What if I told you the secret to germinating seeds overnight? (Or at least speeding up the process big time!) Yes – I am here to teach you all about the technique of germinating seeds in a paper towel inside a Ziploc baggie!
I discovered this life-changing gardening tip from someone in one of my online gardening groups during quarantine back in 2020 and never looked back. It’s been amazing to say the least!
Seed starting will never be the same! Armed with paper towels, plastic baggies, and grow lights for once they sprout, I am always SO READY for an amazing gardening season. And now you are, too!
This method of germinating seeds in paper towels is the quickest, cleanest, easiest, cheapest, and most successful seed starting trick I’ve tried. It’s also my favorite for all of those reasons!
What Is Paper Towel Germination?
Paper towel germination is an easy way to speed up seed sprouting! It’s so easy that I can’t believe I haven’t been doing it all along.
Simply keep seeds consistently moist by wrapping them in damp paper towels and sealing them up in plastic baggies for the greenhouse effect.
I can’t resist checking my plastic bag greenhouses the next morning and throughout the day. Some seeds like peas will often germinate overnight!
Let’s Get Started!
Seed germination in paper towels sounds super awesome, doesn’t it?! It is definitely my favorite method to use and to teach.
First get your materials ready and then go ahead and give it a whirl!
Here’s what you will need:
- Paper Towels
- Zip-top Baggies
- Sharpie or Permanent Marker
- Spray Bottle with Water
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I’ll wait while you go get your seeds, baggies and paper towels!
… (goes to check own seed germination in paper towel and baggies)
Okay, you’re back? Great! Let’s get started!
VIDEO: How to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels
Learning how to germinate seeds in a paper towel is quick, easy, and fun! Just check out my video to get started or skip ahead for the step-by-step instructions.
I hope that helps! Hit us up in the comments with any questions. 🙂 Keep reading for the step-by-step guide!
Germinating Seeds in Paper Towel and Plastic Bag Method: Step-by-Step
The method of germinating seeds in paper towels is so easy! I am really excited to guide you through this experience. It’s my favorite fast germination gardening technique.
Here’s how to germinate seeds in paper towels:
- Place a half-size paper towel on your work surface or tear a full-size sheet in half.
- Use a spray bottle filled with tap water to moisten the paper towel.
- Space out the seeds you wish to germinate at least an inch apart, if possible.
- Lightly sprits the paper towel one last time to wet the seeds as well.
- Fold the towel to wrap it around the seeds.
- Place the folded paper towel with seeds inside the bag and leave a little air inside if desired.
- Seal the Ziploc baggie and place it somewhere warm!
Tip: For the most part, I place them out of direct sunlight and often more in the dark.
Where to Put Seeds Germinating in Paper Towels and Bags?
I find a little bit of heat speeds up most of the seeds I try to grow in this manner.
You can place them most anywhere that’s warm! On top of your microwave or fridge is a great starting point. You could also try near the dryer or somewhere else that gets warm.
(Just be sure not to create a fire hazard!)
Sometimes I like to place mine on the floor surrounding our heating vents!
In 2020, I had them in the kitchen, powder room, and dining room. It may or may not have driven my husband absolutely nuts. (Sorry babe!)
It was AWESOME!
Can’t wait to do it again… Every. Single. Year.
At any point in the year, I almost always have something germinating in baggies on top of the microwave. 🙂
What Seeds to Start in Wet Paper Towels and Baggies?
I am so excited about this process that I will probably start most of my seeds in wet paper towels forever.
Over the years, I’ve tried SO many different kinds of seeds in paper towels. We germinated all of these seeds using the wet paper towel method:
- Snow Peas
- Green Beans
- Wax Beans
- Key Limes
- Mixed Beans from a soup mix
I am sure there were many others since I loved this method and kept trying it. Betting my bottom dollar there will be many more, too!
I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard you can use paper towel germination techniques on lavender, papaya, cactus, and poppy seeds.
Worth a shot!
When sprouting seeds, paper towels moistened with water can often coax even the most stubborn seedlings out!
If you try any, hit us up in the comments and let us know how it goes, please!
Also, it’s worth noting that not all crops are best suited for paper towel germination. For example, kale germination time is very quick! You wouldn’t gain much by starting kale in wet paper towels.
