Last Updated on June 2, 2022 by Gary Stephen
Propagation is one of the most important processes in the life cycle of the plants. Naturally, this is done through the organic course of seed dispersion in the environment. Alternatively, it can also be initiated through artificial or man-made means. Nowadays, any type of plant can be propagated at any point you wish. Most often, it is conveniently undertaken through various artificial methods. One of the techniques commonly used by growers is to germinate seeds in paper towels.
Yup, you heard it right!
Paper towels aren’t just for cleaning up your messes. But, it is also surprisingly a good medium to use for propagating your plant’s seeds.
In this article, we will share with you the ultimate step-by-step guide on how to go about the propagation. We will also compare how effective it is versus using traditional soil medium. Furthermore, we will also include some of our best pick products to use during the process.
So, as a grower, nothing can be more fulfilling than having been able to see your cultivar grow day by day. To witness it flourish from seed to a mature plant is one of the best rewards you can reap from gardening.
Why use paper towels?
There are 3 distinct features that make paper towels advantageous for germinating seeds.
First is its ability to hold moisture. Seeds, in general, require their environment to be moist at all times in order for it to thrive. It should never dry out. So, the high absorbency of the paper towels makes it a good material to create a suitable growing condition for the seeds.
Second, it helps to keep your seeds pathogen-free. Technically, fresh and new sheets of paper towels can be considered sterile. So, you don’t have to worry about cross-contaminating your seeds with potential diseases. Moreover, the paper towel acts as a barrier to any type of insects. Thus, blocking it from invading your germinating seeds.
The third is for its ease of monitoring. Using paper towels makes it a whole lot easier to observe the progress of your germinating seeds. It is thin enough to somewhat allow for visual inspection.
Are there other materials you can use aside from paper towels?
Yes, sure! Taking into consideration the key features mentioned above, there are also alternative materials you can use. Should paper towels be unavailable, you can opt to use coffee filter papers instead. Better yet, you can also recycle your old newspapers for this project.
This project only calls for these few things:
- Paper towels
- Zip-closure plastic bag
- Permanent marker
- Heating mat (Optional)
- Spray bottle
For use in transplantation:
How To Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels
Steps to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels:
- Get a zip-close bag and flex the opening wide to create a hollow space.
- Use 1 or 2 sheets depending on the size of your paper towel.
- Dampen the paper towels with water. It should be saturated but not soaking wet.
- Lay flat one moistened paper towel inside the zip-close bag.
- Put 5 to 10 seeds on top of the moistened paper towel.
- Make sure not to overcrowd. Leave a good distance between the seed to give it ample space to grow.
- Place the other moistened paper towel on top of the seeds to cover.
- Seal the bag tightly.
- Place the bag in a warm and dark area. Keep it away from direct sunlight.
- You can also use a heating mat to provide it a consistent temperature range between 70°F to 80°F.
- For proper monitoring, you can label the outside of the bag with the date and the type of seeds enclosed (if germinating different varieties at the same time).
- Check the progress of your seeds daily.
- Spritz more water if the paper towels are starting to dry out.
The plastic bag serves as your improvised mini greenhouse. It keeps the heat and moisture within thus making it the perfect environment for your seeds to grow into. It should take about 5 to 7 days before the seeds start to sprout.
Steps for Transplanting the Germinated Seeds:
- Once roots have already grown, you are now ready to transplant the seedlings into the potting soil.
- Fill your pot with the appropriate type of potting soil.
- Poke holes big enough to fit your seedling.
- Using tweezers, carefully pluck out the seedling from the paper towels.
- Transfer the seedlings into the holes in the soil.
- Fill the rest of the hole with more potting soil.
- Lightly tap the soil covering without compressing the seedlings too much.
- If the seed has already grown leaves, make sure it rises above the soil.
- It should take about a week or two for it to be ready for outdoor planting.
Always remember that the roots it grew during this phase are still very delicate. Thus, you have to be extra careful when handling the seedling. When transplanting, make sure to put your tweezers grip onto the body or the cotyledons to prevent damaging the main roots.
What are the pros and cons to seeds in paper towels method?
Of course, there will always be two sides to the story. In the table below, you will find the advantages and disadvantages of using the paper towel technique.
||The success rate for this method is almost always 100%. So long as you follow the steps properly, you can be assured to have viable seedlings.|
||On average, roots will start to grow after 5 to 7 days. But depending on the variety, some seeds will show roots as early as 2 to 3 days.|
||Compared to germinating directly in the soil, it is much easier to monitor the progress of the seeds in paper towels. Moreover, this can be even done without the risk of damaging or disturbing the process.|
||Germinating seeds in paper towels consume far less space than planting it in individual pots. For every sheet of paper towel, you should be able to fit about 5 to 10 seeds comfortably.|
||Using this method requires additional steps as compared to planting your seeds directly into the soil. When using the paper towel method, you are bound to separately transfer the sprouting seeds into the soil once it has grown its main roots.|
||Apart from the actual potting soil and planter, you would also need a few more supplies to get this procedure done. Materials such as, of course, paper towels, zip-closure plastic bags, and heating mats to name some. Then again, all of those mentioned are fairly inexpensive and could even be readily available at home.|
How does germinate seeds in soil compared to in paper towels method?
Soil germination is the most basic and natural way of vegetating seeds. The process is very straight-forward. All you need to do is to take your seeds and plant them in the soil. Wait for it to sprout and that’s it!
As organic as the technique may be, there are still some drawbacks to using such. These include the following:
- Risk for diseases – Soil can be a breeding ground for all sorts of organisms. These pathogens will likely contaminate your planted seeds. As a result, you might just end up having a diseased and unhealthy seedling.
- Tendency to be compact – Soils are obviously much heavier than paper towels. So, when the seeds are planted too deeply or too well-packed, it might not leave enough room for it to grow. Thus, causing the seeds not to sprout.
- Difficult to monitor – Unlike paper towels, monitoring the progress of your seeds is more challenging when using soil. You do not have the access to visualize the growing conditions within. So, you are left no choice but to wait and see if the seeds will eventually sprout or not.
Taking note of the drawbacks mentioned, soil germination turns out to be less favorable in comparison to the paper towel method. There are too many factors that growers will have no control over when using soil mediums.
Nevertheless, it also doesn’t mean it is impossible to vegetate using soil. You just have to acknowledge the risks and minimize your expectations. If you are willing to look past that, then germinating in soil should not be an issue for you.
Should you decide to try soil germination as well, you can follow these quick tips:
- Use a sterilized light and loamy soil.
- Use porous clay pots with drain holes.
- Water from underneath to minimize the distraction of germinating seeds.
- Lightly cover the seeds with soil.
- Do not compress your soil.
Wrapping Up about How to Germinate Seeds in Paper Towels
The paper towel method of seed germination is indeed one of the most effective and convenient techniques of propagating new plants. It makes use of inexpensive materials and is super easy to use. Some might have already been readily available in your pantry! Plus, we’ve also mentioned alternatives to paper towels, as well as the pros and cons of using the first-mentioned method. So, grab a paper towel (or a nifty alternative) and get growing!