Improved paper towel and baggy method for germinating seeds (fast)

Learn about an improved method for seed germination. I demonstrate the traditional paper towel method as well as my improved baggy method. Speed up the germination process for any kind of seed. I have used this method on hundreds of different kinds of seed including perennials, alpines, bulbs, trees and shrubs.

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0:00 Start
1:20 Supplies you need
3:11 Selecting the best paper towel
5:04 The baggy method
8:33 Incubate the seeds
9:39 How to plant the sprouted seed
14:30 What to do about difficult seed
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Improved paper towel and baggy method for germinating seeds (fast)

Learn about an improved method for seed germination. I demonstrate the traditional paper towel method as well as my improved baggy method. Speed up the germination process for any kind of seed. I have used this method on hundreds of different kinds of seed including perennials, alpines, bulbs, trees and shrubs.
There are several different methods for starting seeds indoors that work well for vegetable seeds and flower seeds. In this post I will review the various seed starting methods and help guide you in selecting the right method for your situation.

Starting Seeds Indoors

There are three basic ways to start seed indoors; in pots or containers, the paper towel or baggy method and winter sowing. The last one is not really a form of starting seeds indoors, but it is a good alternative for home owners.

Winter Sowing:

Starting Seeds in Paper Towels or Baggies


You can see the germination process. Not only is this exciting, but it can tell you a lot about your seed. If you never see the root in the baggy you know that the seed is either not viable, or the pre-treatment was not the right one. If it germinates ie produces a root, then it is viable. If subsequently, the seedling dies it is not a germination problem.
A lot of seed can be germinated in a small space using this method. You can hold 100 baggies of different seed in one hand – try toing that with 100 pots. Granted, if you are successful with all 100 seeds, they do need to go into pots at some point.
Seed that takes a long time to germinate requires little care since the seed stays moist in the baggy.
Stratification procedures are easy to carry out since the bags take up so little room in a fridge.
Maximum use of seed. Since you can see which seed germinates, you need fewer seeds. In the potted method most people plant excess seed and weed out the extra. With this method you can put each seed into its own pot. This can be a real benefit for rare or expensive seed of limited quantity.


Requires an extra step. You have to put seed into baggies, and then you still need to pot them up. But you only pot up the ones that germinate.
Extremely small seed can be difficult to handle. The video below shows you how to handle small seed using the baggy method.
Baggies need to be examined more frequently for germinating seed than pots.
No special lights are needed for germination, but once they are potted up they need the same light as any growing seedling.

Vermiculite and Baggies

This is a variation of the above baggy method using vermiculite instead of a paper towel

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48 thoughts on “Improved paper towel and baggy method for germinating seeds (fast)

  1. Judy Smith says:

    I'm only halfway through the comments section–many of which are terrific. I'd like to add that stapling the labels will puncture the plastic bag, allowing the moisture to evaporate more quickly so perhaps some sort of tape would be better…….and was surprised that the date of doing the seeding process was not also on the label. LOVE the idea of doing the bags upside down—but that is also where the label should be unless you want to turn the bag over to see the label!

  2. tgp7201 says:

    Can you use the blue shop towels? Is there something in the dye that would impede germination? I usually use paper towels, but sometimes the root grows into the towel.

  3. Jeff Walton says:

    I am 60 years old and have been gardening in one form or another for many years. In 24 hours I have learned more about gardening than my entire 60 years combined. I really enjoy Robert's presentation style … direct and to the point. Also all of his content is relevent. I have finally been able to answer the countlesss number of questions that I have had regarding conflicting information about gardening that is out there. Thank you Robert!

  4. DesertEdenBlooms says:

    your fantastic ! why you dont have more subscribers is beyond!!!! I m 64 yrs old, former Master Gardner and an advide reader and scholar of all things eco, gardening , permaculture, etc and I did not know half the stuff on seeds you have been teaching. I learned the lies , the myths and the not so much legends but not the truth. I sincerely believe that that the gardening mafia industry has a control on information to sell use more crap. An example of this , is how they call the same plant by different names, until I started using their scientific name to make sure I was getting what I wanted and not be sold 4 and 10 different variations, many times the same seed aka plant over and over again! Wish you had a video on growing Eucalyptus from seed but I think I have suffient information that you have generously bestowed on us that I will piece it together sucessfully. I live in Vegas, own a quarter acre of a sandbox and I need some trees, lots of trees for foliage ( floral industry ) and will be planting sunflowers and other draught tolerant flowers this is my first year officially because I had an injury last year. Thank you so much for all you have done for all us. Be Bless!

