this way and then stick them in the fridge inside their bags. I am sure other flowers will also do well – I’ll update with whatever we do. Thanks for your note! Happy Gardening!

What vegetables seeds germinate fastest? How many seeds do you recommend to plant per seedling pot?
Thank you!

I’m hoping to give away plants for an Earth Day booth. But got a late start.

Hi Liese! Definitely speed up the process with the paper towel method. I’ve found pea seeds / snow pea seeds can germinate overnight sometimes this way – it may still take a few days to break the soil but the roots emerge very quickly. I’ve also found Kale to be pretty quick. I usually plant 2 per egg carton cell, so maybe 2-3 seeds per 3-4″ nursery pot if that’s what you’re using. You could also make little seed goodie bags if you need a quicker turnaround. Sounds like a wonderful offering!

thank you for this info !! going to do this with my second grade students!

Hi Elena! Thanks for your comment and stopping by – that sounds wonderful for your students! I am so glad they’ll get to enjoy this activity. Wishing you all lots of success!

What about if you haven’t had time to plant but keep them wet?

Hi Dustin, great question! Yes, you can rewet them and keep them in the bag a bit longer. (I’ve done this.) If you see any signs of mold (black or pink, etc.), swap out the wet paper towel for a new one. Good luck!

Germinating in paper towel vs Strait to organic soil??

hey guys i just received some seeds from kingdom organic, and im wondering should i plant them strait into the soil?
the site says this: We recommend germinating KOS seeds directly into soil-mix at approx. ½ – ¾ inches in depth. There is no need to drop the seeds into water first, or use paper towels; our seeds are extremely viable and seeds planted directly into soil-mix end up being stronger and healthier plants in my experience.

ok. so im pretty sure they are talking about if you are using their soil line, TLO soils, but im using a similar organic soil. Ive been using the paper towel method as long as i have been growing, what do you guys think i should do?

a senile fungus
Well-Known Member

Drop it in soil and leave it!

Pretty simple really.

New Age United
Well-Known Member

It’s the natural way, but ask any farmer if they hatch their seeds before they sow them and you’ll get a definitive yes. Because they know if they plant a thousand corn seeds without hatching them they’ll end up with a hundred stalks of corn. I always have and always will use the paper towel method, out of hundreds of seeds soaked I’ve had maybe 10 that didn’t hatch.

Well-Known Member

Straight in the soil mate.

I find a humidity dome helps, i also soak my seeds for 18-14hrs. Play around. find your own way

Path of Light
Well-Known Member

i used to drop’em in a cup of water until they split put them in a paper towel for a few days in a warm place & poof in 3-4 days would have 1″1-1/2″ taproot & would put iinto medium I was using at the time never broke a root

Well-Known Member

Throw the beans in the soil. If they dont pop within 10 days, take them back out and manually germinate them or soak them till they sink and throw them back in. I dont like to see naked tap-roots

Well-Known Member

i’ve been dropping them in soil for about 5 or 6 grows, sometimes i get good results other times I get bummed out cause of low germination rates. I switched to the paper towel method, and got 9 out of 10 to pop and they are all vegging now. I recommend that you get a tupperware dish wrap your seeds in a wet paper towel, put the lid on the container stick it in a dark place check them on a daily basis making sure towels are damp and look and see when your tap roots start growing. Once this happens I drop them in RR’s with the taproot facing down. I don’t let the root get real long, Only about an eighth to a quarter of an inch and then I plant it iin the Rapid Rooters with tap root down and the leaves will start showing with in a day or two. This method works much better for me as opposed to the putting them in soil.
Just be careful with the root when planting it.
Good Luck

Joe Blows Trees
Well-Known Member

I like soaking for 24hrs then drop in soil and cover with plastic until they sprout. I got better results doing it that way then the paper towel. I also don’t like handling the tap root.

Well-Known Member
a senile fungus
Well-Known Member

I go straight into soil and mine always germinate and cotyledons appear within 3-4 days. I have had a couple bum seeds but I can only.imagine they’d also have been bums in the papertowel as well.

New Age United
Well-Known Member

I go straight into soil and mine always germinate and cotyledons appear within 3-4 days. I have had a couple bum seeds but I can only.imagine they’d also have been bums in the papertowel as well.

a senile fungus
Well-Known Member

The last two party cup comps I’ve waited till the last few days to sow the seeds and have still made the deadline.

New Age United
Well-Known Member

i’ve been dropping them in soil for about 5 or 6 grows, sometimes i get good results other times I get bummed out cause of low germination rates. I switched to the paper towel method, and got 9 out of 10 to pop and they are all vegging now. I recommend that you get a tupperware dish wrap your seeds in a wet paper towel, put the lid on the container stick it in a dark place check them on a daily basis making sure towels are damp and look and see when your tap roots start growing. Once this happens I drop them in RR’s with the taproot facing down. I don’t let the root get real long, Only about an eighth to a quarter of an inch and then I plant it iin the Rapid Rooters with tap root down and the leaves will start showing with in a day or two. This method works much better for me as opposed to the putting them in soil.
Just be careful with the root when planting it.
Good Luck

I put them in soil as soon as the tap root shows itself, this will usually happen within the first 36 hours if the plates are kept at 22-25 celsius. I plant them in a half inch divet and just sprinkle enough soil to cover the seed. Always pops up in a day or two.

