Paper Towel Seed Germination, Advantages, Instructions

Paper Towel Seed Germination, Methods and Tips

Paper towels or filter paper provides an excellent medium for germinating seeds. The paper towel method for germination seeds is a very easy one. To make the germination even easier, if you have little time, we recommend germinating the seeds in small plastic containers such as glasses. Sprouting seeds by using a paper towel or tissue paper is a popular method. Seeds germinating in a paper towel are a viable option when you have a lot of seeds with you, and you have no idea which of these will grow successfully. It provides a good medium for the germination of seeds. The paper towel germination method is one of the most functional and simplest methods for germinating seeds. In this content we also discuss the below topics;

  • When to transplant seeds from paper towel
  • Germinating tomato seeds in a paper towel
  • How much time it takes to germinate seeds in a paper towel
  • Germinating seeds in paper towel vs soil
  • Seeds won’t germinate in a paper towel
  • How to germinate seeds paper towel method
  • Transferring paper towel sprouted seeds to soil

A Step by Step Guide to Paper Towel Seed Germination Process

The main advantages of growing seeds in a paper towel can help germination rate and increase seed sprouting percentage. Whether you’re growing vegetables, herbs, or flowers, getting a good start is important to the success of plants’ growth. Seeds germinating before planting help to sort out the viable seeds from the nonviable ones. Germinate seeds in a paper towel indoors is easy compared to planting them directly in the garden or a pot. Though, many seeds can germinate with a damp paper towel and consistently a little space on the counter. Paper towel method used to accelerate the germination time of seeds difficult to germinate, sprout edible seeds or test the seed viability.

Advantages of Paper Towel Seed Germination

  • High Germination Rate – Almost every seed with germinating if you follow the instructions carefully
  • Fast – Often takes only 1 to 3 days to see roots
  • Keep Track – Check seeds carefully without disturbing them
  • Less Space – Use less space than seeds planting in pots (helpful if germinating lots of seeds at once)
  • This paper towel method lets you test the viability of seeds before planting. You’ll be able to plants which seeds sprout, and you won’t be wasting valuable garden space on seeds that won’t grow.
  • Seeds tend to sprout faster when germinated in the paper towel than when planted directly in the soil. Then, the higher humidity and airflow present inside baggies when prepared correctly often lead to seeds germinating in just a few days.
  • Germinating seeds in a paper towel can also be a great educational experience and a better understanding of how plants grow as well.
  • Paper towels offer a controlled environment for successful seed germination. The disease is not a factor since the paper towel is sterile.

Instructions of Paper Towel Seed Germination

  1. By using a permanent marker to write the type of seed you are germinating on each plastic zipper bag.
  2. Then, open each plastic zipper bag and flex the opening a few times to loosen it. This will easier to slide the paper towels containing the seeds into them.
  3. Moisten the paper towel with water from a spray bottle.
  4. Dampen a paper towel with clean water and wring it out carefully.
  5. Spread the damp paper towel out on a clean and flat surface. Place your selected seeds on one half of the paper towel, leaving some space between them. Don’t overcrowd the towel.
  6. Fold a paper towel in half, and then half again, to make four more layers or so.
  7. Place the paper with seeds inside and reseal the zip-close bag.
  8. Set the zip-close bag anywhere out of direct sunlight that stays at room temperature level. Then, you can observe seeds sprouting in about 5 to 7 days.
  9. Fold the empty half of the paper towel over the seeds, being careful not to squash them. Place the folded towel into the labelled plastic zipper bag. This process repeats with your remaining seeds.
  10. Place the folded paper towel in a plastic bag. The paper towel must sit on the side of the bag and not the folded bottom. Place the seeds on top of the paper towel and use 10 seeds for easy calculation if you are testing germination rates.
  11. Close the bag and wait for the seed to germinate (approximately one week). Check the humidity level in the bag every 2 days. If it starts to dry, spray the paper towel with more water from a spray bottle.
  12. The fastest germinating vegetable seeds include everything in the cabbage family – Bok Choi, Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, etc, and Lettuce.
  13. The slowest seeds to germinate are Pepper, Eggplant, Fennel, and Celery, which may take above 5 days. Other vegetables such as Tomato, Beets, Chard, Squash, Onions, will take about 3 days.

Process of Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel

Actually, for paper towel seed germination, all you need to make the entire method a success is a;

  • Plastic zipper bag,
  • Paper towels and
  • A permanent marker pen

Here, we discuss how to germinate seeds in paper towel;

  1. First, take your paper towel and then moisten it. Make sure the paper towel is saturated, and then cover the bottom of the container with it. Then, cut the paper to a convenient size to hold one replicate of the seeds.
  2. Label the paper at one end with the accession number and the testing date. Use a pencil or permanent marker pen for labelling.
  3. Then, moisten the paper with water and arrange the seeds in rows at regular intervals. Ideally, the distance between seeds should be at least 3 to 5 times the seed diameter.
  4. Cover the seeds with another sheet of moist paper towel. Then, roll the paper loosely from opposite the label end.
  5. Use a paper clip to hold the rolled papers and prevent them from falling apart.
  6. Keep the rolls upright in a deep-bottom plastic tray. Add a sufficient quantity of water to the tray by covering the bottom 3 cm of rolls.
  7. Place the tray in an incubator maintained at the recommended temperature levels and run the test for the recommended period.
  8. Keep the paper towels moist by spraying with water, especially when temperatures are high about 25 to 30°C.
  9. After that, place the zipper bags of seeds in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
  10. Carefully check on the seeds every other day. Then, open the zipper bag to allow fresh air to enter, and check to see if seeds have sprouted. Times will change based on the type of seed you are germinating. For example, lettuce cucumber, and turnip seeds will sprout in about 4 days; onions and peas take 6 days; asparagus can take as long as 10 days.
  11. If some seeds have not germinated in a paper towel and appear to be dormant, treat them with an appropriate method to stimulate germination. Then, continue the test until all seeds have germinated or until no further germination occurred after two consecutive counts.
  12. Once your seeds have sprouted, plant them in pots or outdoors, discarding if any seeds that did not germinate.

