how to germinate seeds paper towel

How to Sprout Seeds on a Paper Towel

Last Updated: October 5, 2020 Approved

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Whether you’re growing vegetables, herbs or flowers, getting a good start is important to the success of your plants’ growth. Germinating your seeds before planting helps to sort out the viable seeds from the nonviable ones. One way to ensure a proper start is to germinate your seeds in a paper towel indoors before planting them either directly in your garden or in a pot.

How to Sprout Seeds on a Paper Towel. Whether you're growing vegetables, herbs or flowers, getting a good start is important to the success of your plants' growth. Germinating your seeds before planting helps to sort out the viable seeds…

How to Germinate With Paper Towels

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Home-grown produce has a taste and texture that most mass-produced vegetables just cannot match. Planting your seeds directly into pots or the ground saves you a step, but germinating them indoors helps you make sure that all of the seeds you plant are viable. You can use specialized products such as germinating trays, heat pads and lights, but the simplest way to germinate seeds indoors requires nothing more than some paper towels and plastic zipper bags.

Things You Will Need

Plastic zipper bags

Use a permanent marker to write the type of seed you are germinating on each plastic zipper bag. This is especially helpful if you are germinating a lot of different types of seeds.

Open each plastic zipper bag and flex the opening a few times to loosen it. This will make it easier to slide the paper towels containing the seeds into them.

Dampen a paper towel with clean water. Wring it out carefully so that it is thoroughly moist but not dripping.

Spread the damp paper towel out on a clean, flat surface. Place your seeds on one half of the paper towel, leaving some space between them. Don’t overcrowd the towel.

Fold the empty half of the paper towel over the seeds, being careful not to squash them. Place the folded paper towel into the appropriately labeled plastic zipper bag, and seal the bag. Repeat with your remaining seeds.

Place the zipper bags of seeds in a warm place away from direct sunlight. The top of the refrigerator is usually a safe place for the seeds to rest undisturbed, but any area that is out of direct sunlight and maintains a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit will do.

Check on the seeds every other day. Open the zipper bag to allow fresh air to enter, and check to see if your seeds have sprouted. Times will vary according to the type of seed you are germinating. For example, cucumber, lettuce and turnip seeds will sprout in about three days; onions and peas take six days; asparagus can take as long as 10 days.

Once your seeds have sprouted, plant them in pots or outdoors, discarding any seeds that did not germinate.

Keep tweezers on hand to help you plant the more delicate seedlings. Poke a hole in the soil with your finger and set the seedling gently into it rather than trying to shove the baby plant into the soil.


Do not soak the paper towels, because the combination of too much water, no light and warmth can encourage mold, which can harm your seeds.

How to Germinate With Paper Towels. You’re planning your spring garden, you have several left-over seed packets from previous years and you’re not sure if the seeds are still good. Knowing if the seeds are dead, the percentage of seeds that are still viable and the rate of germination can keep you from wasting your …