Introduction: Sprout Seeds Overnight...with Scarification!

Picture of Sprout Seeds Overnight...with Scarification!

How would you like to sprout practically any seed overnight?  Of course you would!

I like to mess around with plants, but I have always had a hard time getting seeds to reliably sprout, or germinate.

Yesterday I was poking around the web trying to learn more about how to get seeds to sprout with more success, and I found a reference to something called "seed scarification".  This is a fancy way of describing the method of nicking, sanding, or clipping off part of the seed's shell so water can get to the inside part to activate germination.  You can search YouTube to see a selection of videos on this topic.

The reason that seeds take varying lengths of time to germinate is not because the inside of the seed takes more or less time to activate.  It is simply because all seed shells are somewhat water-resistant.  The germination time has to do with how long it takes water to penetrate and permeate the seed shell or coating and get to the inside part of the seed.  Once the water reaches the inside of most seeds, they all activate and grow immediately at that point.

Yesterday when I found this method, I tried sanding one edge off each of ten pumpkin seeds.  The previous two attempts at germinating these same commercial pumpkin seeds resulted in only one sprouted seed from the 20 that I attempted to germinate.  But of the 10 pumpkin seeds from the same package that I sanded one edge off and started germinated yesterday, already today 6 of the seeds have sprouted with up to 1/2" long roots!  That is less than 24 hours!

So although this is a very simple Instructable, I hope that it will help a lot of you that like to grow plants from seeds.

Let's get started, shall we?

Step 1: What You'll Need...

Picture of What You'll Need...

You will need:

  o  Seeds, dried
  o  Some way to damage the seed shell (I used 220-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, but you can also use nail clippers or fine metal file, etc.)
  o  Water
  o  Paper towel (optional)
  o  ZipLock sandwitch or snack bag (optional)

That's it!

Step 2: Now Damage the Seed Shells...

Picture of Now Damage the Seed Shells...

Grab one of the dry seeds and damage the side of the seed shell by sanding through the shell with sandpaper, or by nipping off a tiny piece of the seed shell, or by filing the side of the seed shell.

You don't want to sand or cut ot file past the seed shell.  When you reach the inside part of the seed, you have gone far enough.  The idea is to allow water to enter the inside of the seed shell by capillary action to distribute the moisture.

If you sand or cut or file too far into the inside part of the seed itself, you might damage the seed and then it will not germinate.

Trial and error is required until you get the hang of it.

Step 3: Water the Seeds and Germinate Them...

Picture of Water the Seeds and Germinate Them...

You can do this step a lot of different ways, but the way I like to do it is as follows:

  o  Moisten a paper towel with water and then ring it out so it is damp but not dripping.  It should be fairly dry.

  o  Arrange the scarified dry seeds on the folded paper towel.  I usually do two rows of 5 seeds for a total of 10 seeds.

  o  Carefully place the paper towel with the seeds on it into a ZipLock sandwich or snack-sized bag.  Squeeze all the air out and seal the bag.

  o  Put the bag with the seeds in it in a warm area.  I have a proofing oven for bread that I like to use, which keeps the temperature at about 90 degrees F which seems to be optimal for most seeds.

  o  With luck, you should see your seeds sprout roots within 24 hours.

I hope this helps you find more success in germinating seeds!


terrefirmax2 (author)2016-03-29

I wonder if the quality of municipal water has an effect. Ours has a lot of chloramine and probably other residues.

CLEM2 (author)terrefirmax22016-03-29


taur561 (author)CLEM22016-03-30

municipal water is full of chemicals . I let water stand in the sun covered to keep out insects , for a week to let chlorine and chemicals dessipate . It is then safe to use even for fish without adding extra chemicals . Interesting facts about municipal water especially where it is recycled is that it has been through 9 sets of kidneys before you get to drink it . Hormones are very difficult to remove from recycled water and some suspect that this , especially hormones found in birth control and menopausal medication could be causing changes in men's sexuality ? . ( iIt has been suggested ) and that ! Lastly , Londons water has detectable amounts of cocaine in it . Nice !!!!