Meanwhile, a number of cool weather crops and some delicate flowers sometimes work better direct sown.
Although, I did attempt sprouting broccoli seeds using this method!
My very first experience with wet paper towel seed germination was with peas. And it was every bit of amazing.
I am not kidding you – they literally had their little root radicle popping out the very next morning when I checked them! Most of the seeds germinated overnight!
Germinating Tomato Seeds in Paper Towel
I’m not going to lie. I got tired of waiting for my tomato seeds to germinate in the past.
First, I had to find and buy Roma seeds! It felt like they were sold out everywhere (stupid pandemic!!).
Then, I ordered them and they took the better part of a week to get here!
A week is major when you wanna start a garden!
Finally, they arrived and I planted them immediately. Like, right after I opened the mailing envelope.
Waited some more…
You get the idea!
Finally, I got tired of waiting so I decided to try the paper towel germination method that had worked so well with our pea seedlings.
Germinating tomato seeds in paper towels was way quicker than starting seeds in dirt. Starting tomato seeds in paper towels took about 5 days or less.
Planting directly in potting soil took more than 12 days if my memory serves me.
Probably closer to two weeks, but I was very impatient if I’m being honest.
Even under lights!
Needless to say, I will be germinating tomato seeds in paper towel and baggy method for the foreseeable future. 🙂
Germinating Eggplant Seeds with Paper Towel
I couldn’t get my eggplant seeds to sprout at all in traditional potting soil! Did anyone else have trouble?
I finally decided to try starting seeds in paper towel soaked in water in a zip-seal baggie for my eggplants one year.
Voila! Just like magic, I got excellent results germinating eggplant seeds using the wet paper towel method.
Once established, the tiny eggplant seedlings transferred very well to egg cartons with potting soil.
The eggplant seedlings also potted up well to bigger pots and grew to maturity outside.
I love that they self-pollinate! It was so exciting to see the bright purple blossom and then the purple fruit growing.
Waiting for the eggplant to grow larger, I gave the roving groundhog ample opportunity to steal it.
And steal it he did!
We were so disappointed because we still could’ve picked the eggplant small. That groundhog is the worst!
Hoping for better luck this year!
Germinating Strawberry Seeds (Paper Towel Method)
I have not tried germinating strawberry seeds in paper towels yet, but I fully believe it will work.
One year we grew baby strawberry plants from seed in little Dixie cups on my kitchen windowsill. They did AMAZING!
Superb germination rate and adorable little plants. The worst part was they took every moment of three weeks to germinate.
I did constant water misting at least once per day, so I have full confidence they will do well with paper towel germination.
This sounds like a good gardening starter project!
(By the way, if you’d like to try my method, check out my other post – Planting Strawberry Seeds in Pots.)
Germinating Apple Seeds in Paper Towel
Planting apple seeds is a little controversial in some of my gardening groups. It’s well-known or at least widely suggested that apple trees grown from seed do not grow true to type.
So, they may not at all resemble the parent plant.
In other worse, you may end up with a crabapple!
Or worse, no fruit at all.
Still, I am a curious gardener and love the growing process. I have heard success stories of those who’ve planted from seed.
I’ve heard grafting is the commonly used process, but I always think it’s good to give it the old college try.
Last year we found some Granny Smith apple seeds that had sprouted inside the apple! We happily harvested them and transferred some to soil and some to baggies with wet paper towels.
All of them did really well!
Unfortunately, they did not get all the care needed once we moved them outside, and some got roasted before being hardened off. It breaks my heart thinking about it, actually.
Better luck next time and at least we have a pear tree growing that we started with this very same germination method!
I can’t recall if it’s a Bartlett or D’Anjou, but the way my kids devour pears, I am going to pray whatever it is decides to bear fruit in a few years!
Tips for Sprouting Seeds in Paper Towel
Here are some of my best tips for sprouting seeds in paper towels:
- Write the date and seed type on the baggie. I use a Sharpie for this. I get so excited gardening, I often go overboard, so it’s good to know what’s what and when you first planted them!
- Plant those with the longest time to germination first. I found the paper towel / plastic baggie method very helpful in speeding up germination for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant especially.
