Introduction: Seed Starting With the "Baggie Method."

Picture of Seed Starting With the "Baggie Method."

Another seed starting method that can compliment or be used in place of the Ghetto Greenhouse is the "Baggie Method" if you don't have the space or desire to make seed starters out of plastic soda bottles. This method also saves you money because you don't need soil right away to start and when time comes to transplant your seedlings you can put them in an appropriate size pot. You only need a plastic sandwich bag, some seeds and a paper towel.

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Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies

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The kinds of seeds you can start with this method is really only limited by the variety in your collection or what you can find for sale. In this example I started citrus seeds from a citrus I got from the grocery store.

Once I was done eating this particular citrus I saved the seeds and soaked them for a day or so in a glass of water.

Step 2: Preparing the Seeds

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When I was ready to sow them using the baggie method I laid them out on a napkin and moistened the napkin with a spray bottle. You want to moisten and not soak your paper napkin to avoid having your seeds get moldy. It's imperative if you're going to start citrus seeds that you sow them immediately because the longer you wait the lower your germination ratio will be.

Once I had soaked my citrus seeds overnight and set them on the paper towel which I moistened I folded the napkin in half and set it inside the plastic sandwich bag which I sealed. Then I found a very warm spot for them in my bedroom. Since it's winter I take advantage of the heater we have running and place my seed baggies near a vent. The warmth from the heating vent helps with germination especially in the middle of winter when temps aren't really optimal for seed starting.

Step 3: What It Should Look LIke

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Here's how your sandwich bag, paper towel and seeds should look assembled.

Step 4: They're Growing

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After a few days days I checked on my seeds and found that some had started to germinate. Once they get big enough I pot them up into little pots and let them continue to grow until they're big enough to re-pot again. Citrus like a lot of light if they're going to be grown indoors and whenever possible should be allowed to spend Spring and Summer outside.

At this point I should tell you that it will be a number of years before your citrus tree gets big enough for it to flower and fruit. But if you're a patient person or just growing for the fun of it that shouldn't be a problem for you. You can use this method to start a whole collection of citrus trees from seed to grow in your home or yard. Next time you're in the grocery store look for Key Limes, Calamondin Oranges, Kumquats, Mandarins and give them a try. If your store doesn't have a large variety of citrus available check out some of the ethnic grocery stores in your areas and discover a whole new world of fruits and veggies.

If you're not interested in growing citrus from seeds then you can use this method to start any kind of seeds that you are interested in. But I'd suggest sticking with larger seeds because they'll be easier to pick out and transplant into pots when they've sprouted. If you find that your bag retains a lot of moisture while you're waiting for your seeds to sprout open it for a few hours a day and let a little of the excess moisture evaporate.

The End.


chuckulz (author)2009-03-10

I just save yogurt containers ; ( clean them ) ; fill with water ; drop in seeds ; keep warm ; check once a week until see roots coming out ; then put sprouts into peat plugs. Any pros / cons between this and what is here - depending on seeds ?

mmitchell89 (author)chuckulz2017-04-08

I haven't tried this method but I would guess that the ziploc bag helps to retain warmth as well as moisture, and the damp paper towel helps keep the seeds damp rather than wet, so if you forget to check it, it'll take longer for the sprouts to rot. But I just faced-off the ziploc baggie method vs planting directly in tiny pots of seed starting mix and I vastly preferred the ziploc baggies, so maybe with my next set of seeds, I will try your method vs the baggie method. I am new to starting seeds so still trying to figure everything out. :)

spider36439 (author)2008-08-17

I live in central Florida, where their used to be a lot of citrus groves, Some of my older neighbors that have worked in the industry laugh at people that plant seeds from oranges, lemons and limes, even tangerines. The fruit will produce healthy seedlings, but the fruit the seed comes from does not determine what fruit might grow from its off spring. Most will end up being grapefruit because that is what it was grafted to. It's the root stock and pollinating plant that determines what kind of fruit the tree will bear! When transplanting citrus, if all the root is not transplanted the relocated plant may or may not produce the same fruit.

silkfool (author)spider364392010-06-08

You are so right. I learned this the hard way when living in West Palm Beach. I noticed a citrus volunteer in the front yard. It wasn't in the way so I left it alone. In 5 years it was 10 feet tall and beginning to bear. OMYGOD the fruit was orange and the nastiest tasting AND smelling thing I could imagine. The neighbors wouldn't even steal them. It was hard to take the tree down because it had 4" long thorns on it and the 6" trunk was hard as a rock!! My friend said she could have saved me a lot of trouble by telling me to crush a leaf and smell it. If it smells sweet the fruit will likely be OK. The leaves on that FrankenTree smelled awful!!

spider36439 (author)silkfool2017-01-23

Thanks for the tip. My last orange tree was blight and has to go. All we have left are Grapefruit and 1 sour orange. I hate to cut down the sour orange. it is such a beautiful tree and a few people like to make a steak marinade from them.

