Germinating seeds in paper towel is a soil-less method of quickly starting your plants. The secret to success is to use a bag for the most efficient germination. It saves time, allows you to test your seeds, has better results, and is low-cost.

Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel

Our comprehensive guide will offer you complete insight into germinating your seeds in paper towels and achieveing the best results.

How To Germinate Seeds in Paper Towel

Germinating seeds in a paper towel is a handy trick to employ when starting to grow a plant. Fortunately, we have created this complete guide to make it easier for you to achieve this. To germinate seeds in paper towel, follow the steps outlined below.

– Gather Your Materials

Collect the things that you will need to germinate your seeds in paper towels. Gather the following items:

  • Seeds
  • Paper towels
  • Sprayer 
  • A zip lock bag

You can use a coffee filter instead of a paper towel too. It has a thicker weave and retains more moisture. You can also lift your germinated seeds before putting them in the soil. In a paper towel, the roots get attached to the paper and can be planted with it.

– Make Cuts

Cut the paper towel or the coffee filter to fit your ziplock bag or an air-tight container

– Wet Your Paper

Moisten your paper with a water spray bottle. Make sure you do not overwater or make the paper very soggy.

– Place the Seeds

Scatter the seeds at a 2-inch distance from each other on half of the paper. Fold the other half over the seeds. 

– Put It In

Carefully place the paper towel inside the ziplock bag. You can use a straw to blow the air inside the bag before you close it. This is an optional step. 

– Choose a Location

Place the bag close to a southern-facing window where it gets enough heat and humidity. Observe as the seeds begin to sprout in the next few days.

– Tips and Tricks

Seed Germination Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to make the whole experience even more fun and productive:

  1. Use a marker to write the date and name of the seed on the zip lock bag before you put it in the paper towel. This is an excellent idea to label your bags so you will not be confused about identifying the seeds and will not lose count of days.
  2. Plant the stubborn seeds like pepper first because they germinate with difficulty in soil. This method can be very effective in triggering germination.
  3. Record your progress using a gardening journal. It is absolutely fun to do this as you can get creative and make tables and timelines. You can also do this digitally.
  4. Do not pack up all your seeds in one go in a ziplock back for germination. Space out your seed germination so that you have something to look forward to and so that the plantation times vary. If you sow all tomatoes on the same day, most of them will be ready for harvest at the same time. But if you plant them with a gap of 15 days, you will have a continuous fresh supply.
  5. Do not feel discouraged if your seeds do not germinate fast. Follow our troubleshooting guide below to make sure everything is in order.

How Long It Takes

You will know it’s time to transplant the seeds from the paper towel to the ground when the radicle, or the white part of the sprout, is visible. It’s time to prepare your pots or soil with a good quality potting mixture and start transplanting.

Remember to read what kind of soil each seed needs. Usually, the potting mix will have peat moss, perlite, coir and compost. The combination of ratios will vary depending on which type of plant you want to grow. 

Once you have prepared your pots, make a hole at a recommended distance and place the germinated seeds carefully. Cover with soil and water gently. Place your pots in the sun or partial sun and continue to take care of them as they grow.


Germinate Vegetable Seeds

Vegetables are excellent plants to have in pots, and who doesn’t love home-grown, pesticide-free tomatoes and greens? You can sow seeds of vegetables through the paper towel germination method very easily.

If you are growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers, they will all sprout approximately in the same time frame. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to follow:

  1. Select good quality seeds, preferably heirlooms because of their extraordinary resistance to pests, their viability and their excellent flavor.
  2. Next, cut an 8 x 8-inch long paper towel and spread it on a dish. Use a spray bottle to dampen it lightly before scattering the seeds on the surface.
  3. Cover it with another 8×8-inch paper towel that is moist.
  4. Now carefully slide the paper towel in a 10×10-inch ziplock bag and seal it so that no air enters. This will keep the vegetable seeds moist
  5. You can now place the bag in a tray or a plate and keep it near a sunny window.
  6. Open it after a week and take a peek. If the seeds have sprouted, use a tweezer to pick each of them up and put them in a potting mix. 
  7. You can leave the ones that did not sprout in the bag for now and check again after a week. The ones that do not germinate after two weeks are unlikely to grow.