- Don’t be discouraged if the seeds won’t germinate right away. You can check out my troubleshooting steps below for a better result!
- Use a gardening journal to track your efforts and results! I like to think I would remember everything but as a mom of two girls, I know it just isn’t true. I am definitely planning to start a garden journal this year to track our start dates, sprout dates, harvests, successes, and what to do different the following years!
- Space it out so you have more nights to enjoy it! It’s quick and easy to pop a few more seeds inside a wet paper towel and seal it up. Give yourself something fun to look forward to at the end of each day. Do it before bed so you get all the time while you’re sleeping for those babies to grow, grow, grow!
- Learn how to plant germinated seeds for greater success. Once your seeds sprout, you can move them to soil, water regularly, provide light, and nurture them to healthy young plants!
If you have any other tips for paper towel seed germinating, please share in our comments below!
Troubleshooting: Why Are My Seeds Not Germinating in Paper Towel Method?
Waiting for seeds to sprout takes a lot of patience! Sometimes I just don’t have it in me.
I find starting seeds in a paper towel inside baggies will give me an awesome head start!
Still, I may find some seeds not germinating in paper towel method, despite my best efforts.
Here are some troubleshooting steps to try as you begin starting seeds in paper towels.
- Is your paper towel too wet? Seeds can start to rot if there’s too much water and they’ve taken too long to germinate.
- Is your paper towel too dry? Your seeds may need constant moisture to sprout.
- Does your particular type of seed need sunlight to germinate? Try taping a baggie of seeds in a wet paper towel on a window or glass door!
- Are your seeds too old or otherwise unviable? If you’ve got a bad batch of seeds or a particularly old batch, they may not sprout no matter what you do. Try adding some heat! You can place your seed baggies on top of your fridge, microwave, or next to your heating vent on the floor.
- Does your seed need cold stratification? Try placing your baggies in the fridge for a week or two and check them again after they’ve had some time to chill out!
Paper Towel Method: Final Thoughts
I can’t say enough great things about starting seeds in wet paper towels! I love starting seeds this way.
Here are some of the best benefits of seed germination in plastic baggies with a moist paper towel:
- Quicker Germination – Seeds can sprout overnight or within just a few days! (Some varieties take longer, but the overall process is definitely quicker!)
- Less Mess – Starting seeds in plastic baggies with wet paper towels means no need to mess around with potting soil for a little while at first. Enjoy the cleaner and quicker start to your garden!
- Seed Viability Testing – The paper towel method makes it so easy to check the germination rate and viability of your seeds. This is particularly helpful when you have limited gardening space at your disposal!
- Small Space Friendly – If your indoor gardening setup is limited, you can still enjoy bountiful seed starting.
- So Much Fun – With a gardening activity like growing seeds in a plastic bag, preschool kids, toddlers, school aged kids – heck, just about anyone will enjoy the discovery and adventure of this fun process. Germination for kids at its finest!
Sprouting seeds, paper towels, what could be better… If you haven’t tried this method yet, what are you waiting for?!
As I’ve said, this is one of my favorite gardening adventures! I hope this guide makes it super easy for you and I’d love to hear how it goes.
By the way, once your seeds germinate using this method, move on to the next step – transplanting germinated seeds in soil!
Learn How to Germinate Seeds
In conclusion, as far as I am concerned, this is the fastest way to germinate seeds, and least messy way as well. I sprout seeds in paper towels like this every year and love it!
I will continue sharing this easy seed starting trick to help others speed up seed sprouting!
Here’s a quick visual to help at a glance:
Please share in the comments below and spread the love if you have other gardeners in your circle who may enjoy this fun and fast seed sprouting technique!
12.03.21 – Edited to add links to clementine and lemon tree posts.
07.08.22 – Edited to convert to blocks and add info as needed.
11.11.22 – Updated to add link to Google web story. Also improved spacing.
12.29.22 – Updated post with link to apple seeds post, kiwi, lime, grapefruit, as well as next step for the germinated seeds. Also added proper size pics and new photos.
01.20.23 – Updated to add infographic image with the process.
03.15.23 – Added link to gws.
04.13.23 – Added eggplant photos.
04.23.23 – Updated to add FAQ section, added more photos and added video.