I am at a loss as to how anyone could possibly believe this.The rootstock has no genetic contribution to the fruit or to the seeds inside it. Seedlings are often different in quality to the parent plant, but some kinds of citrus produce more than one plant per seed. One will be a true seedling with a random genetic mix from its parents the others will be like cuttings of the fruit from which the seed came. They are clones of the parent plant and will produce fruit of equal quality.

My statement was based on conversations with people that worked in the Citrus groves for many years. All I can say to NeilTheinventor go for it. It for sure won't cost you anything to take a seed from a fruit and stick it in some dirt. The pro's say it can take ten years before you taste the first fruit raised from seed. Myself I prefer to buy from a trusted grower and wait 3 years.

econ0003 (author)spider364392014-10-11

What you said is not accurate. The rootstock has nothing to do with what the seedling will be. It is the grafted variety (scion) and the pollen from the other plant.

I would recommend growing any fruit tree from seed. You may end up with a new variety that is great. Otherwise you have a healthy tree to graft to.

spider36439 (author)2008-08-17

5 years from now, when you see the first fruit, Don't be surprised is you have grapefruit. The seed usually reverts back to the rootstock of the plant not the grafted fruit producing part.

MichaelB192 (author)spider364392016-03-09

I have heard stories of people planting seeds from a lime and ending up producing grapefruit. Very unexpected, but I'd personally love it.

I grow bonsai trees, so harvesting fruit isn't really a huge priority. A surprise is always fascinating.

MichaelB192 (author)MichaelB1922016-03-09

I would also add, if you guys are looking for fast growing citrus. Plant some "starfruit" trees. they can produce fruit as early as 14 months. They produce a LOT of fruit, and have two harvests per year.

ChrisF25 (author)spider364392015-07-05

Actually you are incorrect. Many citrus trees are self pollinating and poly-embryonic. The poly-embryonic abilities essentially create clones of the tree. The trick is letting enough trees grow long enough so you can tell which ones are the clones and which are new varieties. In addition to this it takes between 10-12 years for fruit to grow on larger varieties. I grew a ruby red grapefruit from seed. On year 12 I got fruit, ruby red grapefruit and not some off variety. I also have a nice shade tree at 10 feet currently. Smaller fruit like Key limes only take about 4 years. Some citrus like Naval oranges, persian limes, clementine mandarines, and more have been messed with my man too much and will unlikely grow anything like the parent plant. My suggestion for such varieties is to grow a grapefruit or other healthy root system citrus and graft your favorite varity onto the rootstock.

econ0003 (author)spider364392014-10-11

Seedling has nothing to do with the rootstock. It is the grafted variety.

dildo224 (author)spider364392010-02-20

5 years? what about small fruit?

pinkeyedjim (author)spider364392009-03-29

And do they do that because the grapefruit have hardier roots or something?

kitsuken (author)pinkeyedjim2009-06-30

Another possibility would be if the rootstock is a hardier plant with less issues with disease and more suitable for the climate where it is being grown.

becauseican (author)pinkeyedjim2009-03-29

probaby i have an apple tree in the yard of the house i moved into and the apples a bitter so i think the fruitr is from the rootstock anf the good tasting apple part of the tree died.

cfiorante (author)2014-01-30

If you want your seed to sprout even faster try taking off the woody outer skin so water can get to the seed I do this and my seeds sprout faster and and I have a better germination ratio

SaraR48 (author)cfiorante2016-02-22

I do the same thing, it makes a big difference.

lhs1 (author)2015-10-06

A great way to see if your seeds are even eligible for germination is to drop them in a glas of water, if they do not sink they will not germinate. Great tutorial! Thanx so much

SaraR48 (author)lhs12016-02-22

That's not necessarily true. It's supposed to be, if you soak a seed for over 24 hours and it still floats, it won't germinate, but even that isn't true. I currently have 7 germinated citrus seeds that still floated after a 24 hour soak, and have had the same experience in the past. The way I do it is I peel off the soft coating around the seed (Fingernails work fine for this), soak for 24 hours, then move on to the paper towel/baggie method.

pinfante (author)2014-04-21

do I need to water it daily?

vikingu (author)2011-05-07

thanks man

Tommy W (author)2011-03-27

This made me win my school science fair! I got Simplest Project. Thanks!

MrBrownThumb (author)Tommy W2011-03-27

That's awesome, congrats!

beehard44 (author)2010-11-09

anyone got luck on calendula?

