wet paper towel technique

silybum(Sunset 16/z8b)August 6, 2005

My brother told me this technique he uses to start seeds, so I gave it a try and all germinated within 3 days!

I sprayed a paper towel with water, placed the seeds on it, folded it over to cover them, put it in a plastic bag on the dining room table and within 3 days most every seed has germinated.

Today I transplanted the seeds into individual dixie cup containers with soil and put them in my greenhouse window, and now I will hopefully wait for the seedlings to emerge, then next month I can transplant them outdoors.

Anyone ever try this? I had been having bad luck this year starting seed. I think the weather was not what I was used to, wet early on, and now hot, and nothing was sprouting for me. I guess the temperature in my dining room was perfect and they happily germinated. I just hope I planted them in the soil properly, since this was my first time, I wasn't sure which way was up or down. I guess I'll find out.

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Hi Silybum, I have always wanted to try this method but not sure if I cover the entire seed after or if even if there will be just a root or a root and leaves at the same time. Ohhhh soooooo confused! If you can give me some tips I would appreciate it. Thanks, Flora

    Bookmark   August 6, 2005 at 11:48PM
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I have been finding now is the right time to sow some things in my area. The temperature is such that I am getting many unusual things to germinate  even old seeds. Many of the seedlings I sowed in the winter drowned from the ambient humidity from the winter rains. Then came the sudden heat, which fries seedlings.
I like the baggie method. It is great for rare seeds, especially, as you can keep a closer watch on them. I cover the whole seed. The root develops first, & then the seed. Depending on the seed, most should be planted out after sprouting, or they rot in the baggie.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 8:42AM
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silybum(Sunset 16/z8b)

today the seeds that I had planted in the dixie cups, after germinating in the paper towels, have started to emerge! success!

Florazone9 - when I planted the seeds that had germinated in the paper towels into the dixie cups, I lightly covered them with soil. Be gentle, as some of the roots grow ito the fibers of the paper towels, but they did mostly slip out easily, only a few broke. good luck. so far i am very happy about this method.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 4:14PM
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I use coffee filters instead of paper towels--they hold together better. Some people insist on using unbleached filters.

Once the seeds have sprouted, but before the leaves emerge, gently place the seeds and roots in the potting media. I usually put them in soiless media. Cover them gently, and avoid watering directly on them.

If the leaves have emerged, I usually plant them vertically with the leaves just above the potting media.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 4:31PM
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luciecat(8b AL)

I've got a "batch-o-baggies" going right now! The germination rate is great and it's fun watching the process. But I'm at the point now where most of the seeds have erupted and roots have started so it's time to go to the next step. Trouble is, I'm terrified! Here's the list of seeds I'm starting now, using coffee filters: Zucchini squash, Alaska Nasturtiums, Ornamental Cabbage (they germinated in 1 day!), African Marigold, Catmint, Buck's County Tomatoes, and French Filet Beans. HELP!!! I'm more than a bit overwhelmed. My feline roommates, lacking oppossable (sp?) thumbs, aren't going to be any help at all in the transplanting process. Has anyone had any experience with leaving them in the baggies until the leaves develop? It seems like the leaves would have difficulty developing because the seed is "pressed" upon the coffee filter and there's no room for the leaves to spread out.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 6:38AM
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Thank you guys so much for answering my questions, you have truelly taken the mystery out of the baggy method. I will try it as soon as I make room in my small green house. I just had my husband get another flower bed ready for me and now I have to get all the plants in the greenhouse into the soil. flora

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 3:37PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

I have always been told that sprouted seeds should be planted just as far down as they would have been if not yet sprouted. Seems to make sense.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 12:00PM
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silybum(Sunset 16/z8b)

I have been letting my calendula seeds go in the paper towels/baggies till they have the first green leaves, then I plant them in a dixie cup, with the leaves above the soil. Then I transfer into the yard as I have room and they are ready. I have never had so many calendula's growing! I started the process on August 2. It took about a month before they were transplanted into beds, then it took another month till they were in bloom.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 8:36PM
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DanaNY(z6 Astoria, NY)

I let all my seeds sprout in the filters now and then plant them in soil at the same depth they would be if they had sprouted in soil. They don't skip a beat and grow faster this way, rather than waiting for them to pop up from the soil. My lettuce seeds germinated in 1 day and by the next day they sprouted in the filters and were ready to be planted. It sure beats waiting a week or more for them to sprout in soil. It works for most seeds, except really tiny seeds like petunias.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 10:42PM
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roxy77(Houston Z9)

I tried this with some bird of paradise seeds and had great success. In fact, I did some on the paper towel and some in pots like normal and the ones in pots didn't come up at all, but the paper towel ones germinated in 3 days!!