List of the Easiest and Fastest Seeds to Germinate in Paper Towel

Herbs – Most herbs are the fastest germinating seeds, they are known to undeniable fragrance to the garden. Then, this makes the herbs not only versatile but also very time-saving.

Some of the herbs consider if you are looking for the fastest germinating seeds are; basil seeds which sprout within 4 days. While other herbs like dill, chives, or cilantro make an appearance not more than 14 days after being planted. Also, you may consider mint although after germination you might have to move it to other areas.

Vegetables – Most of the vegetables that we eat have a very short seed germination span.

For example, the Radish seeds tend to absorb water quickly and the germination of seeds happens within 6 and 8 days.

On the other hand, Cucumbers germinate within 10 days as well as other vegetables such as Spinach, Turnips, Scallions, and Mustard Greens. Other vegetables that might be a great quick gardening addition are the Squash, and Cantaloupe which have an average germination period of 4 to 6 days. You might want to try the pencil wax beans varieties and blue lake beans.

Annual Flowers – Most of the flowering plants are the fastest sprouting seeds and also grow rapidly after germination. Such flowers have the added benefit of introducing an attractive splash of colors and elegance in the garden.

Some of the fastest germinating annual flower seeds are cornflower, sweet alyssum, and celosia tends to sprout within 5 to 7 days. Zinnias, Sunflowers, and Morning Glories add unique glamour to garden with more colors. Also, the fast-growing Nasturtiums are more than just garden beauties.

Perennial Flowers – There is a wide variety of perennial flowers that will germinate within a time frame of 5 to 10 days maximum. Besides that, these flowers still grow fast even after sprouting has occurred. Some of these flowers are Dianthus which always strives to fill your garden year after year.  Other perennials that you can choose from include; the Blackberry lilies, the Blanket flowers, and the Rose Campion.

Disadvantages of Paper Towel Seed Germination

The main disadvantage to the paper towel germination is the need to transplant. The root extending from the seed is highly sensitive for all plant types; even slightly touching the root can cause seed death. The main root should not be touched because it is delicate. Use tweezers on the cotyledons or the seed body when moving them to moist soil. Once the seed has been moved from the paper towel into its final place, the seed should root and sprout successfully.

Commonly Asked Questions about Paper Towel Seed Germination

Questions about Paper Towel Seed Germination
Questions about Paper Towel Seed Germination (Pic source: Pixabay)
How much time does it take to germinate seeds in a paper towel?

The paper towels germination period tends to vary depending on the type of seeds being germinated. Normally, different seeds have diverse time frames for breaking the seed dormancy. Other seeds might take a long time while others quite a short period. However, normally germination period on the paper towel takes between 5 to 7 days. Other plants like lettuce, cucumber, and turnip seeds take as little as 3 days to germinate. While others like the asparagus seeds take as long as 10 days for the germination to occur. In case germination fails to occur within the speculated number of days, there is a possibility that seeds were too old. In such a case, you need to start the entire seed germination process all over again.

How do you germinate tomato seeds by using paper towels?

For germinating tomato seeds, get a single paper towel damp but not soaking wet, then sprinkle seeds onto the towel, but don’t let the seeds touch one another. Roll the towel with the seeds on the inside, and then place the towel into a plastic zipper bag. Keep the bag in a warm spot that is free from drafts, such as on a seedling heat mat. Unroll the paper towel gently a few times a day to look for the signs of seed germination. Some seeds germinate as quickly as 24 to 48 hours, while others can take about 10 to 14 days. It mainly depends on the variety of tomatoes you are growing.

How to Germinate Seeds Quickly?

Some seeds will sprout faster than other seeds in a paper towel, so it’s important to be patient with your seeds. Cucumber, squash, and lettuce will take 3 to 5 days to sprout while it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 days to germinate tomato seeds. Other seeds can take much longer, though. Germinating strawberry seeds, for example, can take 2 to 3 weeks.

If you want to speed up the germination process, you can soak your seeds in water for 3 to 4 hours before putting them in the baggies. Make sure you place them in a warm and dark area, as this will help them germinate faster as well. You can get an inexpensive thermometer to ensure that the germination area is warm enough.

Why should you consider germinating seeds before planting?
  • It gives you a chance to check the viability of seeds.
  • It allows you to sprout many seeds in a small space like a sandwich baggie.
  • It can speed up the seed sprouting process, with plant roots appearing in a matter of days in some cases.
  • It mainly works for flowers as well as vegetables and fruits.
When to transplant seeds from the paper towel?

You can transplant seeds to the soil as soon as you see them start to sprout. Keep in mind that when you pot them in soil, you must not pack the soil down. If it’s packed, the plant seedlings will not be able to reach the surface and will subsequently die.

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