  5. ClickMe says:

    Im curious why those seeds did not germinate.. I had 3 papaya seeds would not germinate on paper towel.. so I took one and transfer it into loom soil as an experiment and it germinated.. the remaining 2 left on paper towel still would not germinate…

  6. jeff burke says:

    Watching Robert's videos is like reading the classic literature of Western Civilization—- someone has experienced (fill in the blank) before, here is the solution, no need to re-invent the wheel.
    Wishing you another million views, Mr. Pavlis, Sir.

  7. Brin Carson says:

    This is a great method especially if you have older seeds and want to know if they are still viable. However, anyone have information on how to prevent mold growing in the bag? It happens every time I do this method and I end up loosing more seedlings because of it.

  8. T Montero says:

    Yes, I have used this method, but you have certainly improved upon my technique! I did not know about refigerating seeds that didn't germinate! Also, I tape the bags to a bright window, they seem to germinate in no time!

  9. Steven Dehues says:

    I discovered your channel about a week ago and I've been devouring your gardening videos. I love the red hat and you are so chill and cool and confident in your delivery. NOT in this one. This must be an early video. You've come so far. Congratulations. I've learned alot from you. Thanks. PS your little circle channel picture should have the red hat. 🙂

  10. mouse cat says:

    This is very good interesting educational information for all those people are interested in small gardening and farming on a wider scale. Thank you one million for taking your precious time to make this video. Thank you very much, an i highly recommend you to all.

  11. Maw G says:

    This was extremely helpful. I used the plastic bag method. Sometimes it worked n sometimes not. You did it different n I'm going to so it that way. Thanks b God bless u n urs.
    Margie from Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast

  12. katemcartist says:

    So thourough . Thank you. My Grandmother and sister had green thumbs ! I’ve always wanted one 😊 so I go 🙂 thanks for this simple tool to get started over buying loads of “equipment” that never works for me 😂 wishing myself luck ! Going for zinnias like my Grandmother had!!

  13. Michael Zoran says:

    QUESTIONS : I hired a fella to use his very large device to cut down phragmites in my back yard several years ago. The phragmites still exist for several acres – I just cannot cut all that. But, I try to keep the back yard under control. About 90% of the back yard is under control. I was able to eventually get rid of all the chopped up phragmites and put dirt over it instead. After several year, most of the back yard in that section is now decent-looking grass. But, there are still some sections where the phragmites keep coming back. Do you know of a "natural" form of "inexpensive" way to kill off phragmites?

    Also, grass just won't remain alive in a couple large sections where the land curves in a way that causes the land to stay wait after it rains or storms. Do you know if there is any type of tougher grass that might survive in that type of after?

    Finally, I bought some grass seed that claimed it could thicken grass. Wowzers, they weren't lying! That section of my yard started growing ten inches in just four days, while the other part of the yard would only grow a couple inches. I didn't mind at first; however, that type of fast-growing grass that is very thick has suddenly gone crazy this year and spread about forty or fifty feet across that entire section of the back yard! Now, I cannot even turn the "mulch" part of mower on. Have no choice but to shoot it out the side, and then rake. Is there any way to "think" this "thick" grass that thinks it is on steroids?

  14. coolredkelpie says:

    Thank you, I loved watching this video as I found it so helpful. I'm new to germinating seeds, particularly in plastic bags and wonder with the box of seeds you have that are a year old, how often do you check them for germination? I have a few different seeds that apparently need stratification and would like to try Lilium martagon and also Capparis spinosa (Caper Bush). I'm in Perth, Western Australia just so you know what climate I'm working with. I'm going to be watching more of your videos on germinating seeds as I've been picking up some of the things that I've been doing wrong like over watering.

  15. Pyrolonn says:

    I grew my first tomatoes from seed this year. I used this method and it worked great. I only grew 4 seeds and got all 4 plants and one of them is even taller than me. They are the sweet million variety and while I only have a few ripe ones, I'm looking at a huge amount of tomatoes. Thanks again!

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