All vegetables need a rich, well-draining potting mix. It will be best for the seeds to grow in the kind of soil that they like the most. We hope this short guide was useful.

Germinate Peas and Beans 

Germinate Peas and Beans

Peas and beans are bigger seeds and although the technique is similar, there are some specific tricks that can help you grow them in a better way.

  1. Soak these seeds for 12 hours before placing them in paper towels for germination.
  2. Peas and beans germinate fast and need to be moved in the pot earlier than other plants.
  3. When choosing pea and beans to grow, make sure you label them correctly because some are bush types and others grow as a vine. Both plants will need different kinds of arrangements to grow properly.
  4. You can select fresh peas and dried, store-bought beans too. 
  5. Experiment with growing beans that you see in a supermarket. They have longer lives as seeds and can still grow even if they are not in a seed bag.

Germinate Fine Seeds 

Germinating fine seeds in paper towels is a very effective way of growing herbs and flowers whose seeds become hard to manage in the ground. Usually, fine seeds do not sprout in the soil because we put too much soil on them. We also find it difficult to place them properly and end up using too many seeds all at once.

Germinating them through the paper towel method is a fun way to do it. Here is a step-by-step guide for this purpose:

  1. Follow the same guidelines as the other types of seeds, but change the way you space and place your seeds.
  2. Scatter fine seeds at a distance from each other on a paper towel and place another paper towel on top before you spray it with water.
  3. Place it in a ziplock bag or in an airtight container and follow the guidelines above.
  4. Once the seeds begin to germinate, instead of picking them up by hand or tweezers, cut 2 or 3 inches of paper towels with seeds in between and plant it directly into the soil.
  5. The paper will decompose and plants will continue to grow.

This is similar to what paper seed tapes look like. You can make your own seed tapes too by cutting paper towels in strips, placing seeds at the right distance, and then sticking the other layer of paper towel on top with white glue on the sides. You can spread this in rows on a grow bed and cover lightly with soil.

How to Transplant the Seeds From Paper to a Pot

Transplant the seeds from a paper towel to the pot or the ground by picking them up by hand. If the seeds are too tiny, you can cut pieces of paper towels with seeds on it and plant them with the paper towel. 

Always transplant in the evening so that you do not expose the delicate seeds to full sunlight that can cause them to dry out quickly while transplanting.

How to Troubleshoot Seeds 

Troubleshoot Seeds Soggy Paper

Although paper towel germination is an excellent practice, it doesn’t work sometimes. Here are some reasons why this might not have worked for you and some solutions you can try.

– Soggy Paper Towel

If there is too much water in the bag, the seeds will rot and die before they sprout. Make sure you just spray it lightly.

– Dry Paper Towel

The seeds need moisture throughout the whole process of germination. If the bag is not sealed properly, the water will evaporate fast and make your germination fail.

– Seeds Are in Shade

Some seeds will need sunlight to sprout. This can be indirect light, which is why we recommend covering it with a towel and then keeping it near a window. If the bag is kept in the shade then the seeds might not sprout.

– Expired Seeds

Old seed packs may have expired seeds. Some seeds have a longer lifespan, but others may lose their viability within months. Take note that old seeds might not germinate. You can find life expectancy charts for seeds online.

– Best Seeds for Paper Towel Germination

Best Seeds for Paper Towel Germination

You can sprout all kinds of seeds that are super fine and otherwise difficult to be germinated through soil sowing methods. These can be seeds of succulents, herbs, vegetables, flowers, grasses or other ornamental plants.

Trees that have small seeds can also be sprouted using this method, but you cannot sprout seeds that are hard and big like Avocados.

Here is a list of common vegetables that you can easily germinate with the paper towel growing method.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants
  • Peas and beans
  • Broccoli, kale, chard
  • Turnip, radishes, beets
  • Cucumbers, squash, gourds
  • Lemons, strawberries
  • Wheatgrass and many more

Besides these delicious vegetables, you can also germinate:

  • Sunflowers and seasonal flowers in general
  • Herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, thyme
  • Fruits like date, moringa, watermelons, melons, papaya and more

We hope this list helps you in starting seeds in paper towels method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some questions you may still have about this topic.

