Seed Magic: How to germinate seeds in one day (with printable)
Inside: germinate seeds in one day and more spring seed inspiration for kids. Free printable.
Do you want to demonstrate to your kids how seeds turn into plants but worry that they don’t have the required attention span to follow the project to the end? We have the solution! With our marvelous technique, the seeds germinate in one day. And you have tiny plants in as little as 2-3 days (depending on the type of plant).
I find that kids are naturally curious about seeds, plants, and how things grow. The right books make them even more excited about the topic. We have many favorite seed books, but every spring we are especially inspired by Seed Magic. In this story, a young girl’s life is changed when she is given seeds to grow a garden under her window.
What you need
A plate that can fit inside a gallon bag
A gallon bag/Cling Wrap
A small toy or bottle cap to lift the wrap/bag off the seeds
Note: If you prefer to avoid plastic, you can use a glass container with a lid instead, but it will take longer because kids will want to peek inside. Even relatively clear lids like ours don’t allow a clear view, and kids end up opening them multiple times a day to get a better look, slowing down the germination. For quick results use a plate and a gallon bag method because it allows kids to observe the seeds all day long without disturbing the seeds.
Related: Looking for more science ideas? Check out Kid Minds Science Page.
Germinate Seeds in One Day
What to do
- Soak a paper towel under running water and squeeze most the water out of the towel. (So it will be wet, but not dripping).
- Spread the towel on the plate folded in half.
- Place seeds on the towel.
- If you are planting different seeds, write down on the gallon bag/Cling Wrap where each is located.
- Slide the plate into the bag.
- Place a little something (we used our popsicle mold cover) in the middle of the plate to lift the plastic off the seeds by half an inch.
- Voila! Get out your clocks and start counting down the hours. I find that seeds and planting are a great way to teach kids about time.
Note: All seeds are not created equal. From our experiments, we found that radish germinates in less than 24 hours and can be planted on a second/third day. Russian Kale and beets are close behind. Tomatoes take a few days and tomatillos even longer. If you want to plant flowers, you will get quick results with Cypress Pennata Red. It’s a beautiful red climbing flower that I plant every summer at the bottom of our fence (and within a month I’m looking at a sea of waving greens and reds). Some other flowers we had success with are cornflowers and marigolds.
Use our Seed Observation Journal to record your observations. You can access all of our Printables in the Subscribers-only Library of Resources. To subscribe click here.
Next morning (in less than 24 hours)
Here is a pic of radish. Can you believe it!
And here is Russian Kale
It’s getting there.
I peeked at our seeds in the morning and realized that if we didn’t plant them right away, they would grow into the paper towel. Once the seeds grow into the paper towel you have to plant them together. Pulling the plant out of the paper towel, however gently, usually damages it beyond recovery.
Are you wondering why we didn’t plant our tiny germinated seeds into bigger pots? We actually did plant half of our seeds into bigger pots, and they are still so tiny we can barely see them. I think there might be two reasons for this result. First, it’s easier for kids to take care of egg cartons. The kids put a drop of water in each section every day. On the other hand, big pots were always either completely drenched or dry as toast. And second, we only have space for one or the other in front of our sunny kitchen windows. Since the place was occupied by the plants in egg cartons, the big pots had to be in the shade. My guess is that they didn’t like it!
Our plants are 9 inches tall!
The kind of soil that goes into planting radishes is very important. We have tried a variety of soil mixes, and we can definitely taste the difference!
I will update you on Instagram when we eat our first radish of the year.
Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.
This method is also great if you are serious about gardening. No more waiting for weeks to see if something will grow. With this approach, you know if seeds are viable in the shortest amount of time.
Looking for more science ideas?
This month we were invited to participate in the Storybook Science Series hosted by Inspirational Laboratories. If you want to see more amazing science inspiration from wonderful bloggers, click here.
Germinate seeds in one day and more spring seed inspiration. Free Printable and lots of photos. Great for elementary grades and older kids too.
How to Make Plants Germinate Fast
The fastest way to germinate seeds depends on the plant species. If your efforts are close but not quite right, the seeds may germinate, but not as quickly as you’d like. Almost all seeds need warmth and moisture to sprout, but whether it’s 60 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit, exposed to light or buried deep in the soil, planted immediately or chilled for three months, each plant’s seeds have specific requirements that must be met for quick germination.
Help the Plant Sprout
Optimum seed germination time is determined by the plant’s genetics, natural habitat and temperature. When starting plants indoors, master gardener Steve Albert recommends planting your seeds in moist seed-starting mix to help prevent damping off, a fungal disease that kills newly emerging seedlings. Use seed-starting trays or biodegradable paper or peat pots. Plant the seeds at the recommended depth on the seed packet or at a depth of two to three times the size of the seeds.
Cover the seed-starting trays or pots with a plastic cover or plastic wrap to keep the mix and seeds evenly moist but not waterlogged. Mist as needed or water from the bottom to keep the mix damp. In addition to moisture, your seeds need to be kept at the right temperature to germinate quickly. A seed-heating mat keeps the seed-starting tray consistently warm.
