How to speed up germination?

Successful Seed Germination

A seed is a miracle waiting to happen. The embryo comes pre-packaged with a food supply and the vital genetic information needed to become a plant just like its parents. Seeds exist in a state of dormancy, absorbing oxygen, giving off carbon dioxide, and slowly using up their stored food reserves. During this process the seed continually monitors the external environment waiting for ideal conditions specific for the particular seed. Once the ideal conditions occur, the seed breaks dormancy and germinates. The seedling gathers energy through its leaves by the process of photosynthesis and absorbs nutrients and water from the soil through the roots. As gardeners, our goal is to provide the optimal environment for germination and seedling growth.

For germinating seeds indoors, select a well-drained potting medium designed specifically for germinating seeds. Use clean containers with drainage holes in the bottom. Wash used containers with warm soapy water and rinse with a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Slightly overfill containers with the potting soil and tap the bottom and sides to encourage even settling.

Create a level surface by scraping excess soil with a board or knife. Do not press or compact the soil which will make it harder for the seeds to get started. Some gardeners will lightly firm the soil with a board to create a level surface. Moisten the soil either by watering carefully from the top or letting water soak up through the bottom. Allow excess water to drain away.

Seeds require a certain temperature in order to germinate. Each plant has a specific optimum and a range within which germination will occur. The closer the temperature is to optimum the quicker germination will occur. Most seeds germinate when the soil temperature is between 68(and 86(F. Once germination occurs, the optimum growing temperature for theseedling is about 10(F cooler than the optimum germination temperature.

Moisture is critical for germinating seeds. They like a moist but not soggy environment. Seeds require oxygen and if kept in a waterlogged state may rot. On the other hand, if the soil dries out, the seed will lose whatever water it has absorbed and will die. Finding the middle ground can be difficult and comes easier with practice. After sowing the seeds, mist the tray with water and cover with plastic wrap, a plastic bag, glass or plexiglass to seal in moisture. As soon as seed germinates remove the covering. Check the seedlings twice a day for moisture. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. Ventilation and air circulation are also important to discourage damping off diseases. Some seeds need light in order to germinate, but many do not. Seed packages will usually indicate what your particular selection requires. It is important to follow the directions given on the package for planting depth. In addition to light requirements, seeds that are planted too deep will not have enough stored energy to reach the soil surface and may die in the process. After germination occurs, seedlings require about 12 to 16 hours of light a day. Intense light is necessary to prevent spindly or leggy seedlings. If you are growing under lights, make sure the light source is 4 to 6 inches above the plants. In a sunny window, turn the seedlings regularly to avoid leaning.

If you are sowing seeds in furrows or flats, transplant individual seedlings into cell packs when the first true leaves appear or when they are large enough to handle Seedlings started indoors should be fertilized regularly with a dilute (1/4 strength) water soluble fertilizer. This will help to produce stockier transplants provided enough light is available.

Before planting in the garden, gradually acclimate transplants to the outdoors. Start by putting them outside on cloudy days or in a shaded location then after a few days work them into more light and exposure. Overcast skies or late afternoon is the best time to plant in the garden. Water immediately after transplanting. If plants wilt, provide some protection with an open milk carton or a board for a few days.

As gardeners everywhere begin the gardening season, these suggestions should help in raising strong healthy plants for enjoyment in the months to come.

This article originally appeared in the February 9, 1996 issue, p. 11.

TL;DR : It tells them the conditions for their germination are perfect (that spring has come for most plants and that it is time to come out of their dormancy).

Germination is the first and one of the most important steps in a plant’s life cycle. If you’ve ever grown plants from seeds you must have noticed that not all of them germinate and that they require special conditions to start growing. Most of the seeds you will grow require approximately the same conditions in order for their growth spurt to initiate. Some seeds require very special conditions in order to start their life cycles, conditions which may be hard to reproduce in a garden so there are also ways to try to replicate the elements needed artificially or at home. Plants may need various circumstances like fire (and the chemicals resulting from a forest fire) or animal interaction. Some seed need their outer shell to be dissolved by going through an animal’s digestive system (seeds ingested by birds or baobab seeds digested by elephants).

