Propagation: Question about seed starting

Muncy, PA(Zone 5a)

This is my first year at seriously starting from seed. I have been sowing seed in containers, putting them in a ziplock bag and putting them on a seed tape, or furnace. When the seeds germinate, they go under the lights. What I want to know is, whether this is too much for the seeds. I am not getting the germination I thought I would. I realize that some need cold treatment, but barring that, is this the right way to go? Thanks for any help

Schenevus, NY

i've been starting seeds for about 4 yrs. every year i say no more but it has actually gotten bigger. I do not have a basement in this house so soon I take over the pool table with lights on a wood frame i cobbed together. I move the plants down as they grow. I found in my zone 4 its too early to start now(except for the plants that need cold) they get tooo big and go into minor shock outside. What are you starting now?

Muncy, PA(Zone 5a)

I am starting cimcifuga, liatris, st john's wort, variegated catmint, daylily, lobelia, splish splash geranium, platycodon. I realize that some of them need some cold treatment. I couldn't wait til the end of next month so I am experiencing too. I have a bunch of seed sown outdoors in containers too. Mostly those that need cold treatment.

Saint Paul, MN(Zone 4a)

Eiroberts: also from Zone 4. What and when do you start indoors? I am going to try seeds for the first time, now that I understand what "hardening off" means. I'm pretty thick about this, but I sure love it!


I've found that a lot of hardy Geraniums germinate in a few days if you nick the end (I use nailclippers) and put them in a piece of folded damp paper towel, then put that in a loosely folded plastic bag anywhere indoors. Takes up a lot less room than pots.

Menahga, MN(Zone 3b)

I haven't started anything yet, because of living in zone 3/4, and I don't want them to get too large before I can set them out. I am going to plant some seeds that I bought in England, hoping they will do well here. These are perennials, so will need a lot of snow cover next year in order to survive.

Lyndeborough, NH


There is a fungal disease called Damp-off, This fungus attach the plant right at the soil line.

The preventive measure is air circulation, and allowing the soil surface to dry out between waterings.

In a plastic bag many folks have had damp-off


Milo, IA(Zone 5a)

I live in zone 5, I start my seeds between the last of February and the first week of March. This gives them plenty of time to grow until our frost free date of May 15th. If you start to early, they get to big and you have to many problems with them. Be careful where you set your planted containers, not to hot a place, the seeds won't germinate. I set my thermostat on my growing mats to high one year and had very poor germination. Seeds need 65 to 70 degrees for ideal bottom heat for germination. I had my growing mats set to 80 degrees, that was to hot. We all learn by our mistakes and others. Debby

Schenevus, NY

looked back over my half baked garden journal(every yr i start with gusto..) i have started some seeds this yr. Things out of the ordinary for me. Many had no directions so i planted some in refrig, some on windowsill..and am trying to keep records.(has anyone ever started wild rose seeds) looking back over last yr(i had great luck with it last yr)i started march (15th and on going I do not have any heat mats even though i think of getting them every yr. Last yr when I thought something needed it I put them on top of the florescents. as I remember i think they got too warm. I have all these little wood blocks. This yr I'll set them off so they have air underneath. Last yr I brought my rosemary plant in. I am trying to root cutting off of it now. I'll post if it works. I have a shelf behingd my wood stove which keeps things nice and warm. I start some things there then move to the other part of the house whre there is light. My gardening techniques are a litle hap hazard but i find most things are very forgiving.

Westbrook, ME(Zone 5a)

I am a big fan of the moist paper towel method when it comes to germinating seeds. I use this method for almost all my seeds unless they're just too tiny. It takes a bit longer but you have more control over moisture & temperature, the results are better, there's no wasting seeds, and you can watch what's going on with them. If the seeds are dead - they rot quickly and you aren't left staring at an empty flat for weeks wondering if they'll ever come up.

