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How to Sprout Seeds Before Planting

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Working with seeds before you plant them will ensure that they sprout into seedlings faster. It will also make them more likely to survive the growing period. Sprouting seeds before planting cuts down on the germination process drastically. It can take seeds 7 to 20 days to sprout in dirt, whereas pre-sprouting (or chitting) takes 2-4 days. Once they sprout, they can be planted in the ground or containers. Pre-sprouting works on trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials.

Place seeds in a cup or glass full of water. Soak them for 5-10 hours before planting to get the sprouting process started.

Lay a paper towel out on a flat surface. Sprinkle the seeds out on half of one side of the towel. Spread them out so they are in one layer and not stacked on top of each other. It's fine if their edges touch.

Fold the unused portion of paper towel over onto the seeds. Carefully put the paper towel in a plastic storage bag. Do not zip or seal the bag closed. Leave it open.

Spray the paper towel lightly with the plant mister. Make the paper damp but not soaking wet. Re-spray the paper towel whenever it feels dry to the touch. Continue to do so until the seeds sprout.

Put the plastic bag somewhere where it will be warm. 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Southern-facing windows get the most sunlight, but make sure the bag sits somewhere with bright, indirect light.

Examine the seeds every day. As soon as you see a tip begin to peek out of most of the seeds, bring them outside to plant just like you would with normal seeds. Do not let the seeds grow into the paper towel, which they will do if you leave them in the bag too long.


Things You Will Need

  • Seeds
  • Water
  • Glass or cup
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic storage bag
  • Plant mister


  • Use good paper towels that will hold up to being damp for an extended period of time and not tear.
  • Handle the sprouted seeds carefully.


  • Do not let the paper towels dry out. The seeds will not sprout without the constant moisture.

About the Author


Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.