Seeds can wait for very long periods of time if not all of the right conditions are met. This is depends on the seeds, salad seeds can be kept in dry and cold conditions for only a couple of years whilst tomato seeds for example may last around 8 years sometimes (some seeds may also be frozen, there are many ways to store your seeds). The seedling will just wait inside its protective shell for spring to come.

In this first part we will explore the principal needs of a plant in order to begin germination (especially water) before later talking about plants requiring exceptional conditions to grow and the way to replicate these conditions the best way possible at home in order to accelerate this process.

Common needs

Important facts

Four main factors are required for successful germination:

  • Water
  • Oxygen
  • Warmth
  • Light

So how exactly does a seed germinate and more importantly what are seeds made of?

This is what most seeds are made of :

Seed coat

The seed coat is a tough protective outer covering or shell. Depending on the plant species it can be pretty soft (orange seeds are pretty soft, you might accidentally bite through them whilst eating your favorite fruit) to very hard (try chewing through baobab seeds). This also depends on other factors like the amount of time the seed had to mature on its parent plant. The more time seeds spend attached to the plant, the harder they get. This is why some seeds need to be picked at the beginning of the season in order to have the best germination chances. The harder a seed gets the harder it is for the embryo (or baby plant) to break through this tough shell.


This part of the seed consists of the young root and shoot which will develop into the adult plant. It is very fragile in its first days so handle it with care!

Food store

This is a store of food (also called starch) for the new plant to use until it is large enough to make its own food, that is, when it gets its own leaves and when its root system has developed in sufficient quantity. This part is made up of one or two cotyledons, which are the food sources for baby plants. These may either stay underground or come up with the stem and the first leaves and eventually fall off when their resources are depleted (you may have seen this with beans for example).


When trying to grow plants from seeds you should make sure you are not only giving them the proper conditions or in house climate to germinate but also that you are aware that seedlings are very yummy, soft and squishy to small invertebrates like slugs and that if you don’t protect them there may be a genocide overnight. Seed domes are pretty good at protecting plants all the while providing them with a warm and moist environment to grow in. You can buy a seed dome or make your own DIY miniature seed domes with plastic bottle or jugs cut in half. These will stop most pests getting in (unless they reaaaally want to). Read more about garden pests on our guide on how to regulate garden pest population.

The perfect temperature

When gardeners refer to temperature, they are talking about the temperature of the soil, not of the air. If you are planting in small plant pots, the air temperature and the temperature of your soil are usually one and the same. Sometimes that is simply not the case. For example, you can start growing seeds in hot beds (garden beds with decomposing manure warming the soil, learn more from experts : before the air temperature starts to be acceptable for plants in spring. Most plants do not mind the cold air as much as you would think. What they really don’t like is their roots freezing in damp soil.

Hot beds are great for growing vegetables (that are adapted to your climat) early. Yet you might also want to grow other plants. Plant species and varieties have each adapted to the environment they are endemic to. This is why they will start growing in different conditions. If you like traveling around the world you have without a doubt noticed that the plants you find naturally in each country or area are sometimes totally different. You don’t find many banana trees in the North of France do you? Seems pretty logical.

Well seeds are just the same. A tropical plant is very unlikely to start growing in spring in a garden in Norway. You would not expect a tropical seed adapted to a uniformly warm-to-hot environment to thrive in cool temperatures, would you?

So if you want to start growing tropical plants, you can either get them to start growing in summer and hope they have enough time to build up resources or start them inside with the proper temperature, which sometimes requires special material (or imagination).

For example we brought back Suicide Tree or Cerebera Odollam ( seeds from Thailand in February and they took 5 months to start growing and they only did start when the weather in France was said to be one of the worst heat-waves in years.

In a garden the soil temperature is usually a few degrees cooler (or warmer on cold winter nights) than the air temperature because the soil is cooled by evaporation from its surface. So don’t worry if your plants aren’t sprouting as soon as the weatherman announces the ideal temperature for your plant. It takes a while to warm up in spring.

