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Germinating Seeds in a Paper Towel: How to Germinate Tomato Seeds Faster

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Want to learn how to germinate tomato seeds faster? Try germinating seeds in a paper towel! Here’s how to do it.

Having small gardens at home are always super fun, whether you love cooking with fresh produce or just love gardening. If you are looking to plant some vegetables, one good place to start is by germinating the seeds beforehand. Tomato seeds, for example, germinate really well in paper towels.

Sowing the germinated seeds also help them grow better and in larger numbers. So, if you are interested in growing your own tomato plants, read ahead to learn how to germinate the seeds in paper towels!

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Please read the whole post so you don’t miss any important information!

Germinating Seeds: FAQ

I put together a quick FAQ on germinating seeds. This is super basic and it’s worth checking out some of the resources I linked. It’s really helpful to read the seed packet or details online for different types of seeds to learn more about them. Every type of seed is different and may have different requirements to grow.

What is germination?

Germination is the process of a seed becoming a seedling. Seeds are dormant when you purchase them (or when you harvest, clean, and dry them). The “seed” as we see it is simply a protective coat over the tiny plant. Inside the seed is the beginnings of your plant: it has everything the plant needs to grow roots, stems, shoots, and leaves.

Learn more about what is inside a seed. Here is more scientific and detailed information on germination.

Do seeds need light to germinate?

It depends. While some seeds need light to germinate, many do not. The plant itself is what needs light to grow. Prior to emerging, many seeds are buried under the soil, in the dark, when they first emerge. For some seeds, light can be detrimental to the germination process. It’s important to read up on the plant before growing from seed, and to follow the instructions on the label closely.

For tomatoes, the seeds do not need light to germinate, although seedlings need plenty of light to grow into healthy, productive plants.

What do seeds need to germinate?

Seeds need three things to germinate: water, oxygen, and the correct temperature. Some seeds need soil while others do not. pH can also impact germination.

The soil temperature is what triggers the process of germination to begin. It’s a message from the Earth to tell the seeds that Spring has arrived and that it’s time to grow. Usually the soil temperature takes a while to warm up so one or two days of odd warm weather in the winter won’t trigger germination. The seeds need consistent warm soil in order to begin this process.

Different seeds need different temperature soils to begin germination. It’s fascinating to see how different seeds germinate sooner than others. We did an experiment many years ago to determine the impact of using a heat mat for starting seeds; some plants germinated and grew much faster with the use of the heat mat while others did not.

Plants like tomatoes like warmer weather while cold tolerant plants like lettuce and broccoli can be started sooner and germinate in cooler soil.

What types of germination are there?

There are two types of germination: Epigeal Germination and Hypogeal Germination. In epigeal germination, the cotyledons rise above the soil, while in hypogeal germination the cotyledons remain below soil. The cotyledon is the seed leaf.

Tomatoes undergo epigeal germination.

What are the benefits on germinating seeds on a paper towel?

The main reason you may want to germinate seeds on a paper towel is to keep an eye on your seed germination rates. Soil isn’t a sterile environment (aka there are germs and bugs in it) so there are other factors that can impact whether or not you ever see a seedling pop up. If you start your seeds on a paper towel, provided you care for the seeds properly, you can calculate what percentage of your seeds are “good.” You also don’t end up wasting soil or pots on seeds that will never germinate.

Why aren’t my seeds germinating?

There are several things that can cause your seeds not to germinate.

Too little/Too much water
Too cold/Too hot
Not enough oxygen
Seeds are too old
Seeds were stored incorrectly (aging them faster)

How to Start Seeds on Paper Towels

In this case, we’re going to be talking about germinating tomatoes on paper towels.

Here is what you will need:

  • Paper towels
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Plastic zip lock bag (medium or large size)
  • Tomato seeds

Step 1:
Collect the seeds from a tomato and clean them as well as you can. You could also buy tomato seeds and use them for this process instead. Feel free to use whatever is more accessible to you.

Step 2:
Take a paper towel and fold it in half.

Step 3:
Fill the spray bottle with water and use it to spray water onto both sides of the folded paper towel. Spray the water in such a way that the entire paper towel becomes damp but is not dripping with water.

Step 4:
One by one, place the tomato seeds onto one side of this piece of paper towel, making sure that none of the seeds are overlapping. If you have more seeds, repeat the process with more paper towels.

Tomato seeds placed on a paper towel so they aren't touching.

Step 5:
Take the spray bottle again and lightly spray onto each of the seeds that are laid. One or two spritz for each seed should be enough.

Step 6:
Starting from one side, loosely roll the paper towel, making sure the side with the seeds is on the inside. Be careful not to make the roll too narrow or tight as that might make it difficult to open later.

Rolling up a paper towel with tomato seeds on it, loosely.

Step 7:
Open the plastic zip lock back and spray the inside lightly with water. Although this is not necessary, it is highly recommended as long as you’re not using too much water.

Placing a rolled, wet paper towel with tomato seeds on it into a plastic zip bag.

Step 8:
Place the rolled-up paper towel inside the zip lock bag and seal the bag.

Step 9:
Place this bag near any heat source, like the back of a refrigerator.

Step 10:
Unroll the paper towel once a day to check if any of the seeds have germinated or not. Then roll it again and place it back inside the bag, near the heat source.

The germination period could be as little as two days or as long as two weeks. Checking daily lets you know how long this set of seeds are taking to germinate.

Step 11:
When the main root comes out, remove the seeds, with the roots attached, from the paper towel and plant them.

Unrolled paper towel with tomato seeds that have gone through germination process.

The longer the root grows, the higher is the chance of it breaking into the paper towel which might cause it to detach from the seeds while removing. So, make sure to pick the germinated seeds out at the proper time and plant them into soil right away.

Step 12: Once it’s ready, you can place it in the soil

Tomato seedlings.

Please share and pin this post! If you make this project, share it in our Stuff Mama Makes Facebook Group. We have regular giveaways for gift cards to craft stores. You can also tag me on Instagram @doityourselfdanielle; I love seeing everything you make!

How to germinate tomatoes fast using the paper towel method. Photo of a paper towel, partially rolled up, with tomato seeds on it.
Germinating Seeds in a Paper Towel

Germinating Seeds in a Paper Towel

Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Estimated Cost: $1-$5

How to germinate your tomato seeds faster in a paper towel.


  • Tomato Seeds
  • Spray Bottle of Water
  • Clear Plastic Zip Bag
  • Paper Towels


    1. Collect seeds from a tomato and clean them. Or you can purchase seeds.
    2. Take a paper towel and fold it in half.
    3. Spray the paper towel with water so that it's damp, but not soaking.
    4. Place the tomato seeds onto one side of the paper towel, making sure they are spaced apart.
    5. Lightly spritz with your spray bottle.
    6. Loosely roll the paper towel, making sure the side with the seeds is on the inside.
    7. Spray the inside of your plastic bag lightly with water.
    8. Place the rolled up paper towel inside the bag and seal.
    9. Place this bag near any heat source. Make sure it won't catch on fire.
    10. Once a day unroll the paper towel to see if any seeds have germinated. If not, roll it again and place it back inside the bag.
    11. Germination can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.
    12. When the main root comes out, remove the seeds with the roots attached.
    13. Plant your germinated seeds in soil. If you're using a pot, use potting soil.
    14. Care for your tomato plant as usual.

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