– Is Germinating Seeds in Paper Towels Faster?

Yes, germinating seeds in a paper towel is a faster way to grow your plants without any use of potting mix, coir, perlite or peat moss. You do not even need seedling mats, trays, pots or any special gadgets to do it. It is a very low-tech, easy-to-do method that saves time and money.

– What Are Some Tips for Germinating Seeds in Paper Towels?

Growing them during the right season, using new seed packs, and not overwatering the seeds are some good tips to learn when germinating using paper towels. Here are some other tips for germinating seeds in paper towels:

  • Grow in the right season. Some seeds sprout in spring and others like to grow during summer. Read more about the growing seasons of the seed of your choice.
  • Do not use very old seed packs. Seeds expire, but this could also be a way of checking seeds for their viability without investing much effort or time.
  • Place towels in a ziplock bag to maintain moisture.
  • Do not overwater your paper towels.

– What Are the Benefits of Germinating Seeds in Paper Towels?

Germinating seeds in paper towels saves space, time and cost when compared to germinating in soil.

If you are wondering, why not just sow seeds in the ground instead? Then we will give three reasons why germinating seeds in paper towels is better.

  • You can test seed viability through the low-cost method. We all get disappointed when we put the potting mixture in a pot, carry it, and watch it every day for a sprout to appear, only for it to fail. This method gives you quick answers and helps you invest time and effort in only the good seeds.
  • You save a lot of space too while germinating seeds in paper towels. Imagine the space it takes to sow tiny seeds individually in seedling trays and tiny pots? This method reduces all that space and limits it to a ziplock bag.
  • It saves time. The ziplock method is the fastest method of seed germination as it creates the greenhouse effect and assists in maintaining the right temperature and moisture for the seeds to sprout.

Besides all these very convincing reasons to germinate seeds in a paper towel, you must know that some seeds only sprout through this method and may find it difficult to grow in soil.

– Can You Test the Germination Rate of Seeds Using Paper Towels?

Germination Rate of Seeds Using Paper Towels

Yes, one can test the germination rate of seeds using paper towels by observing how many seeds from a batch has sprouted.

Unsure about seed viability or wondering if you should order more seeds from a seed company? Here is a simple and fast way to test the germination rate and viability of your seeds:

  1. Take 10 seeds from a seed pack and follow the instructions above to germinate them through the paper towel method.
  2. Read the back of the package to see the expected number of days for it to sprout.
  3. Once you reach that day, for example, 14 days or 8 days, count how many seeds have sprouted. 
  4. If 5 out of 10 seeds have sprouted, the germination rate is 50 percent, and so on.
  5. For this method to work, you must also provide the right temperature for the germination of a particular seed.

Wondering what to do with old seeds? You can throw them into the soil to decompose or feed them to the birds. This way, you save a lot of time and have realistic expectations from the seed pack that you have.

Sometimes, the seed does not sprout on the suggested day and germinate late. These may still be planted but there are more chances for them to get infected or grow into a weak plant. You can still use such seeds as secondary plants and pick the strongest sprouts for the main crop.

– How Long Does It Take for the Seeds To Germinate in a Paper Towel?

If done correctly, it takes 7 to 10 days for the seeds to sprout in a paper towel. If it is taking more than that, you might want to check the seed pack for best before dates. Our troubleshooting guide also offers insights into what might be wrong in such cases.


Germinating seeds in a paper towel is a highly effective way to sprout your seeds. Here is quick review of what we learned about it through our guide above:

  • It takes less time, is cost effective, and needs less space to germinate seeds through paper towels.
  • This technique helps in checking the viability of seeds and speeds up the germination of difficult seeds.
  • Many vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs, fruits, grasses and even tree seeds can be germinated through this method.
  • It is ideal practice to label your ziplock bags before putting the paper towel and seeds inside for germination.
  • Remember, the wet paper towel can rot the seeds, but make sure to maintain moisture and do not let the paper dry out.

We hope that the guide above answered your questions and gave you a detailed insight into sprouting seeds in paper towel.

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