Gentle bottom heat is usually best to give your seed the optimal temperature for best germination; your seed will start quicker, in a more uniform way and will be ready just in time. It might be a good idea to set your growing table on a radiator (not too hot or too dry) in front of a window at the end of the winter to get them started and ready for spring.

You can also use a waterproof seedling heat mat with a thermostat. You can find some online at a relatively cheap price if you can’t make a hot bed or if your radiators dry out the soil too quickly. This is a reliable and easily controlled way to give your little seedlings exactly the heat they require. Just be sure to use a heating mat with a thermostat because otherwise the sudden changes in temperature might damage your plants. You can set it for the temperature your seeds require and it will monitor the temperature for you, making sure you don’t accidentally bake your plants or slow their growth down by being too cold.

The ideal temperature simply signals to plants that the time is right to start a budding new life.

Some species also need a different temperature for germinating than they do for seedling growth. This might be an important thing to take into account. You really need to research what each plant needs if your want to stack the odds in your favor. We’d like to provide you with some ideas from our seed bank. We haven’t quite finished it yet unfortunately, but we should get there soon!

The right amount of moisture

Seeds need water to:

  1. Break open their shell: The seed coat becomes imbibed with moisture, swells up and breaks open (hopefully). Some seeds like baobabs or almonds are impervious to water and gases. This may delay or completely prevent germination. In some cases plants may need a little help from you if you wish to be successful at growing them. There are a few ways of getting through the testa (another name for the seed’s shell). Any process of breaking, scratching, or altering it through chemical, physical or thermal methods to make it permeable to water and gases is known as scarification. You may already have heard of this.
  2. Activate hydrolytic enzymes: Enzymes that are necessary in order to metabolise the food reserve (starch) are activated with water’s helping hand.
  3. Wash away abscisic acid: Abscisic acid is a plant hormone that is responsible for seed dormancy. Excess water helps to wash away this abscisic acid, allowing the plant to leave its dormancy stage.
  4. Help with photosynthesis: Once the food reserves in the cotyledons are all used up (you can sometimes watch this happen in beans: the cotyledons shrivel up and fall off the plant), the developing embryos produces food via photosynthesis. Water is extremely important to plants, for photosynthesis and other vital functions, if you want to learn about this, we recommend you read our post on why plants need water.

You do need moisture for seed germination, but you need it in the right quantities if you want to be successful at growing seeds. The planting medium must be kept evenly moist, but never waterlogged: too little moisture and germination will not occur; too much and your seedlings will rot.

Ready to start planting?

Be aware that the best way to start off is to have a growing medium that is already moist before adding your seeds to it. This should be done no matter the medium you are using even soilless mixes.

If you experience difficulties with gentle top watering (if you displace seeds, plants or turn over too much soil) you should definitely change your strategy and switch to watering your soil from the bottom. Try placing your container or plant pots in a tray(s) and water the tray(s) and just let the growing medium soak up what water it needs from the bottom. Do not let water sit in the tray after the plants have soaked up the water they need. The soil should be moist not drenched. Bottom watering can minimize disease, keep the soil evenly moist without overwatering, and more importantly it may prevent accidental dislodging or washing away small seeds that are just getting started, exposing them to possible death.

Personally we like growing our seeds in cleaned food containers stop with see-through lids with small holes in the for aeration. These will stop most humidity from leaving the container. Water will evaporate and condense on the walls and lid. Once the condensation merges into droplets these will just fall back into the soil. You will need to water your seedlings much less often.

While seeds need a humid atmosphere to germinate, seedlings need good air circulation to thrive. So if you try to use this method please remove the lid as soon as your seedling grow their first leaves. Just take the cover off and rely on the growing medium to supply the moisture needed (with your help), not the air.

Sunlight (or artificial lighting)

Providing your seeds with the right lighting conditions is as important as giving them the temperature and moisture they need. Most seeds need light to germinate, some require darkness, and some pretty much don’t care one way or another. Once more it’s up to you to learn what each seed’s needs are.

