Germinating Plant Seeds

Germinating plant seeds – A General Guide

Various methods can be used when germinating plant seeds. Some of the most commonly used methods, among all levels of garden enthusiasts, professionals and scientists are listed below.

Germination: the process of growing seeds to plants.
Germinating Plant Seeds
There are various methods out there on how to germinate plant seeds. To get the best results, it is best to first select good seeds. Germinate multiple seeds at once as not all seeds will successfully germinate.
Seeds can be seasonal and may go dormant in winter, plant them in warm seasons.

A few things to consider:

  • Where will seeds be sourced.
  • Which potting soil is required, for both germinating and potting stages of growth.
  • Is there enough natural light available, where the seeds are intended to be germinated and grown, or will grow lights to be required.
  • Note successfully germinated seeds, may require fertilising within about 4-6 weeks of sprouting a stem.
  • Consider which nutrients may be required for the particular specimen of plant being grown.
  • You can check out a few organic fertilizing options and general notes on fertilizer below.

We all want success when germinating plant seeds – here are our top 3 methods:

Top 3 Methods – Germinating Plant Seeds


Pre Germinating Tip: Most seeds have a grow roots faster, if they are first placed in water for 24 hours or more before any method. If placed under grow lights for 4 hours per 24 hours soaked in water, this also speeds things up.

Paper Towel Method:

Most small seeds first require this method, when germinating plant seeds.

  • Place clean seed or seeds on a clean paper towel (kitchen roll) and fold into a square, so that the seeds are secure and covered.
  • 6-9 seeds per paper towel is usually enough but can be increase if using large paper towels
  • Lightly moisten the paper towel with water but do not soak
  • Place in a sandwich like zip bag, to create humidity
  • Keep paper towel moist until seeds sprout and continue to moisten (lightly), until desired root length is achieved (1-2 inches is best)
  • Remove seedlings from paper towel and pot in soil, covering the top of the seed completely
  • For best results use soil that has correct nutrients and drainage required for that specimen of plant
  • Dampen soil above seedling with water and place in a sunny window, small greenhouse, grow tent or other designated grow space
  • Seedlings should sprout stems from the soil within 2 weeks

To encourage growth of the baby plant at this stage it is helpful to control the plants growing conditions. That is give it the exact amount of light required per day, preferred temperature and avoid the plant drying out between watering:

  • Use grow lights along with a timer, plant tray and heat mat to control growing conditions
  • It’s important not to move the newly potted seeds around much in the early stages, as they are quite delicate, at this stage of their growth. Any damage can be very detrimental to the plants’ potential growth.
  • Water soil every few days and consider fertilizer (organic is always best)
  • Keep an eye on root growth
  • When roots appear to have out growing the pot, re-pot into a larger plant pot
  • It is important to repot as soon as the plant outgrows the pot as nutrients are within the soil and roots that have outgrown their pot have usually used up the majority of the nutrients available in the soil

Water Method:

This method is most helpful when germinating large seeds

  • Using a transparent plastic cup or glass is best, as you can see the roots grow without disturbing the seed
  • Depending on the size of seed you will either need to suspend the seed or cover it completely
  • We like to cut the top off of plastic bottles, to secure the seed while allowing half of it to sit in water. This also encourages the roots to grow straight, from the start and you can then control at which length to allow the roots to curl
  • Such early attention and preparation see that the plant or tree grows to the size you have in mind
  • However, some seeds can be submerged in water entirely, even those that are usually half-submerged in water rather than completely covered will also germinate regardless (like avocado seeds)
  • Place clean seed(s) in water and change the water every 4-5 days or sooner if needed
  • When roots appear pot the seed root first in soil that is composed of the right nutrients and drainage ratios, for that particular specimen of plant or tree
  • Note that some seeds will take longer to germinate using the water method in comparison to the paper towel method

It is possible to speed up the germination process, when using the water method by placing the submerged seed under grow lights for at least 4 hours a day.

Soil Method:

This method is the most low maintenance and least time-consuming, as well as the option that will germinate most plant seeds.

  • Using a small pot along with the correct soil, fill the required number of plant pots or seed trays with the soil
  • Plant trays are best, if germinating multiple seeds
  • Lightly moisten the pots of soil with water and make a small hole in the middle of the soil about half-way into the pot
  • Place clean seed in the hole and cover with more soil
  • Moisten the top soil with water
  • Place pot tray in a sunny south-facing window or use grow lights and timer if preferred
  • Water every few days and try not to let the soil dry out
  • When seed has sprouted a stem it may be time to consider adding some organic feed (see below)
  • Re pot the plant when the roots begin to outgrow the pot and repeat re potting as required throughout the plants lifetime or plant outside if preferred

For good quality crops, consider using fertilizer during the early stages of a plants’ growth.

Each plant has its own preferred soil composition. Generally, soil is part air, part water, part organic matter with minerals making up remaining composition of soil. Using a feed or fertilizer helps maintain the soils composition, while ensure plants grow to their best potential. Plants absorb the nutrients in available in their soil, which is one of the reasons why periodic fertilising is needed. Some research on what your plant would feed on if it were in its natural habitat, can go a long way. The more you know about the plant you are caring for the better, as each plant has its own optimal conditions.

Organic Fertilizers

A few easy DIY nutrient rich organic fertilisers are listed below:

Black organic tea 

Using an organic black tea bag make at least 500ml of tea and let it sit for several hours, when cool use to water plants’ as usual.

Epsom Salt

Provides magnesium and sulfur, great for chlorophll production aiding the process of photosynthesis. Keeping plants beautifully green.

Dissolve epsom salt in water and water plant.

Soaked banana skin water

Adds pottasium, phosphorus and nitrogen. Great for root growth, blooming, fruit prodution and pollination.

Soak clean banana skins of 1 or 2 bananas, in hot water overnight, remove banana skins and use to water plants’ as usual.

Dry crushed egg shells 

A source of calcium, which elps build healthy cell walls within a plant. Great for tomatoes, peppers and plants prone to snail and slug damage. The texture of the shells determs them from crawling on the plants soil.

Wash 2-3 empty egg shells and allow them to dry. Crush the dried eggshells into small pieces and push into the soil.

Be sure to check your plants’ needs before using any fertiliser, as some fertilizers (particularly organic) can cause bacteria to grow and consequently an infestation of bugs in the soil.