The Paper Towel Method Of Seed Germination

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There are several different methods of germinating seeds for your hydroponic garden. Using the wet paper towel method is a classic and effective way of germinating seeds.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you, the paper towel method of germinating seeds can be effective. No matter the method, seeds need 3 environmental conditions to germinate: darkness, warmth, and moisture. All of which can be provided with the paper towel method.

Why Would You Germinate Seeds In A Paper Towel

With other ways of germinating seeds, why would one use the paper towel method? The main reason is cost and availability. Everyone has some paper towels and plastic bags around their house.

One of the reasons I like to use germinate seeds using the paper towel method is it allows me not to waste seeds, which can come in handy with some more valuable seed. Typically you plant several seeds per grow medium to increase your chances of a successfully germinated seedling, then trim them back if more than one pops. Using the paper towel method I take only successfully popped seeds and place them into the grew medium, so no thinning needed.

The paper towel method is also useful when germinating seeds that may be “old”. You can place a bunch in the paper towel and only plant the ones that pop.

Paper towel method seed germination hydroponics

How To Germinate Seeds In A Paper Towel

The process of germinating seeds in a paper towel is super simple!

Step 1- Find a bag and paper towel

Before grabbing these items you first have to decide how many seeds you plan on germinating. If it’s not very many then just a single paper towel and a sandwich bag will do the trick. If you have thin paper towels or they are the half sheets you’ll probably want to use two.

Step 2- Fold and wet the paper towel

Before getting the paper towel wet you’ll want to fold it in a way that, after getting it wet, you can place your seeds, fold it over, and put it in the baggie.

Next, wet your paper towel. You want it to be completely wet but not full of water. I typically wet the paper towel and then ring it out a little bit.

Step 3- Place seeds in the paper towel

When placing the seeds in the paper towel make sure to give them a little bit of room. Try to give each seed about a half-inch of space. It doesn’t have to be precise they just need some space.

Step 4- Place the bag in a dark place where it will be kept warm

This is one of the most important steps of germination, not just when using the paper towel method. As we discussed above, seeds need both darkness and warmth to germinate.

Finding a dark spot can be easy. Where it can be difficult is finding spot that is kept a little warmer. This area can’t be a place that’s warm just sometimes; it needs continual warmth. If you don’t have a seedling heat mat, then it’s time to get creative.

I’m into tech so the first thing I think of is the computer. If your computer runs warm you can set it on or under it to keep warmth. I’ve also used our home camera DVR box and the hot water heater with some success.

Step 5- Check the seeds every other day until the pop

After seeds pop they can grow pretty quickly. It’s important to remove them soon after sprouting or the seedlings can become elongated, reaching for light.

If you plan on placings seeds into a grow medium like rapid rooter or rockwool, you can put them in right after they pop. Make sure the grow medium is moist and warm and put a piece of it over the hole where you dropped the seed to block out the light until the seedling reaches above the grow medium.

Of you plan on putting seedlings into a loose grow medium like expanded clay, perlite, or dirt (ewe!), then you want to make sure the root is long enough to reach the moist part of the grow medium with the stem able hold the leaves above said grow medium. This can be easy to accomplish with perlite and dirt. With expanded clay, you can crush a small amount of the pebbles to make it more suitable for a small seedling.


Using the paper towel method can be a simple, effective, and cheap way to germinate seeds for your hydroponic garden. It can be especially helpful when germinating more valuable seeds and prevent having to destroy successful seedlings through thinning.

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