AzureEyes (author)2010-07-14

i did worked well (at sprouting) but the seeds were stuck in the paper towel. I read somewhere that they don't grow through the coffee filters. there is a chick with a youtube video that said not to disturb the the roots, just plant the whole thing (little bit of paper towel and all) it worked well, but I had problems with damping off. :(

popa27272 (author)2010-02-11

would this work with apple seeds? just wondering because new england isn't the best place for citrus friut.

bufordsboy (author)2010-01-19

just put my lemon seeds in

ange247 (author)2009-08-27

Wow, can't get any easier than that!! Thanks!!

katuah (author)2009-05-22

you can use this for seeds other than citrus, but something to know is that hybrid plants (many peppers, tomatoes, etc) will not make seeds that produce the same kind of plant - if they grow at all. what you want to do this with is heirloom "open-pollinated" fruits & veggies. also, a seed from an open-pollinated fruit/veg that was cross-pollinated by a different variety of the same plant will not taste the same, it will be a cross between the two plants. if you really get into gardening from seeds, check out some of the seed saving co-ops and suppliers. google "seed savers" and check it out.

captaincoolness55 (author)2009-03-20

awesome man! :D

Breezy04 (author)2008-08-22

I actually did this 3 months ago with a group of 19 first grade students in my student teaching class for their planting unit. 17 out of 19 successfully grew on their own and luckily I had planted extras so everyone had one that was growing. When they, we planted fava beans, started to look a little moldy I planted them in little pots for the kids to take home. They were so excited. I recently got beans off of the few extras I planted in my garden. Very cool method for starting seeds.

The Dark Ninja (author)2008-07-20

This is an awesome idea and I'm using it right now. It works wonderfully with sunflower seeds! I have also done this with cherry seeds. However, they never sprouted while in the bag. I almost threw them away because they looked like they were getting mold on them. But my wife took them all and put them in a small pot w/ soil. Now, out of 5 seeds, I've got 2 that are sprouted! Cool! Cherry Trees! Anyway, I'm working on a plum seed now. No idea how that will work. If it doesn't sprout in the bag, I am going to just plant it. I am using this in combination with the 'roll' method which makes it easy to transplant them into my yard. Thanks for the awesome idea!!

theburn7 (author)2008-05-30

It works! The onion seeds are sprouting very quickly

Cool-fool (author)2008-01-03

I tried this and my sprouts got covered in fuzzy white mold! Where'd I go wrong?

MrBrownThumb (author)Cool-fool2008-01-03

My guess: Your towel was too wet keep it moist without it being soaking wet. Direct sunlight may also have caused it or keeping it in the baggie for too long after it has sprouted. Once I get the first set of leaves I remove it and pot it up.

dedebe4 (author)MrBrownThumb2008-05-29

I don't know if this will help, but with Morning glory seeds and other big seeds they tell you you can hasten sprouting by filing down the sprouting end with a file thus making it thinner. Then you soak them over night before planting or doing the paper towel thing.

dufflight (author)Cool-fool2008-03-22

Too Wet.

theburn7 (author)2008-05-24

Would putting it in the sun harm it at all?

MrBrownThumb (author)theburn72008-05-29

It may dry it out or cause some mold/fungi inside. But after my first try I haven't had much of a problem.

sbloch (author)2007-01-17

When I found a sprouted seed in my morning grapefruit, about twelve years ago, I did the paper-towel thing (didn't think of the ziploc bag). It's about six feet tall now :-)

MrBrownThumb (author)sbloch2007-01-17

Congrats. Yeah the baggie is just to trap in more moisture and to save you from having to keep it from drying out. It also helps because humid air is warmer and that will help the seeds. 12 years? You're committed to that tree. I keep starting these because I give them away when they get too big for my windows. In the winter window space is at a premium and the Cacti & Succulents and Amaryllis bulbs get first dibs. And finding seeds already sprouted is pretty awesome. I found a peach and mango recently sprouting in their respective fruits recently but I don't know what I did with the seeds.

kitsuken (author)MrBrownThumb2008-05-23

Why not keep them as bonsai trees if size is an issue? It would keep the size of the tree down and make it more viable for keeping, plus it could be interesting to try growing one of them :)

canida (author)sbloch2007-01-17


WesDoesStuff (author)sbloch2007-01-17

that's crazy

plzspoilme25 (author)2008-02-24

isnt this something we all learn in grade school? this and the soda bottle greenhouses? anyway, i didnt even know that a citrus seed would sprout since the above formentioned things about grafting, and hybronizing and such, so i found it intresting, who knows that may have been the best citrus tree in the world.....btw is it still alive???? but as with any seed, u probably wouldnt get what u thought u were getting when all was said and done, same with roses, or anything that is grown today, we have added too many modifications to the seeds to survive pest and to grow in colder weather and to be bigger (not better if u ask me) perhaps the ongoing cause of things like autism , add, adhd and others??? we blame it all on bout thinking of what we do to our food befor its our food???? sorry i'll be good that u got it to sprout i'm gonna try.....

kitsuken (author)plzspoilme25 2008-05-23

Er, with the exception of GM crops (which are a fairly recent development), larger fruits and veggies have been created through selective breeding rather than through strange things done to them. Also, if you're referring to the "mmr causes autism" thing with the immunization comment, that was completely disproven and, in fact, never really had any evidence to begin with.

tea_lover (author)2008-05-23

I have my mandarin seeds soaking now. I can't wait!! Thank you

The Saminator (author)2008-02-20

I am going to try to grow an orange plant in nj. lol:)

About This Instructable




Bio: Guy from Chicago interested in a wide range of things. Right now I'm really into Cacti And Succulents and plant propagation from seed and ... More »
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