I cut paper towels into quarters, label with name of the seeds and the date. Then I sprinkle the seeds on the paper towel, mist it with my sprayer until it's good and damp (not soggy), and place them in a covered container. Usually I use a cool whip tub but this year I'm using a couple of aluminum cake pans with the plastic lid that fits on top. I have a pan in my refrigerator for seeds that need moist pre-chilling and a pan on the kitchen counter for those that germinate in warm temps. A few things that require darkness I'll seal in a zip lock bag and place in a dark cupboard. The seeds that require light seem to be doing fine with the clear lid on the pan.

Every other day or so ... I'll take the pan, sit in front of the TV. and go through all the little paper towel squares to see what has sprouted. It's winter therapy ;-)) Some things take just a few days - others take weeks . Any of the seed that have sprouted get set aside for potting up. I plant them in soilless mix with the little root going down and lightly cover them with the soil. After potting them they go under the lights and usually break the soil surface the next day. It's important to pot them as soon as you see signs of germination - if you let them go too long they'll grow into the paper towel and it's hard to remove them.

This way your not left wondering - did I over water? Is it too cold? Are the seeds any good? or what the heck is the matter with these seeds? You can watch them closely and provide them with what they need. If I think they need warmer temps than usual I'll put them in a bag and place them on top of the TV (the cooler side). If they need oscillating temps (cleome seeds are one) I'll put them in the fridge at night & bring them out during the day. I just read somewhere that Baptisia seeds should be nicked before planting so I was able to find my little baptisia paper towel and nick the seeds with a pair of fingernail clippers. If I had them planted in soil I wouldn't have been able to fish them back out to do this. Seeds I have no idea how to germinate I'll try a couple of different methods in the paper towels and see what works best.

It's quite a bit more hassle than just tossing the seeds into a flat and hoping they'll come up ~ but I enjoy it. Like I said it's my winter time therapy and keeps me going. My sister used to laugh at me for going through all the trouble - but she quit laughing when she saw the good results.

Schenevus, NY

I am getting those wild rose seeds out of regrig(the last bunch that escaped other methods) am putting them in the paper towel. Next go thru my embarrassing seed pile mess and papertowel them up. like you say winter therapy. today i thought of my daffodils under the 4 foot drift by the back deck. along the south side of the house there is a bare patch where the sun melts this sheltered dry spot. nothing grows there because its in the drip line, ahhh maybe a good spot for a glass cold frame....

Schenevus, NY

good thing i read the paper towel directions again. I folded the seeds in the paper towel and put in bag. I'll open them up and do like above.

Lyndeborough, NH

Some cheap heat mats.

Old water bed heaters,

Adjustable heating pad covered with waterproof plastic,

A 40 lightbulb in a cardboard box.

A suggestion, get a Stokes seed catalog, Growers guide will tell you which one need to be started with heat.

Most seeds do not need extra heat, IE in Veggies The tropicals, Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, But not cole crops and lettuce.

Bensenville, IL(Zone 5a)

I have a 1/2 inch camelia bulb, is there anything special I have to do to the bulb, scoring or cutting, soak 1st or put in dirt, how far in dirt and can this be planted indoors or out????? Thanks Denise

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)


This is a very old thread and might not be noticed. You might want to ask this question in the bulb forum, as it is an active forum.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question.


Bensenville, IL(Zone 5a)

SoCal, Thanks I'll try that. Denise

Barrie, Canada(Zone 5b)

I like the "winter sowing" method. Here are the directions:

It's good winter therapy too and the results are good. Of course, if you live in a very warm climate, this might not work.

(Zone 7a)

April Fool's Day has been my official seed starting day in past years because any seed that germinates can go outside immediately and not get damping off fungus or weak and spindly -- and the date is a great "attitude adjuster" for me with respect to all those future snares Mother Nature has lying in wait for my little seedlings. However, y'all have inspired me to be a little more adventurous.

