How to Start Sweet Pea Seeds using the Paper Towel Method

Sweet pea seed germinated using the paper towel method

How to Start Sweet Pea Seeds using the Paper Towel Method

Sweet peas are a popular garden plant that are easy to grow and provide beautiful blooms throughout the late spring and summer. If you're interested in growing your own sweet peas, one easy method for starting the seeds is using the paper towel method.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Gather your materials: You will need sweet pea seeds, paper towels and a plastic bag e.g. a Ziploc.
  2. Prepare the paper towel: Wet a paper towel, wring it out (your paper towel needs to be moist but not dripping wet), and then place the seeds on one half of the paper towel. Try to keep the sweets apart from each other so that they don't touch.  Fold the other half of the paper towel over the seeds to cover them.
  3. Place in a plastic bag: Place the paper towel with the seeds inside a plastic bag to help keep the moisture levels high. Keep the bag sealed so that the moisture stays inside.
  4. Wait for germination: Store the plastic bag in a warm place (I put them on top of my fridge) and wait for the seeds to germinate, which usually takes a few days. Check the seeds each day for germination.
  5. Transplant the seeds: Once the seeds have sprouted, carefully remove them from the paper towel and transplant them into individual pots filled with soil. Just place the sprouted seed onto the surface of your pot and sprinkle about 1/4 inch of soil on top. It doesn't matter about orientating the root or shoot - they will find their way. Be sure to keep the soil moist and in a cool, bright place to encourage continued growth.
  6. Move to the garden: Once the sweet pea seedlings have grown big enough, you can transplant them into your garden or containers. Sweet peas prefer well-draining soil and full sun to partial afternoon shade.


Easy: The paper towel method is simple and requires few materials.
Fast: Sweet pea seeds can sprout in as little as 2-3 days using this method, making it a fast way to start seeds.
Minimal Space: This method takes up very little space and is great for those who have limited space for starting seeds.  You can be sure that you have viable seed before placing it in a pot.


Careful Monitoring Required: You need to check the seeds every day to see if they have germinated.  If you forget about them for a few days you may open your bag and find a tangle of roots and shoots and will have to start again.
Transplant Shock: The delicate roots of the sweet peas may be damaged during transplanting, causing transplant shock and reducing the chances of survival.  Sometimes the roots can become entangled in the paper towel and break off as you handle them.

By using the paper towel method, you can easily start sweet pea seeds indoors and get a head start on your gardening season. Happy planting!

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