Skeeter48ND (author)taur5612017-02-03

Are there home tests for water out of the tap? I am atuned to soil contamination never thought 2x about h2o - I feel rather dumb

Skeeter48ND (author)taur5612017-02-03

No wonder Londoners have 'high' water bills

mikeosu (author)taur5612016-04-19

Actually chlorine is a very Volatile chemical and should evaporate in one day left UNCOVERED it can not evaporate if it is covered.

Lavoz24 (author)taur5612016-03-31

I boil "distill" my water and cover with a paper towel while it is cooling to room temp. That way I get all chemicals out of it. I've been doing it for years (since a teen) and I use the water for my dogs drinking bowl, to water my urban garden, for myself and for my betta's water. Never had an issue and I've even done the experiments between bottled water, tap water and boiled water. So far, boiling the water wins every time when it comes to my betta's being happy and healthy(they don't get that slimed skin and other health issues) and my garden is always lush, green and when it's time to bear vegetables and fruit, mine grow big and tasty. Of course I also add food to the soil but my hydroponics with just water do fine.

DanielO121 (author)Lavoz242016-04-06

Hi. I just want to mention that boiling the water is fine, it will kill bacteria, but "distilling" it means turning it completely to vapor and re-condensing it through a cold coil, which is the only way to create distilled pure H2o, which is NOT good for pets or humans. Trace minerals are necessary in the water we drink. It is always a good idea to have your water tested for what it contains, especially after the Flint, MI fiasco. You should try that before and after you boil it to see what if any differences there may be. Any urinalysis lab can do it.

jmd13391 (author)CLEM22016-03-30

Hi CLEM2, While it is true that letting water stand open in sunlight for 24-48 hours will cause chlorine (toxic to plants) to dissipate, it will will do almost nothing to address chloramine (also toxic to plants and used in place and/or in addition to chlorine by most municipal water services for years now). Running tap water through a water filter that contains activated carbon and KDF elements will greatly reduce chlorine and chloramine levels. You can eliminate the remainder of chlorine and chloramine in your water by adding a small amount (~ 1/4 tablespoon per 10 gallons) of sodium ascobate powder (a specific form of vitamin-C available online and in local nutrition stores). -- Happy Growing! -Joe D.

Groaker (author)terrefirmax22016-03-29

In any significant concentration, chloramine is not good for living things. It sounds like your water is tested for, which means it is likely below the problematic limit. But we know from Flint, Michigan that is not always the case.

Amelia Ashton (author)2017-01-23

Thanks! Definitely going to try this.

OceanWhisper made it! (author)2016-10-05

Thanks for this :) I'm growing flower seeds and the seedlings are happily now re- planted into a pot and going well.

PaHalloweenFreak made it! (author)2016-05-18

Did this with some Morning Glory seeds that are 20 to 30 years old. In a little over 24 hours I have 2 out of 6 seeds sprouting so far and that is just at room temperature!
Thanks to your Instructable, I can have the offspring of my mom's flowers in my garden. ?

sheba92766 (author)2016-04-07

I am so dense despite my IQ!! I've nicked my Morning Glory seeds & soaked overnight for years because their outer covering is extremely hard. I've used razor blades & utility knives. It never crossed my mind to use clippers, which I'm sure are stout enough to cut through the hard shell. Thank you for posting.

justj700 made it! (author)2016-04-05

Here are my results after 6 days. I put my baggie under my desk lamp beam to provide some heat. These are Jalapeno Peppers that I clipped with finger-nail clippers. Now I'm going to try it with other seeds. Thanks so much for this instructable. (Sorry for the second pic)

gengarh1/ (author)2016-04-03

U r a genius

Anne46 (author)2016-04-02

Thanks :-)

SteveB150 (author)2016-04-01

I have apple seeds I'm going to try this with...sounds great!!!!

Nreal Spark (author)2016-04-01

I will need to take a look at this, since I have some upcoming projects that involve plants, and this could fasten some stuff! Thank you!

caruncles (author)2016-03-30

You learn something new every day. I grow tomatoes, peppers, cucs, squash and other stuff every year. In recent years I've realized that the store-bought tomato plants come with tomato wilt virus or tobacco wilt virus. So, I started using seeds about 4 years ago. Like you said, it has always been a challenge getting seeds started, especially in winter. Down here in south Georgia you can't start seeds too late or it'll be too hot for the small plants to tolerate. I'm definitely going to try this scarification. I was wondering if you could put them in a jar with fine sand and shake them up. May not work on small seeds, because you may not be able to find them. I guess some window screen might filter it.