J.L. Hudson's seed catalog at has a very comprehensive guide to germinating seeds, including how to use gibberellic acid, which I understand is one of the naturally occurring "growth regulatory hormones" along with auxin, ethylene, cytokinin and abscisic acid. Hudson refers you to Dr. Deno, 139 Lenor Dr., State College, PA 16801 USA for his guide, "Seed Germination Theory and Practice" with enuf details to embark upon the seed-starting adventure of a lifetime. I must confess I haven't been able to muster the $17 for Hudson's basic gibberellic acid seed starting kit. Not to mention postage. But your methods are eminently affordable and an encounter with some recycled fastfood containers is highly imminent.

Lincolnton, NC(Zone 7a)

This year was the first time I tried Miracle Grow seed starting mixture. I used any container I had around (I save everything - otherwise known as packrat). I placed the containers on a tray in front of a west facing window and misted them everyday. I actually had some seeds sprouting within 3 days. After they were up about an inch I took them utside to a couple of portable greenhouses I have on the patio. That was before we had that last snowstorm here in North Carolina. The greenhouses have plastic covers, but I put a second clear plastic tarp on top. Everyday I check the plants and if the weather is warm enough I raise the plastic to let the plants breathe. So far, so good. Most of them are ready to transplant, and I have to start some more seeds

Hi Lorie,
I've been growing many annuals from seed, as I find they are easiest. I grow the shorter, branching Sunflowers, 'Autumn Beauty' is one; Nasturtiums are especially good looking in containers-don't have to be orange now!
Cosmos, the 'Sonata' series is shorter, no staking, come in pinks and white, good for bouquets.
Zinnias 'Profusion' has smaller flowers, nice colors, also good in containers.
Morning Glory, a vine, 'Heavenly Blue' is a must. Soak seeds overnight to soften outer seed coat.
Another vine is Hyacinth Bean, has purplish leaves, pink flowers, is a vigorous plant good for fences or trellis.
Some hits: Test germination of seed by putting a few seeds between damp paper towels in zip lock bag, mark bag and check on day they should be germinated. Some seeds need light to germinate.
Pay attention to germination days.
Plant several plants at the same time to ease transplant to 4 inch pots later. Use ice scream sticks to mark everything. Keep notes of what worked.
Have fun!!!

Huntington Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Bumping this up for any new people looking for information on starting their seeds.

Louisville, KY(Zone 6a)

I don't know where to post this.
I have Poor man's orchid and Torenia seeds that have now germinated. They are thinner than my hair. Should I put them under a flourescent light? I have never seen such thin stems on anything. Is this common for seeds germinated in darkness?

Trail, OR

Damping off. I can get most of my seeds to germinate but even tho they are either /or /and underlights & or west window once they have germinated they either stop growing or get spindly, weak & succumb...asuming damping off. I have tried a number of efforts (ie cinnomon sprinkled lightly, sand sprinkled lightly, circulation, etc.) & so far none work. Any other ideas??

Arroyo Grande, CA

Try one of the copper based sprays or Aliette. Both are preventative, not curative, so you need to spray before you make the transfer from the filter papers. They will help with keeping the fungi from killing the seeds as well as keeping the seedlings from getting damping off. Once they have been infected, they are pretty much toast, though some do survive. What amazes me is that some seedlings can grow completely immersed in the fungi.

(Zone 7b)

go to a garden centre and ask for a drench for damping off - up here it comes in small bottles, and one uses 1tsp in a litre - I have never had a problem doing this! And I've started everything you can imagine from seed at one time or another!

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

GrannyAnnie - only use sterilized pots or trays to start seeds and only a commercial potting mix (like Pro Mix or MiracleGro) to start them and never water into the pot: always water the bottom and let the soil and plant take up the moisture. We seldom have the dampening off problem and grow about 1,000 seeds each spring.

Louisville, KY(Zone 6a)

I winter sowing in milk jugs. Labeling always is a problem with me. I decided to keep track . I numbered all my plants as well add name in side jug on Aluminum tape [find at hard ware store}. . No fadding or ect! I used old fashion clothes pin. I can reuse the number clothes pins.