If light is a vital element in your seeds growth, simply plant them on top of the medium and cover it you see-through matter (like cellophane or plastic) or do not cover it at all. Some seeds grow well in wet white paper towels for example. If darkness is required, completely cover the seed with planting medium (no more than three times its diameter), unless they are too thin to be covered.

Once your seed have germinated, the seedlings will need light as much as air or water. Indeed, light is vital for plants to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar (which plants use for food), in a process known as photosynthesis (Read about why plants need water and light). If light intensity is too low, which often happens during the short days of winter or during prolonged cloudy periods, the plants will be unhealthy, tall and spindly. This is why it is sometimes hard to start your seedlings inside in early spring. This is especially the case if you don’t have a greenhouse, a sunny window or the right material (artificial lights, …).

Find them a sunny spot (free from predators and hostile elements like strong winds) or use the right artificial lights to help you plants grow sturdy. Artificial lights.

Be sure to leave some room on windowsills for your cat (if you have one), or you’ll probably find it sleeping on your seedlings at some point. This is a common problem we have!


Well, at least this one shouldn’t be too hard. There’s pretty much no way to screw this one up, so don’t worry too much about it. Just don’t try to get seeds to sprout in a closed jar.

Well you’re all set now! Just remember some plants require very special conditions in order to begin the germination process so before try on rare or expensive seeds please start with easy seeds or read about their specific germination process.

If you are really into growing from seed, you can keep a record book of when you planted, how long it took to germinate, whether you started your seed too early or too late, or whether you grew too few or too many. You should also note your plants survival rate. This way your harvest will be that much more effective the following year.

Growing plants from seeds is a constant experiment which is a lot of fun. So we recommend trying out new stuff and letting your imagination roam free.

I hope our next article will be on the best ways to get a seed to germinate!

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Thank you for reading!

Germinate cannabis seeds: Best ways

Germinate cannabis seeds

The best cannabis seeds can be expensive, so it pays to have a good germination method. Here are three different, but fully proven, methods which will give you consistently good germination rates (assuming the cannabis seed was of good quality of course)

The three detailed marijuana seed germination guides detail the use of cotton pads and RootIt Cubes, as well as traditional soil germination of cannabis seeds. The seed germination guides are equally valid for feminized seeds, autoflower seeds, regular seeds, CBD seeds, outdoor cannabis seeds or any other type of cannabis seed.

How to germinate cannabis seeds in cotton pads?

Using the same make-up cotton pads available in any pharmacy or drug store you can germinate your cannabis seeds easily. The method shows how you can germinate marijuana seeds between two damp cotton pads and then leave these pads on a dish covered in transparent kitchen film.

How to germinate cannabis seeds in soil?

Many growers have used soil for years. Germinating your cannabis seeds in soil is easy enough with a few simple rules. The germination guide explains soil preparation. It explains how to place the seed in the soil and advises on watering, temperatures etc. If you want to germinate and grow your seeds in soil then this is the guide for you.

How to germinate cannabis seeds in RootIt Cubes?

RooIt Cubes, along with many similar germination cubes, all use a moisture retaining material to geminate your cannabis seeds. Often this is a synthetic brown foam polymer, but glass wool and coco fibre have been used. The guide explains how the germination cubes are prepared and kept moist, as well as showing how to place the cannabis seed inside. RootIt Cubes and similar products are widely available online and in grow shops, they are a convenient and easy way to germinate weed seeds. If you are planning to germinate your cannabis seeds with germination cubes then this guide is for you.

Important. Avoid pulling the seed casing away from the seedling (especially new growers), you can damage the seedling. Its always better to wait until the seed case dries out and falls off naturally. Ripping the seed casing away from the first set of baby leaves (cotyledon) too early damages the young seedling and can kill it.

Each grower will have their own preferred germination method, these methods are our suggestions based on many years of customer feedback from Dutch Passion customers. Good luck!

    Stages of Germination

We have already learned that seeds contain embryonic roots, stems, and leaves, and enough food to keep the plant growing until it has the ability to produce its own food through photosynthesis.