Well-Known Member

As you can plainly see, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference! Everyone has their own favorite method and they all swear by it.

I never soak my seeds in water because I’m never in a hurry (I think it just speeds up the process). I use the “Paper towel” method because it’s more fun (I’m a “hands-on” guy and I get to play with them more that way). I also don’t let the tap-root get very long; hopefully about 1/4 inch maximum, then into the soil. That’s the way I’ve always done it and probably always will. To each, his own!

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Budley Doright
Well-Known Member

Paper towel for me as I’ve seemed to have better luck, not sure why though as I do agree that planting them in their growing medium would be the logical choice with less fucking around. This is exactly 24 hrs later. And yes they’ve all split. They were planted appr 36 hours later and are now 6 days old Try both methods and see for yourself. Obviously it all works and as said its the growers preference imo. Good luck!

Well-Known Member

Hahaha, i go 50/50 soil/soiless mix. Damp it, and plant it. Puttem in the dark for 48 hrs and blamo! Done. I dont fuck around with brawny towels.

Germinating Seeds In Paper Towels: A Quick and Easy Way to Start Seeds Without Soil

There’s a faster, easier way to germinate seeds, and it doesn’t involve pots, trays, or even soil or seed starting mix. The trick? Using the baggie method to sprout your seeds more efficiently so you can save space at home, test their germination rate, and find out which seeds are still viable and worth planting. Here’s how to germinate seeds in paper towels (or coffee filters or newsprint—any of these common household items will work).

What if I told you there was a faster way to germinate all your seeds, without the need for seed starting mix, perlite, or vermiculite; without wrangling a bunch of seed starting trays, flats, and domes; and without any special equipment like heating mats, temperature sensors, and indoor seed starting systems?

The secret is as low-tech as you can get, and relies on only two things you likely already have in your kitchen: paper towels and Ziploc bags.

This seed starting trick is sometimes known as the baggie method, and it works with paper towels, coffee filters, or even just newsprint.

But first, you might be wondering… why start seeds with the baggie method instead of just starting them in soil? Keep reading; I’ve got all your answers below.

3 reasons you should use paper towels or coffee filters for seed germination

Now why would you want to germinate seeds in paper towels or coffee filters first, rather than germinating seeds indoors in seed starting mix?

1. It’s a good way to gauge if your seeds are viable to begin with, before you put them in pots.

Maybe you aren’t sure how old your seeds are (especially if the seeds were saved from your own plants).

Or, maybe you bought your seeds from a new seed catalog and want to check how healthy or accurate their germination rates are. (See the next section below on how to do a quick and simple germination test.)

2. You can start a lot more seeds this way and use only a minimum of space while they get going.

Germinating seeds in paper towels is very small-space friendly. You don’t need a bunch of trays or pots, a seed-starting shelving unit or even a wall of south-facing windows to make it happen. (Just a windowsill will do.)

Plus, the baggie method helps you pick out the fastest and most vigorous seeds to plant because you can actually see them germinate (a process that’s pretty mysterious to most of us since it happens underground).

3. Many seeds germinate much quicker in paper towels (versus seeds that are started in soil).

The heat, moisture, and controlled conditions inside a plastic baggie help them germinate in only a few days (or less, depending on the seed).

How to test germination with the baggie method

Every once in a while, especially if your seeds are about to reach their expiry date, it’s a good idea to do a germination test and find out if the seeds are still worth planting.

Try this quick germination test when you’re unsure about your seeds

  • Count out 10 random seeds from the packet you want to test.
  • Follow the instructions below to germinate the seeds in a paper towel or coffee filter, and label the baggie with the date you started them.
  • Look on the seed packet or in any seed catalog for the expected number of days to germination for the seeds you’re testing. Wait that number of days, then count how many seeds have sprouted in that time.

If 8 out of 10 seeds germinated, that gives an 80 percent germination rate, which is pretty good for most vegetables. If only 4 out of 10 seeds germinated, then you have a 40 percent germination rate and the seed is, for all intents and purposes, useless.

When I find these, I throw the old seeds in the compost pile or feed them to my chickens. I might play around and put them in a random “salad blend” to sprout on my kitchen table, but I won’t bother planting them in the garden as a primary crop.

It is not wise to sow the seeds more thickly to make up for low germination. Weak seeds that struggle to even sprout will just result in weak plants that are likely to suffer from aphid infestations, fungal diseases, or other problems anyway.

But notice how I said primary crop: Older seeds that are borderline expired are actually useful in the garden as a secondary planting. I broadcast these seeds over my garden beds and let them grow in as a living mulch. I harvest (or cut them back) periodically to keep the plants low to the ground, but find they’re highly beneficial for suppressing weeds and improving soil tilth.