I collect rain water in 5 gallon buckets for my seedlings. My garden is too big to collect that much water. I use county water. I think all they do is dump some chlorine in it. Anyway, it works.

I built strawberry planters years ago from 6 or 8" PVC pipe which were originally deer feeders. I cut a round board to fill the bottom then used shelf angle brackets to make feet so they would stand up vertically. I cut 1.5" holes in the sides with a hole saw, filled it up with dirt and poked strawberry seedlings in the holes. I stuffed a little pine straw around the holes to keep the dirt in. They worked great, but I couldn't keep the birds from ruining the strawberries before I could harvest them. They ruin plenty of tomatoes but I plant a lot of them to offset the loss.

Lavoz24 (author)caruncles2016-03-31

I know what you mean. I used to live in Ocala,Florida and during the winter,in order for me to grow tomatoes,peppers,beans,pumpkins,etc. I had to make an indoor greenhouse. I took an 8' x 8' corner of my house (an area that got morning/noon sun), removed the carpet and with some 2 x 4's I made the garden. Of course I made the floor and area was safe from dirt and water and when it was time to bring in the plants and vines I would bring in one of each or grow from seeds and I had fresh veggies,key limes and strawberries all winter. Come Spring time I would prepare my yard, transfer them out and the mini greenhouse would be prepped and stored for next winter. It worked for me every time and maybe you could do this this coming winter. Doesn't have to be big, maybe a 12" x 12" for 2 varieties of tomato plants or one tomatoe and one cucumber/pepper.

caruncles (author)Lavoz242016-03-31

Actually I've got a little greenhouse I bought at a Fred's store a few years ago. It's about 2.5' X 2' X 4' high. It's pretty good for starting seeds, but you have to be careful. Can't leave 'em outside if it's gonna freeze and if it gets too hot it will kill the sprouts. I try to keep it on one side of the patio which doesn't get much sun until late afternoon.

Ideally, I would love to have a green house big enough to grow some citrus and have some 'maters during the winter!

vacavendish (author)2016-03-30

Wow ok maybe this will enliven my amateur gardening so I have more success. I am curious how I "sand" very small seeds (or in some way damage their coats). Thank you for the original post and all the great comments. I have learned quite a bit.

Lavoz24 (author)vacavendish2016-03-31

You could use a sewing needle to poke some holes in the corner if you don't feel like sanding. This will work as well. It helps even more if you are holding the seed under water when you make the hole that way water will go in right away and just do the paper towel green house or as I do I use a plastic bottle place and close over each other as a green house. I then place them in a dark high place where they will grow a few inches.

wrhill (author)2016-03-29

I am trying to grow strawberry from seeds. I havent been successful at all. Will this work with them. The seeds are very small?

CJ Morin (author)wrhill2016-03-29

I am also intrested to know this, I have had horrible germination in the past with Strawberries

wrhill (author)CJ Morin2016-03-29

If anyone knows where I might get Giant Strawberry's in the US please let me know.

hvweezel (author)wrhill2016-03-30,searchweb201602_3_10036_10035_10034_507_10020_10001_10002_10017_10010_10005_10011_10006_10003_10021_10004_10022_10009_10008_10018_10019,searchweb201603_9&btsid=83327f5b-6cac-4c53-8f6c-a93cfea947ae

SergeyT9 (author)hvweezel2016-03-31

on aliexpress 90% is fake LOL

wrhill (author)hvweezel2016-03-31

I have seen where to get seeds, but not plants or roots.

thank you for your suggestion.

juntjoo (author)wrhill2016-03-30

Area 52

GardeninGrannie (author)wrhill2016-03-30

Hi, just wanted to let you know that Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co. carries the giant strawberry plants. I have ordered seed and plants from them for the last 50+ years and they are a great company. You can go online at and get them to send you a free catalog.

