Seed viability tests

Cross Timbers, MO(Zone 6a)

I was wondering how to test the viability of seeds. Are there different tests for different seeds or is there one test that works for all seeds? Also, is there a way to tell if seeds need to be stratified or not?

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

You provide a certain number seeds with the conditions they need to grow and see how many sprout. Number sprouting divided my number planted will give you a germination percentage. Typically at home I do 10 on a moist paper towel in a plastic bag.

Typically seeds need stratification are native to areas of the world that have winters where the plant would die if it started to grow in the fall. If you had seeds that you had no idea what they where then you'd have to start experimenting. The best way is to look it up.

This message was edited Jan 19, 2014 2:39 PM

Calgary, Canada

There are databases on line which give some information on growing conditions.

Dr. Norman Deno is one and Tom Clothier is another.

Brooksville, FL(Zone 9a)

2nd what CLScott stated.
Seed Germination Theory and Practice - National Agricultural ... I can't get it to load so if you google this search you should be able to download the PDF's.


Calgary, Canada

Thanks for the sites. I had both printed off some time ago.

(Pam) Warren, CT(Zone 5b)

When in doubt, that's where I go too. Another favorite is the seed site:

Good luck!

Calgary, Canada

There are other chemical tests which large seed testing labs use,
but I think the above are all that we gardeners need to use.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Here is another site

If you Google the plant's name, information as to hardy zone should pop up. In general, most plants that are hardy do need stratification (moist and cold). Others need stratification with flunctuating temps.

Edited to add that the Deno method is a great one to test seeds with. I had seeds stored in my shed for 6 years that I forgot. They weathered heat and cold. I used Deno to test. They were still viable. If stored dry, seeds can last for years.

This message was edited Jan 29, 2014 10:41 AM

Cross Timbers, MO(Zone 6a)

WOW! Thank you all for all the great info and very useful sites. I will put them to good use for many years to come.
Thank you!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Here's another good site. Although I have used the above mentioned seed germination sites, I think I like this one the best. It goes into a little more detail and explanation. This especially helps if you are new to seed germination.

On a side note, any time I start seeds I do RESEARCH. I check out several websites. Then, I have a better chance of success. Why go to the trouble only to be disappointed?

I bookmark these websites to get easy access.

Calgary, Canada

Yes, that one is good too.
It is the old T and M booklet.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I agree! Great advice.

I knew of it from a "Virtual Seeds" web site, but it seems not to be posted there any more.

I was able to download it as plain text and now I can search it offline.

BTW, this is also a helpful site for starting seeds, including difficult seeds. It breaks each genus down into different advice for different species. It also has a good article about "best" seed starting temperatures: speed vs %.

annuals & biennials:


seed soil temperature:

seed start mixes:

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I think I will try to down load and print out the Back Yard Gardener Seed Information that was the old T & M booklet. The T & M booklet is no longer available. I don't think I want to chance losing the Back Yard Gardener site.

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