Epicotyl (will become the shoot-stems and leaves)

Radicle (embryonic root)

Hypocotyl (connection between cotyledon and radicle)

Cotyledon (seed leaf)

Note: If the seed has one cotyledon, it is a monocot. Corn is a monocot. If it has two, it is a dicot. A bean is a dicot.

Once germination requirements have been met, these embryonic plant parts begin to grow. Botanists are still debating whether cell expansion or cell division is responsible for this growth. Either way, the following process takes place:

1) The radicle pushes through the seed coat into the soil 2) Primary roots begin to develop and the hypocotyl forms a hook that straightens out, pulling the cotyledons above ground.

3) The emergent seedling begin to straighten out, taking the cotyledons with it. 4) The primary leaves begin unfolding and the stem elongates.

5) The true leaves completely emerge and the cotyledons eventually fall off.

Once the true leaves have completely emerged, the germination process is complete.

Plants are able to carry out all of their activities, including germination, because cells perform their designated tasks. Let’s get reacquainted with cells before we really dive into what plants do.

Pascoe, Elaine. 1997. Nature Close-Up: Seeds and Seedlings. Blackbirch Marketing. ISBN: 1-5671-1178-5.

Soaking Seeds to Speed Germination

I’m often the first to admit that there’s not much you need if you want to start from seed — just a good growing medium, sunshine, and water.

But sometimes there are forces working against us, and if there’s a way to boost our chances of seed starting success, I’m all for it.

Take, for instance, tomato seeds. Those hardy specimens have germinated on their own for generations without any interference from us well-meaning gardeners, but fermenting them before drying and storing them gives the seeds a great start come springtime.

Pea seeds are another example. They’re among the easiest of seeds to sprout, but because they grow in cooler weather, the timing can be a little tricky.

Sow them too soon, and they could rot in the ground from a cold and rainy spring. Sow them too late, and they could struggle to flower once the heat sets in. The same goes for sowing them too late in fall as well; a sudden frost might hit before they have a chance to germinate.

Despite being cold-tolerant, pea seeds prefer to sprout in daytime soil temperatures of 60°F to 80°F. Temperatures below or above have a significant impact on germination, either by delaying the process or causing the seeds to decay altogether.

While peas will still germinate when the ground is 40°F, it could take a month or more before you see the first sprout! So for maximum production in the shortest amount of time, plan for putting your peas out when the soil is still fairly warm.

To ensure the seeds will germinate the same week (and take away any uncertainty as to weather), I like to soak them before sowing the seeds outside. This method is sometimes referred to as presoaking.

All seeds need moisture. As you may have learned in my seed anatomy post, the seed itself is actually a seed coat (like a coat of arms) that protects the embryo (future plant) inside. The seed coat stays intact until the proper conditions (temperature, moisture, lightness or darkness) present themselves for the plant to emerge.

Once the temperature feels just right, and there’s enough moisture to cause the seed coat to swell and rupture (thereby releasing its food stores and coaxing the embryo to develop), you have germination.

If it is too cold or too wet, too warm or too dry for that particular seed, it will fail to germinate at all. By soaking seeds ahead of time, you remove some of those barriers so that the seeds are ready to sprout by the time you stick them in the soil.

Soaking is particularly useful for gardeners with heavy clay or super sandy soil. Clay is difficult to moisten evenly if it’s allowed to dry out; and once it does stay wet, it can hold moisture for too long, causing seeds to rot.

On the flip side, sand drains very quickly, making it a challenge to keep seeds (especially those near the surface) moist enough for germination to occur.

If the seeds are already wet, and the seed coats have absorbed enough water for the first root to emerge, that could mean a much earlier harvest than sowing seeds that were dry. It also relieves some of the stress of ensuring your soil is adequately damp after you’ve sowed a row of seeds — a task that’s a little trickier when starting seeds outside versus inside.

What to Soak

Soaking is beneficial for pea seeds as well as other seeds with thick, hard coats, such as fava beans (Vicia faba), beets, cucumbers, corn, and squash. Big seeds. Wrinkled seeds. In general, the tougher the seed, the better it will fare with soaking.