I can't get it work on my toadlilly seeds though.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 10:02AM
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Jerry_E(so calif)

How about for palm Tree seeds?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 7:32PM
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sondra_tn(South East TN (6/7))

Ok..I tried these with Rose seeds. I placed them in the frig. BUT the frig got re-adjusted and one bag froze? The other one has yet to do anything and it's been 3 weeks at least....what should I do?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 8:22AM
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highlandsgardener(Z6 Louisville)

Has anyone tried this method with calla lily seeds? Read an article that said it could take up to 90 days for germination in soil. Don't want to wait that long! I already have 90 planted for at least a month and nothing. Should I try coffee filter method?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 3:40PM
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tomatobob_va7(z7 VA)

An interesting discussion and a technique I plan to try. Can anyone tell me about how long it will take the pesky parsley seeds to germinate?

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 10:49AM
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I like sand instead of the paper towel/coffee filter.

The reasons for using moist sand instead of moist paper are: 1) that the sand changes color when drying out, 2) the root of the sprouted seed is not as easily damaged when removed from sand as when removed from paper, 3) the sand does not decompose and 4) the seeds are easily separated from the sand by using a kitchen wire strainer with a mesh large enough to pass the sand particles but not the seeds. The last is important as some seeds leach out inhibitor chemicals. A "freshen up" every once in a while gets rid of the leached out inhibitor. The leaching away of inhibitor is one of the possible reasons given for an explosion of seed germination outside after a heavy rain.

Here is a link that might be useful: link for above

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 10:29AM
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thank you Henry...
A personal inquiry I have is your approach to starter fertilizers (at the appropriate time and place).How deeply do you look at the chemical analysis and derived sources which may lead to further analysis? Are there any organic formulations proferred by the hydroponic sector that you are curious about or have trialed? I find it difficult to get beyond the hype...

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 11:50AM
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For the last couple of years, I have been using a commercial coir - peat mixture ("Miracle Grow moisture control") that contains a low dose of time release fertilizer. Before that I used the Garden's Alive Coir based seed starting mix. See link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Coir discussion

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 4:21PM
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could we perhaps,Henry, begin a new thread after Christmas?I am most interested in engaging you and others(paticularly a poster named John Z--if anyone knows how to get in touch with him...)I really must go now....

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 5:12PM
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Hey Sondra I don't know about starting roses from seed but
if you wait till spring it would be easy to start plants from cuttings. The plants would be much bigger than if you grew it from seed.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2005 at 9:10AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

When using paper towel or coffee filters and the radicle grows into the paper and may be damaged trying to remove it, simply cut the paper towel around the root and plant it with the seed. The paper will disintigrate with no effect on the growth of the seed. Al

    Bookmark   December 26, 2005 at 10:07AM
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can one plant directly into the ground after using this technique? it's been so long since i germinated seed that i'm all foggy on the ins & outs. thanks!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 11:52PM
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I plant mine directly into the ground once the roots show.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 2:17AM
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Mebane(z9 Fl)

I found a technique on one of the threads that suggested placing the seeds in damp paper towel or coffee fiters then in a zip lock bag and putting the whole thing on the floor in front of the refridgerator where the warm air blows out. I've been using this technique ever since and it works particularly well for seeds that are hard to germinate such as moonflowers. This is also a great place to put your wet sneakers so the warm air can blow into them. They usually dry over night even when soaking wet.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 2:07PM
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i am trying to grow chilies indoors, and i used a wet paper towel inside a ziplock bag. to keep them warm i use a desk light.

it took a week to see any sprouts from the seeds. I have been told that i can simply cut a small square of the paper towel surrounding the seed, instead of removing the seed from the paper towel, and planting that? has anyone tried that?

also, should the seed be planted with the sprout facing in a certain direction?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 11:55AM
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loretta5_gw(Z6 PA)

Yes you can certainly plant part of the paper towel with the seed. The paper will biodegrade in time. This is especially helpful when the seed is tiny.

