How To Germinate Seeds 3X Faster ( & What NOT to Do)

This is our FAVORITE method to germinate seeds quickly. As passionate gardeners, we have been using it to start seeds for over 10 years! It works great for all herbs, flowers, and vegetables seeds.

For most types of seeds, this is our go-to gardening secret! πŸ™‚ Germinating seeds in 1/3 time with 3X more success, yes, you have to try this!

Germinate seeds 3X faster with lot more success in as little as 1 day! Best gardening tips to plant herbs, flowers, & vegetables from seeds.

In this article, we will look at when and how to use this seed germination method. Comparison of two methods: germinating seeds on paper towel vs. germinating seeds in soil, plus some helpful tips we have learned along the way, and readers questions at the end!

Definitely check out the tips, because there is one thing that you should NOT copy what the nurseries do!

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

A set of beautiful and free printable planting calendar that you can customize | A Piece Of Rainbow

And feel free to download this pretty (and free ) printable planting calendar when you start the seeds! =)

Or make this seed storage box from cardboard boxes! ( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here. )

Make A Seed Box for organized storage | A Piece of Rainbow

Our favorite method to germinate seeds super fast with much more success.

We discovered this method to start seeds from an older book- Planning The Organic Vegetable Garden. It made such a huge difference , we just LOVE it and have been using it every year for the last 10+ years! This method is called pre sprouting, or pre germinate in the book.

how to germinate seeds fast on paper towel

Step one: germinate seeds on paper towel

All you need is a plastic or glass container with a tight lid. Clear ones will make it easier to see through, but not required as the seeds don’t need light to send out roots.

Put a piece of paper towel or white paper on the bottom of the container, add water till the paper towel is thoroughly moist, but no puddles of water.

start lettuce seeds and plants

Sprinkle seeds in groups on the damp paper towel, close the lid, and make a note to yourself what type of seeds are where, especially when you have seeds that look identical, for example- broccoli, kale and cauliflower.

Place the container with seeds out of direct sun.

This is very important, because a closed container can get super hot, and all the germinating seeds would die from the heat.

grow your own flowers and vegetables from seeds

Start checking on them the next day. If the seeds are really fresh, some will germinate in as little as 1 day! The fastest germinating seeds include everything in the cabbage family – bok choi, broccoli, kale, cauliflower etc, and lettuce.

The slowest seeds to germinate are pepper, eggplant, fennel, celery, which may take 5+ days. The rest such as tomato, beets, chard, squash, onions, will take about 3 days.

germinating tomato seeds

Step 2: Plant germinated seeds in pots

It is important to have pots and soil ready to go.

As soon as you see roots coming out, plant them right away. If the roots get too long, it will be hard to separate the roots from the paper towel. If that happens, just plant the paper towel!

It may seem hard to pick up a tiny seed, but it really is quite easy. you can use a tooth pick, or just your fingers, which is what I do.

germinate seeds on wet paper towel and plant in pots

Plant them at a depth of 1-2 seeds size ( shallow depth for small seeds, deeper for bigger seeds) , and gently mist them daily for the first week.

We also like to put the pots in saucers and fill the bottom with water till the soil in each pot is saturated, then empty the saucer. It will take a couple of days for the little green leaves to pop out. Now they will need full sun to grow strong and healthy! Below is an extreme example of how much we love this method! =)

If you try these DIY / decor / garden / craft projects, tag us on Instagram at @apieceofrainbow, we would love to see what you create!

vegetable garden best tips to germinate seeds on paper towel

Comparison of germinating seed on paper towel method with germinating seeds in soil.

Here’s how to plant seeds in soil, which is what most people do:

In a pot filled with soil, sprinkle some seed, add a thin layer of soil, water thoroughly. And wait.

Sounds familiar? Once you try the paper towel method to start seeds, you will rarely go back to the soil method. Here’s why.