Thumbnail by nance35
Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

Nance, can you show us a little better what your up to? Are you just germinating the seed in their with a liquid or are you growing seedlings and can open it easily?


I have a question I have not found the answer to anywhere and I have certainly been looking and asking..

If you germinate the seed using the paper towel method or some other method of pre-germination, is it necessary to still keep the soil warm under the grow lights or should they be fine? Thanks.


Portugal Cove-St. Ph, NL(Zone 5a)

There are many seeds which need bottom heat to germinate. If they ALSO need LIGHT to germinate, the top of the fridge might be a good place provided the seed container is 'domed' with clear plastic. There are some which need the LIGHT......... and a cooler temperature. It gets really tricky when the seed ONLY responds to fluctuating temperatures.... plus maybe some LIGHT. Some seeds are very fine, like from a pepper shaker. Typically, these are surface sown (NEEDS LIGHT or DARK should be in the instructions) It is important for all surface sown seed to be in sterile potting mix (no damping off), and spritzed with a fungicide like NO DAMP as a precaution. I use some fungicide in the water that wets the sterilized potting mix PLUS a spritz. (Bleach is not allowed) For those of you with oodles of seed sowing, placing a tray on top of the light fixture is a possibility to save space and use the fixture heat.....; I have seen 12 hr shifts of moving trays from on top of the lights to underneath the lights.
I invariably have some that need a cool/cold germination condition, plus the ones that spend winter under a snow bank (little snow here yet!) The seeds of many perennials and trees/shrubs need warm/cold/warm cycle of treatment so one has to read/follow directions carefully. One covers seed trays to prevent the seed and soil from drying out and also to keep mice away and to prevent contamination from other seeds (weeds in an outdoor context). For seed trays committed to the out of doors, the ideal is to prevent extreme cold and heat fluctuation, i.e. a blanket of snow insulates against this. The Jelitto website is good on seed sowing instructions as I recall. D mail me if there are some questions - I have a detailed table (booklet) for many annuals, perennials, and a separate section for trees.......... the booklet was published by Thompson & Morgan years ago - I keep hoping for an updated edition! I have been sowing seed for many years in our zone 5a - I err on the side of later sowing rather than too early, with rare exception. We have a short growing season here. I usually have a 'kitten' because the guys in the DARK jumped/got too leggy - a royal pain whether sown in bulk or in cell packs.
Bill in SE Newfoundland.

Marietta, GA(Zone 7b)

Thanks Bill! Since I posted last I have since discovered the wintersowing forum and I think that's my ticket!! :)


Toledo, IA(Zone 4a)

HI THERE___its that time again--certainly early for most seeds--howeaver like cimifuge -russian sage and a number of others hosta seed for one definately get it going---hostas i would plant in december even--the others as random --sporatic--or long stretched out germination like hostas some may take months for all of them to sprout need to be planted early as heck just to get things goin---one way to go is if you have lots of seed plant many seeds like maby ten per container or more--that way you increase your odds of planting a seed in each container that will sprout the earliest possible then as the other seeds sprout you can decide which ones to snip off ---fingernail cuticle snippers with their tiny little snippers work great---another thing i like is planting in small 3 or 5 ounce plastic cups for flower seeds that have extended germination and not using any peat or peat origion soil just good old dirt with enough small pearlite and vermiculite with some sand so you have a soil mix thats light enough that the roots will grow quickly and the soil is heavy enough that it will hold water long enough ---without the peat the mold and damping off are a much rarer circumstance----when the seeds sprout and the plants grow enough i simply take them out of the tray that has plastic over it and put them in a tray that is open topped and pour on the light--the others stay under plastic until they germinate---- the cups also are a little bit larger so the roots get a better start and stronger root system than with ordinary rooting trays with cells---stevo

Canton, IL(Zone 5a)

it seems we all have our preferred way of starting seeds... i will make note of all of these... and probably try them all

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