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How to Scarify Seed

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017
Morning glory plant seeds require scarifying in order to germinate.

Some plant seeds require pretreatment to germinate properly. In nature this treatment happens naturally either from the elements or when they are eaten and partially digested by animals before being expelled. At home you can emulate this natural process by scarifying the seed prior to planting. Examples of seeds that require scarification (breaking or softening the coatings) to germinate include morning glories and lotus seeds. In addition to scarifying, soaking the seeds may also be a requirement listed on the seed packet. Soak seeds prior to scarifying only if instructed to do so on the packet.

Fill a small bowl with hot water, if soaking is required. Place the seeds inside and allow them to soak for 12 hours or overnight. This softens the seed coat and makes the scarifying process simpler.

Remove the seeds from the water, if applicable, and pat dry. Set aside any seeds that have already cracked open for planting, as these seeds do not require scarifying.

Grasp a seed between your thumb and forefinger. Use tweezers if the seeds are small and difficult to hold.

Rub one side of the seed with a metal file or a piece of sandpaper. Rub until the the white inner coat of the seed is visible. Do not scar the seed deeper than the white coating as this may damage the seedling inside.

Plant the scarified seeds immediately, as they do not store well once scarified as their dormancy has been broken. Plant indoors or outdoors as recommended on the seed packet.


Things You Will Need

  • Bowl
  • Paper towels
  • Tweezers
  • File
  • Sandpaper


  • Some seeds, like lotus, may actually sprout and send out a shoot during the soaking process. Plant these sprouted seeds immediately before you proceed with scarifying the rest of the seeds.


  • Always follow the scarifying procedure as detailed on the seed packet. Soaking seeds that do not require it may cause them to become overly moist and rot before they have a chance to germinate.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.