(In fact, this is one of the methods I teach in my online course, Lazy Gardening Academy, that mimics natural systems and helps your garden become more self-sustaining.)

What types of seeds can be germinated with paper towels?

All vegetable, herb, and flower seeds can be germinated in a paper towel or coffee filter, but personally, I find the baggie method to be most effective for seeds that take a long time to germinate.

Certain seeds that need a warm start (like chile peppers) are stubborn, taking up to three weeks to germinate. They need juuust the right conditions present before they sprout: the perfect balance of heat, moisture, and time.

In most seed starting scenarios, one or two of these requirements are usually lacking, which delays germination.

The baggie method speeds up the process by providing these conditions consistently with minimal effort on your part.

You can also germinate tomato seeds in paper towels or coffee filters, as well as cucumber, squash, muskmelon, and watermelon seeds.

Can you germinate kale, cabbage, broccoli, onion, or turnip seeds with the baggie method? Sure you can.

But cool-season seeds like these aren’t as finicky about heat, and seeds from the brassica family germinate quickly on their own anyway (usually within a couple days).

The baggie method isn’t necessary unless you want to test their germination rates; you can start them more easily just by sowing the seeds directly in the ground.

The same can be said for flower seeds. While you can sprout them in paper towels or coffee filters first, germination speed isn’t that important for flowers the way it is for vegetable seeds.

How to germinate seeds in paper towels or coffee filters

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

  • Paper towels, coffee filters, or newsprint (use whatever you have around the house)
  • Ziploc (resealable zip-top) bags
  • Seeds

I personally like to use coffee filters because the paper has a denser weave, which keeps the roots from growing into the fibers and making them difficult to separate when you’re ready to plant.

Depending on how many seeds you want to germinate at a time, cut the coffee filters as needed. (I cut mine in half to fit inside standard sandwich baggies.)

Step 2: Moisten the coffee filters.

Wet the coffee filters and wring them out, so the paper is damp but not drowning in water.

Step 3: Place your seeds on the coffee filter.

Place your seeds on the bottom half of the paper, leaving an inch between seeds to give their roots room to grow. Fold the top half over the seeds to sandwich them.

Step 4: Place the coffee filter inside a baggie.

Slide the coffee filter (with seeds) inside the baggie.

I like to blow air into the bags using a straw and then seal them tight to speed up germination. You can also leave your bags flat, but the air creates more of a greenhouse effect (which is especially helpful for chile peppers and other heat-loving seeds).

Step 5: Wait for the magic of germination to happen.

Place your baggies in a warm area of the house. For me, that’s a south-facing window, but you can leave them anywhere with a decent amount of heat and humidity, such as a bathroom or laundry room.

Just don’t keep them too hot (like on top of a heating pad), as you risk cooking the seeds before they ever sprout.

You can see the greenhouse effect created by the baggies here, which aids in germination. Because of this, you shouldn’t have to re-moisten the coffee filters while waiting for the seeds to germinate.

Within a few short days, you should see your first sign of life—a radicle emerging from the seed coat. This is the primary root and develops from the embryo of the plant.

Step 6: Transplant the germinated seed.

Once the radicle reaches an inch or two in length, carefully transplant the germinated seed in potting mix, burying only the radicle (the white part) and keeping the stem and seed coat above the soil line.

Handle the seed by its seed coat, as the radicle is very delicate (as well as the life line of your soon-to-be seedling).

Don’t try to remove the seed coat before transplanting; it’ll fall off on its own when the first leaves (cotyledons) start to unfurl.

If any part of it is enmeshed in the paper, cut around the root and plant the whole thing in a pot, paper and all. The roots will grow around the paper and the paper will eventually disintegrate.

I try to transplant the seed as soon as it’s germinated so it doesn’t rot inside the baggie.

Sometimes you can wait until the first leaves appear if you need a guide as to how deep to bury the stem, but definitely keep an eye on the moisture level inside the baggie and provide plenty of ventilation at this stage.

After you’ve transplanted all your seedlings in small pots, keep the potting mix evenly moist with good airflow around the plants to prevent damping off disease.

You’ll need to harden them off for a few weeks before moving them outside, but once the seedlings develop their second set of leaves (the true leaves), they’re ready for their final place in the garden.

Troubleshooting: why are my seeds not germinating?

Sometimes the paper towel trick doesn’t work, or you run out of patience waiting for seeds to sprout. Here are a few reasons why your seeds aren’t germinating despite your best efforts:

  • The paper towel is too wet: Seeds swimming in water may rot before they sprout, especially if they require a longer germination period.
  • The paper towel is too dry: Seeds need consistent moisture to germinate, and you may need to mist the paper towel periodically to keep them moist.
  • Seeds need more exposure to sun: Certain seeds require light to germinate, so if your baggies are tucked away in a room that sees little light, try moving them closer to a window.
  • Seeds are too old: All seeds have an expected shelf life, and that shelf life diminishes under certain conditions. Use this seed life expectancy chart to find out how long your seeds should last.

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on February 1, 2013.

Linda Ly

I’m a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is. Read more »