Pros of germinating seed on paper towel:

germinate seeds on paper towel in container
  1. Great success rate:  Have you ever scatter a whole packet of 300 seeds, just to have 3 plants survive? The reason is soil tend to dry out, while the paper towel maintains consistent moisture level. When we germinate seeds on paper towel, we sow 12 seeds if we want 10 broccoli plants, because almost all of them will germinate and grow. When we get fresh seeds from a good seed company, the germination rate is almost 100%!
  2. Test old or new seeds: If you have seeds that are a few years old, germinating seeds on paper towel is a great way to quickly test if they are still alive. We have been able to grow healthy plants from cabbage or tomato seeds that are over 5 years old! If you store seeds in a cool and dry place, some can have quite a long life. We also use this technique to find out if the new seeds we got are good quality.
  3. Faster germination: For example, cabbage seeds take 1-2 days to germinate on paper towel and another 2 days to leaf out, while it can take 2-3 times longer if sown directly in the soil.
plant seeds in soil

Cons of germinating seed on paper towel:

There is one extra step of planting the germinated seed in soil. So if you want to plant a whole field of flowers or vegetables, this method will not be practical.

Now you see the pros and cons, it is very easy to see which method is better for the home gardener!

germinate seeds and grow tomatoes, onions, kale, and other vegetables

FAQ and helpful tips we have learned:

90% of the time we use this method to germinate seeds, but we sometimes direct sow seeds that grow super easily and super fast, or less attractive to pests, such as arugula, radishes, or carrots.

vegetable gardening tips  and ideas

Although you see seedlings grown in six-packs at nurseries, I think it’s a fantasy because those plants were grown in perfect greenhouse conditions with daily fertilizers.

It’s very hard to grow seedlings to that big in a six-pack for home gardeners. We prefer to grow them in 4 inch pots like these, or a long deep planter like in the above image. This allows the seedling to grow quicker and bigger before being transplanted, so they don’t disappear with one bug bite!

grow flowers, peppers, corn, tomatoes from seeds

Have pots and soil ready!  Because the seeds could germinate in as little as one day! If your seeds grow into the paper towel, yes, you can plant the paper towel.

For the first 1-2 weeks after planting them in pots, mist the seedlings or gently water them, and keep the soil moist. They are fragile and can fall over easily!

how to plant vegetable garden from seeds

Our favorite seed companies are Baker Creek Seeds, and Everwilde Farms both are started and ran by some great passionate people! Just look at that gorgeous green corn from Baker Creek, irresistible!

If you try these DIY / decor / garden / craft projects, tag us on Instagram at @apieceofrainbow, we would love to see what you create!

And a post on a simple trick ( especially useful in hot weather!) to jump start your transplant seedlings here-

apieceofrainbow-garden-tips1 (2)

You may also love to see how to create living structures from all these plants here-

Amazing Living Structures | A Piece of Rainbow

Love Gardening Ideas?

Wish you a beautiful and bountiful garden this spring!

167 Comments

  1. Hi Ananda, have you tried ridge guard/snake guard (hard shell seeds)using this method? Any tips for those seeds?
    Thanks

  2. Thanks for sharing your method!! What kind of marker are you writing with on the paper towel where the ink doesn’t run or separate?

  3. I put a whole bunch of seeds on a paper towel into a ziploc bag. Can I open it daily to check for germination, close it and repeat daily?

    • it’s much easier in a container because the seeds can get stuck on the plastic and that would be tricky to get them out of the bag without disturbing any roots.

  4. I used your quick germination method and am delighted it works so well. I’m so excited. Thank you for all your good information. I think you are very creative. I found your instructions for a seed container made from shoeboxes and acted on that idea right away. Sooo muchbetter than throwing them in a box like I had been.

  5. Hi Ananda, thanks for the great post.
    I have often sprouted mung beans and such for salads, sometimes leaving them so long that leaves appeared on the shoots but never so long for roots to emerge.

    You say, “As soon as you see roots coming out, plant them right away.”
    Now I’m confused. Shouldn’t that be ‘shoots’ and not ‘roots’?

    The picture above ‘Step 2’ shows shoots emerging. I assume that is when to plant them?
    Could you please clarify? I’m not an experienced gardener and have just bought some expensive seeds.