GardeninGrannie (author)wrhill2016-03-30

Hi, just wanted to let you know that Gurney's Seed & Nursery Co. carries the giant strawberry plants. I have ordered seed and plants from them for the last 50+ years and they are a great company. You can go online at and get them to send you a free catalog.

maxgregory (author)CJ Morin2016-03-30

strawberries are best grown from suckers. Nick a stem where it grows over the soil, cut a nick in the underside, then peg it down. leave it to root, then cut it away from the parent sucker. plant.

Daddio_DX (author)wrhill2016-03-30

You must freeze strawberry seeds for 4 weeks and keep evenly moist at 70° until germination is achieved within 1 to 7 weeks. Be patient, grasshopper, and never forget the first rule of strawberry seeds, freeze!

juntjoo (author)Daddio_DX2016-03-30

How does mother nature do it?

Some places don't get cold enough, but most areas strawberries naturally thrive in have cold winters.

not all seeds need stratification ;)

SergeyT9 (author)Daddio_DX2016-03-31

no need stratification for strawberry. It's enough. Better put seeds in warm water (around 25 degrees) for 24 hrs. And start growing in warm place (25 C). Also u can use special chemical.

ehöfer1 (author)wrhill2016-03-29

It is very hard to start strawberries from seeds (though planting a whole strawberry can be a bit more successful.
The single best way to get multiple plants fast is to buy two or three adult plants and wait until they start going crazy with off-shoots (which can then be pinned into individual pots, and after the roots have developed but off the mother plant). I find this the most efficient way, partially because strawberries get less and less productive in terms of fruit bearing after the first year. :)

sarawelder (author)ehöfer12016-03-29

thank you . I wondered why my strawberries were fruiting so much less

Gordyh (author)sarawelder2016-03-29

We have a 20' x 20' strawberry patch. The patch is divided into rows. Alternating rows of plants and straw. We get weed free straw from a local farmer, peel off 2" to 2-1/2" slabs from the bale and lay them on the ground. Then find the runners on the parent plants and gently reposition them on top of the straw. Every 2 to 3 years lay down fresh straw on top of the old plants and reposition the young runners onto the new straw. This is something that has worked well for my parents and grandparents so I'm doing it to ;-) The straw acts to hold moisture and act as somewhat of a weed barrier, not a perfect weed barrier but better than nothing ;-)

ehöfer1 (author)Gordyh2016-03-29

That's a really nice little system. The geometry appeals to me. How many years do you stick with each plant? 2 and then out to make space for the runners' runners? ^_^

ChrisK13 (author)ehöfer12016-03-29

Starting strawberries from seed is possible, but the seeds are tiny and the plants take 6-8 months before they are as big as a 'runner' that you would cut from a mother plant. Very moist and weed-free compost is helpful. Plenty of info on the web. e.g.

mikecz (author)ehöfer12016-03-29

Because this is a form of "vegetative reproduction" you're getting exact clones of the mother plants, too! Especially if you paid for a desirable variety, you can soon (in a few years) have quite a large berry patch of the desired type.

PeterT22 (author)wrhill2016-03-29

Some plants need their seeds to be "stratified" before they'll sprout. The stratifying process involves mimicking winter for several months using a refrigerator, or even leaving them outside in a way you can recover them.

SergeyT9 (author)2016-03-31

LMAO funny post.

Crossforge (author)2016-03-30

Just to let you know that the Carolina reaper is actually the hottest chili. This quote from Wikipedia.

"TheTrinidad moruga scorpion(Capsicum chinense) is native to the district ofMorugainTrinidad and Tobago. On February 13, 2012,New Mexico State University'sChile Pepper Institute identified the Trinidad moruga scorpion as the hottest chili in the world, with a mean heat of more than 1.2 million Scoville heat units (SHUs) and individual plants with a heat of more than 2 millionSHUs.[1]The previous record holder was thebhut jolokiaof India. The current world record holder is theCarolina Reaper."

juntjoo (author)2016-03-30

What ever happened to putting seeds in the earth?

Cayotica (author)2016-03-29

where do seedless watermelons come from? Seriously guys don't no seeds = no plant?

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