The sprouted part you see off the seed is the radicle (root). Plant it down.

If you leave the sprouted seed in long enough you will see leaves and they will be green.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 10:08AM
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I just wanted to say that I am doing this with peppers right now, i hadn't thought of the front of the fridge but it took about a week to get germination out of my cayenne. 21 of 25 sprouted and after some bungling, and experimenting, i think 5 maybe 8 will survive.

The best looking sprouts were transplanted into a 6 pack 3 days ago with the piece of paper towel still under them, and since being put under light and misting them in the mornings they are about 1 inch tall with two leaves on top.

my other seedlings which i removed from the paper have all had a hard time adjusting, i believe if they are still alive they must be growing better roots right now - one was removed as it had turned brown.

I started some of my peppers i plan on growing in containers today, i hope they do well.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 4:13PM
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I found that if we wet seeds for 12 hrs in a sterile distilled water and than allow it to wet on filter paper,, It is the best way to get fast and better germination

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 12:47AM
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I have cats so I find that the baggy is not the best way. I wet paper towels, put seeds in them, fold the paper towel to cover the seeds and then put them in a small tupperware bowl with a lid. To keep them warm I sit them on top of my dvd player and I keep it turned on of course, any appliance like that will do. You can sit them in a window that gets alot of sunlight also.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 10:14AM
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can i try this technique with my marigold seeds?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:40AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

can i try this technique with my marigold seeds?

Sure. The type of seed makes no difference but the size of the seed can make it difficult to do with really tiny ones. Marigold seeds are easily big enough.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:37AM
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I have some small seeds which need light to germinate. Can I use the paper towel or sand technique without covering the seed?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 11:20PM
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First time gardener. I'm also trying paper towel method for my pepper seeds. So far nothing has happened. I've put them in several different places but I can't find a good source of heat and I have already spent too much so no heating mat or lamps for me. Any advice on how to keep the seeds warm.

top of the fridge - not warm - no change
bottom of the fridge - not warm - no change
over the microwave - hot and cold - no change
over the router - warm but no change - dries out quicker.
DVD player - auto off (husband's strict on that)
laundry room - not warm

any ideas?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:29PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

"So far" means how long? It isn't over night or even in a week. Especially with pepper seeds.

Peppers are very slow to germinate even when done in the normal manner. This approach takes even longer. Peppers require 75-80 degree heat to germinate to lay the plastic bag in a sunny window. At least that way they will get some heat. Then be patient for 10-20 days.

However with no lights how do you plan to grow them once they germinate?


PS: I have some small seeds which need light to germinate. Can I use the paper towel or sand technique without covering the seed?

Well you can try but it wouldn't be recommended. The seeds usually just dry out if not covered.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:40PM
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It's been over 10 days.
I plan to put them by the window (moving furniture right now to make it possible)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:51PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Few years ago I read use brown paper towels. Recently I read the same thing again with a rationalization. It was reported that brown paper towels were less prone to tangle with the root hairs hence easier to pick off and transplant.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 5:13PM
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I love this technique for ALL my medium to large sized seeds... I usually soak smaller seeds and surface sow.

If you're using this method for peppers give it at least 10 days - this year the majority of my peppers didn't germinate until 18-20 days! Compared to 3 days for tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, it is shocking.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 9:46PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

I have been using this method for several years, especially for my peppers and tomatoes. I use coffee filters, which I find stronger, and I place the seeds on my TV receiver for heat. Does a great job and they're up in 3-5 days, especially if the seed is fresh. I keep them in the filters until the root is well developed, and the shoot with the green cotyledons are exposed. I have found that pepper seeds are notorious for not shedding their seed coats, so I keep them in the filters until they are past that stage. I have had the experience of leaving them on, in case I destroy the seedling, and having a 'dud' plant. So I make sure I have a good strong seedling to pot up and put under my lights.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:21AM
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