    Thanks in advance

    • hi Owen! actually it is “roots” πŸ™‚ some seeds such as cabbage or broccoli will have roots and shoots coming out around the same time, but seeds like cucumber, tomato, pepper etc will sprout roots first, and you want to plant them before the roots get to long and fragile! πŸ™‚

  6. Can sprouted seeds be planted directly outside, if the weather is already warm, daytime is +10+15′ C? we are too late this year, and everyone else has already done it outside, so i decided to do the quick germination, but i am not sure, if transplanting them directly to the garden beds will not kill them. Nights are still quite cold, but the beds could be covered with plastic or smth.

  7. I love this! Such an amazing idea. I do have a question. Do I use the dirt from the ground to put in the pot or do I use bag dirt with fertilizer? I just want to do this right.

  8. I didn’t read all the comments so maybe someone already does it this way.. Roots grow down, always. So put your seeds in the bottom of a deli container. Put a dry paper towel over. Soak with water, pat down. Then pour out the excess water. Put on the lid. Lift the container every day and see if anything germinated. If you are a few days late and the root tail is getting too long, at least it will not be tangled in the paper towel because that is above and the roots are trying to grow downward. Marilyn Kefirlady. kefirlady.com

  9. Well I said I wasn’t going to try to plant seeds this year but now I think I will! I never have luck starting from seed but your article gave me hope. Thank you for the great instructions and hopefully I will be able to take pictures of plants I started this way to share with you!

  10. so, we have to actually close the container with lid and make the germinating seed die from the heat? or what do you mean by it?

  11. Hi there, quick question. Might be silly, but thought I would ask. When you are going to move them to the soil, is there a specific way you should put them in the soil? Sprout down/up? Or does it matter? Thanks
    Amy

  12. Good article on growing vegetables and flowers from seeds! We just had great success with this method! Keep it up.

  13. when useing paper to germinate cilantro seeds the white item that appears is it a stem or root? When moveing it to container does this stem or root plant up or doem

  14. Hi, i have tried your method for succulent seeds (echevaria) and it is day 7 and nothing yet. This is my firsttime planting. Should i discard if nothing grew after 3 weeks? I read online echevaria seeds germinate period is 3 weeks.

  15. When misting the seeds and seedlings DO NOT use tap water! Tap water contains any amount of chlorine, fluorine or chloramines which depress or inhibit plant growth. Use rain water, preferably or mineral water instead.

    • thank you jeff for sharing your great tips! πŸ™‚ i agree rain water is better than tap water, but if rain water is not readily available, tap water could work too.

    • Depends on if you have well water or pay by month for water. Tap water provided by cities or county is loaded with bad for the plants additives.

      Catch rain water or I guess buy spring water for your plants.

  16. Hi there! So I tried ur method & my seeds are just starting to sprout! (2 dats????) I’m wondering if I am able to plant them directly as is into either my flower beds or the containers I’ll be leaving them in all summer or should I start them in starter pots & transplant in a few weeks? I have calendula,zinnia,aster & nasturtium But would also like to do leafy herbs as well. *It is perfect conditions outside; warm,sunny,waaay past last frost*
    Thanks so much!!!

  17. Hello there!
    I was just wondering, if it’s a stupid or good idea to start growing marijuana strain in forests nearby my hometown now..Autumn is coming and the plants won’t be ready to harvest for 100% sure before winter comes… But will they survive the winter and start growing in spring? I probably won’t be around in springtime when i usually would put out the seedlings in the forest.. what do you think?
    Thanks for your input!

  18. Im trying to get a jump start on veggies and flowers. Living in zone 5 many flowers can take some time to look nice. Can you do all seeds this way? Also, if the germination takes 14-21 days how much sooner will they sprout doing it with this method? For example Rosemary can take 14-21 days so what would be a better way to estimate when sprouting will occur?thanks
    Chrisele

  19. Hi Ananda,
    I have just tried this method and it is fantastic! 2 packs of Calendula Ivory Princess @ $3 each, I already had the seed raising mix and I have 204 healthy little plants all potted up. It would have cost me at least $84.00 to buy these seedlings and I doubt that my local outlet store would have them in that colour anyway! I will be sprouting all my flower seedlings from now on. Thank you so much for sharing all the great tips with us, I personally find it really inspiring. Cheers!

  20. Do you think this method will work with milkweed? I have asclepias tuberosa seeds and the packet doesn’t say a whole lot.

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