You can actually do this with any seed, including flowers and herbs, though I feel the smaller ones (like carrots, which are among the slowest to germinate, ironically) are too troublesome to work with when they’re wet. If you don’t mind pouring all the seeds on the soil and thinning them out later, go for it!

Common bean seeds (Phaseolus vulgaris) are actually quite thin, despite the shiny, hard appearance of their seed coats. They don’t benefit all that much from soaking, but should you insist, that brings us to…

How Long to Soak

Throw your seeds into a small bowl or glass filled with warm water (just enough to cover the seeds). For thick-skinned seeds like peas, aim for 8 to 10 hours (or overnight, assuming you soak them before bed and sow them in the morning). For thin-skinned seeds like snap beans, soak for 2 to 4 hours.

For all other seeds in between, the appropriate length of time to soak is more an art than a science. You want to soak them long enough so that the coats begin to swell, but not so long that they just split or rot.

A safe place to start is a couple of hours; after that, check your seeds every hour until they plump up. Anecdotal evidence abounds for people who have soaked seeds for up to 24 hours without issue (such as the case with okra), but this is really a matter of try-and-see.

There might be a few floaters, but contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily mean the floating seeds are “bad.” They’re soaked for such a short period of time that it isn’t possible to tell whether or not they’ll germinate — sometimes they will.

Seeds may float because they lack viable embryos or nutrient stores, making them less dense than “good” seeds that sink. Or, they may float because they have air pockets inside, which don’t always affect seed vigor or viability. The only sure way to test germination is to use the coffee filter method.

When to Sow the Seeds

Once the seeds soften a bit and start to swell (an appearance you’ll become familiar with the more often you soak your seeds), sow them in the ground immediately. You’ll often find that by soaking your seeds ahead of time, you’ve shaved a few days to even a week or more off the germination time.

Keep the soil uniformly moist and you should see the first sprouts within a couple of days. Congratulations, you’ve just given your crop a head start on life!

Methods For Germinating Seeds – Learning How To Successfully Germinate Seeds

Many inexperienced gardeners think that the steps for how to germinate seeds are the same for all seeds. This is not the case. Knowing what is the best way to germinate seeds depends on what you are trying to grow, and how to successfully germinate seeds varies greatly. In this article, you will not find the steps of seed germination for the seeds you have. What you will find is an explanation for different terminology that might be used when you find the directions for seed germination that specifically apply to your seeds.

Terms Related to How to Germinate Seeds

Viability – When talking about seed germination, viability will refer to the chance that the seed will be able to germinate. Some seeds can sit for years and still have a high viability. Other seeds, though, may lose viability within hours of being removed from the fruit.

Dormancy – Some seeds need to have a certain amount of rest time before they can be germinated. A seed’s period of dormancy sometimes also coincides with a stratification process.

Stratification – Oftentimes when someone refers to stratification, they are referring to the process of cold treating a seed in order to break its dormancy, but on a broader level, stratification can also refer to any process used to help a seed germinate. Forms of stratification can include exposure to acid (artificially or within the stomach of an animal), scratching the seed coat or cold treatment.

Cold treatment – Some seeds need to be exposed to a certain period of cold in order to break their dormancy. The temperature and length of cold needed to complete the cold treatment will vary depending on the seed variety.

Scarification – This refers to the process of literally damaging the seed coat. Some seeds are so well protected by their seed coat that the seedling is not able to break through it on its own. Sandpaper, knives or other methods can be used to nick the seed coat to allow a place where the seedling can break through the seed coat.

Pre-soaking – Like scarification, pre-soaking helps to soften the seed coat of the plant, which both speeds up germination and increases the viability of the seeds planted. Many seeds, even if it is not stated in their steps of seed germination, will benefit from pre-soaking.

Light needed germination – While many seeds need to be placed under the soil in order to germinate, there are some that actually need light in order to germinate. Burying these seeds below the soil will keep them from germinating.

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