Starting seeds in paper towels


Most often I start my seeds in a mix of coconut coir and perlite in seeding cells or small containers, though there are occasions when it may be better to start your seeds in a simple paper towel.

Before going into the benefits first lets go over the technique:

  1. Get a paper towel, napkin, or coffee filter and spray with water so it is moist (not soaking wet or the seeds could rot)
  2. Add a few seeds and folder over the paper to cover them.
  3. Place the paper and seeds into a zip lock bag (I like to use the snack sized ones) and place in a warm location (top or refrigerator, water hearer, etc)
  4. Check every day or so do see if seedlings have emerged and water as needed
  5. When seedlings emerge very carefully place the strongest seedlings into dirt cups.


  • Instead of trying to remove the seeds from the paper, you can simply cut around the seedling and plant both into the ground.  The paper will eventually erode away without affecting the seedling.
  • You can also use this technique to plant the seedling right into the ground.

This technique is great for many reasons:

  • Allows for faster germination rates and times
  • Great if you have limited space for seedlings (stack of zip lock bags take up much less space than 40/50 seed cells)
  • More consistent moisture
  • Less dirt on your counters
  • Great option for rare, poor germination rates and/or very slow germinating times (think hot peppers with 3-4 weeks germination delays)  With this method you can keep close tabs on the progress and know after a week or two if you need to start some more (or buy some new seeds)

For the home grower this is a great space saving technique and due to the water retention in the bags it is nearly impossible to lose seedlings due to lack of watering.

9 Responses to “Starting seeds in paper towels”

  1. C. Andres Says:

    Nice. Thanks for the info.

  2. Kaspian Says:

    Thanks for posting this!

    I’ve experimented with a few different seed starting techniques & supplies over the last couple years. Although I have something I like for fast germinating seeds (the compact plant trainer from Veseys), I’ve been wondering if there’s something better for peppers. I’ll try this next season! (This year’s peppers are already in the greenhouse…)

  3. Kim Says:

    I would certainly recommend this seed starting technique. This year is my first growing vegetables and I have had a lot of sucess using this method. You can look at the seeds which you couldn’t when they are sown normaly and only move them on once they have germinated. Then it only takes a few days for them to show above the surface.

    I even modified this technique for the slow germinating seed of asparagus. These seeds were sown in a tray of moist vermiculite with plastic wrap to cover. Whenever a tiny asparagus sprout appeared it was potted on. In total 50 of 60 seeds germinated over a period of 2 to 6 weeks with the tray stored above the tropical fish tank.

  4. humic_acid Says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful technique. It is always amazing to find articles that impart different ideas about gardening and how to become better with it. This technique is very simple yet presents many advantages especially when trying to germinate seeds at a faster rate. What I truly love about this technique is that it can give consistent moisture to seedlings which is an important factor to help them germinate faster and better.

  5. Marc O. Says:

    I remember my parents starting seeds like this when I was growing, particularly tomatoes. I have yet to try it myself, though I do dry seeds this way. Would make sense to just start them in their bits of paper towel.

  6. Marc O. Says:

    er, growing up.

  7. jimmy Says:

    Uh, I did something like this when I was in first grade. * * *

    I filled a baby food jar halfway with tissues. Then I put a few seeds all along the outside, put the water in and closed the jar. I put this in the window until I saw the seeds sprout.

  8. Paper Towel Germination of Seeds Says:

    […] via Starting seeds in paper towels. […]

  9. Pal Says:

    thank you so much for this information. My daughter was doing a science experiment and could really use information like this. Other info we’ve learned before we came across this sight is that the seeds can take about l00 ml of water and the water should be room temp.

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