Whether you start your seeds indoors or in the garden, they germinate faster if they’re within the optimum temperature ranges for the species. Vegetables that prefer cooler temperatures include lettuce (Lactuca sativa), which germinates in two to 10 days when soil temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and green peas (Pisum sativum), which germinate in five to seven days at 65 to 75 degrees. The ever-popular tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), grown as an annual, is often started indoors to extend its fruiting season. The seedlings appear in five to seven days when soil temperatures are between 65 and 85 degrees.
Treat to Speed Germination
To speed germination, some seeds need special treatment. When left to their own devices, morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea) germinate in five to 21 days. To speed up the germination process, first nick the hard outer coating with a knife or use an emery board to scuff it up. Then soak the seeds overnight in warm water before planting in full sun. When pre-treated before planting, the seeds germinate in five to seven days if planted in soils ranging from 65 to 85 degrees.
Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), squash (Cucurbita spp.), Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) and other large seeds also benefit from soaking in warm water. You can add a drop of vinegar to the water to increase its effectiveness. Soak the seeds overnight, or up to 12 hours. Alternately, you can put the seeds on a wet paper towel, then into a plastic bag so they can absorb the moisture. Plant immediately after soaking.
The seeds of the apple (Malus domestica), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9; lavender (Lavandula spp.), hardy in zones 5 through 9; and snapdragon (Antirrhinum spp.), hardy in zones 7 through 10; are among those seeds that need a period of cold temperatures before they germinate. Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station explains that vernalization, also called stratification, mimics winter temperatures. After chilling, the seeds are stimulated by the warmer temperatures to germinate. Mix the seeds in lightly moistened sand, peat moss or vermiculite in a resealable plastic bag; then label and store them in the refrigerator for two weeks to three months, depending on the species, before planting the seeds.
Give the Seeds Light
Some seeds need to be exposed to light to germinate. In general, these seeds are tiny. In their natural habitat, they are usually spread by falling to the ground from the parent plant’s flowers or decomposing fruits. Perennials like balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, and annuals like lettuce and summer savory (Satureja hortensis) are among the species that need light to germinate.
While the seeds need light, consider covering them with a bare sprinkling of vermiculite or coarse sand, so they don’t blow or wash away. Put the seed-starting tray or pots in bright, filtered light, or plant the seeds outdoors in full sun. Mist the seeds regularly with water so they stay evenly moist as they germinate.
Though many plants germinate within a week to 14 days, some take significantly longer. Balloon flowers require 21 to 30 days to germinate at 65 to 70 degrees. Summer savory varies in its germination rate. This heat-tolerant herb may take seven to 14 days or longer before seedlings appear. It germinates fastest when the soil temperatures are between 65 to 70 degrees.
Fire Them Up
Certain tree and flower seeds lay dormant until fire stimulates their germination. One example is the rare Baker’s globe mallow (Iliamna bakeri), also known as Baker’s wild hollyhock. Hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, this perennial herb is native to southern Oregon and Northern California, where wildfires can sweep through thousands of acres during fire season. The seeds of the West Coast native coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) also sprout after fires. This evergreen shrub thrives in USDA zones 7 through 9, growing 6 to 8 feet tall. Water weekly through the plant’s first two years until the shrub is established; then stop watering in the summer.
If you obtain fire-stimulated seeds for flowers or shrubs, you don’t have to put the seeds in the fireplace. Instead, bake them in your oven for 2 1/2 hours at 150 degrees Fahrenheit or on the lowest temperature setting.
In an interesting variation on fire and seed germination, technically, it’s the resin that seals the seeds inside the cones of some pine tree species. Fire melts the resin on the “serotinous” cones and releases the seeds for germination. Jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and Table Mountain pine (Pinus pungens), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 8; and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8; all produce serotinous cones.
Test Old Seeds
While some gardeners are strong proponents of germinating seeds in a paper towel vs soil, this practice also helps determine if old seeds are viable. The University of Minnesota Extension calls this the “ragdoll method.” Soak a paper towel in water; then squeeze out the excess water. Place several seeds on the center of the paper towel before folding it up into a packet. Slide into a resealable plastic bag and place it in warm location such as the top of the refrigerator.
Check the seeds at the end of the normal germination period as indicated on the seed packet. If the seeds have sprouted, you can carefully pick out the seeds and plant them in moist seed-starting mix. Be careful to avoid damaging the delicate root emerging from the seed coating. You also can determine the germination rate by dividing the germinated seeds by the total number of seeds on the paper towel. A germination rate of less than 75 percent is not good. If planting in the garden, consider buying new seeds.
How to Make Plants Germinate Fast. You can simplify propagation by thinking of seeds as tiny plants trapped inside hard shells, and germination as the key that unlocks them. A seed contains all the basic parts of a plant, including the leaves, referred to as cotyledons, a small root, and just enough food to get …