The How to Grow It Project

How to Start Seeds

The most common well-bred seeds don't need much if any special attention, just stick them in the ground or a pot and water. Other seeds are more finnicky and wild flower seeds are often very finnicky. Here are some details on what to do in various circumstances.

Cold Treatment (Stratification)

Some seeds need to sit in the ground over winter in cold damp conditions before they will sprout. If its late summer or fall then you might as well put the seeds in a pot of soil and dig the pot into the ground. The seeds will get just what they want and sprout in the spring. If it's early in the season and you are interested in starting them NOW then put the seeds in a plastic bag with a damp piece of paper towel, seal up the bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 10 days. Some seeds need more of this than other seeds so sometimes 10 days will still not do it. Check on your seeds after a while to see if any of them are sprouting. I've had wild lupine seeds start to sprout in the refrigerator before 10 days were up. Sometimes the directions call for actually freezing the seeds for a given number of days.


Some seeds need light to germinate, like petunias, lisianthus, columbine and swamp milkweeds. In this case you need to put them on the top of the soil where they will get light and still stay damp. For very small seeds all you can do is put them on top of the soil. For a larger seed like swamp milkweed try digging them a little hole and put them in it but of course don't let the seed get covered. Sometimes I put plastic wrap on top of the pot in order to keep the seed and soil moist but you have to be careful with this, if the pot gets too much sun you will cook the seeds. I've managed to cook petunia seeds this way.

If you have any questions or comments, write me.

Up To Don's How to Grow It Collection

To Don's Home Page