finding the perfect match
step 1) pick the right seeds
The first key to success with your indoor garden is picking the correct seeds for plants that will do well in your setup, and also seeds that match your current skill level. The best way to do this is:
- Check the size requirements and germination requirements of the seed to see if they’re the right fit for you. For instance, veggies need a lot of light and space, tropical plants need higher humidity and more work to germinate.
- You can also filter your search by ease of germination- it’s recommended to start with easier seeds and progress from there even if you have a lot of experience caring for plants! To filter, go to our shop page, and find the "filter by" drop-down and select beginner, intermediate or advanced.
some things to keep in mind beforehand
step 2) the basics
Seed germination is not easy, each seed has different requirements, some will take 2 days to germinate and others will take 2 months, some can germinate with some soil, water and light, and others need a heat mat, grow lights and greenhouse. We are dealing with nature, so don’t expect 100% germination, especially if you’re just getting into the hobby! Be patient, experiment, ask questions, and just enjoy the process! Each seed needs:
Usually if your seeds aren’t germinating, one of the following may need to be tweaked, here’s a breakdown of some of the common things that go wrong when germinating seeds.why your seeds aren't germinating
getting ready to plant the seeds
step 3) seed prep
Some seeds need some seed prep before planting in the form of stratification, scarification or just a simple soak. This helps replicate the seed’s natural conditions, for instance, stratification is imitating the winter a seed would undergo, so when the seed is warm again, it triggers the germination process as if it were spring. Check your seed’s care guide or product page for seed prep details, usually the more difficult seeds do have a seed prep step.
- Pre-soaking: place the seeds in room temperature or warm water for ~24 hours prior to sowing
- Stratification: Can be dry or wet, depending on the seed's needs. In most cases, you can place the seeds in a container like a baggie or tupperware container with sphagnum moss or soil(or sown already in your planter) and place that container in the fridge for anywhere from 1 week - 2 months before planting the seeds
- Scarification: Breaking the seed's coat so water can get in, this is a pretty gentle process. You can do so by gently cutting the outer coating of the seed with a knife or more commonly, by using some sand paper to sand away a bit of the hard shell.
picking the right germination setup(s)
step 4) setting up
Now that your seeds are ready to be planted, picking the right setup is key! Is there a suggested setup method in the care guide? The care sheet will specify if the greenhouse method or another method like the paper towel method is preferred for a particular variety.
The greenhouse method is the default option and works for all seed varieties provided the seed prep step is followed! Luckily, there are ways to DIY this if you don't have a mini greenhouse. Read this post to learn more about different ways of creating the ideal seed setup:
planting the seeds
step 5) sowing the seeds
This depends again on the set-up method you’ve selected. The two most effective I usually recommend is the greenhouse method or the paper towel method. Your seed will specify the depth and spacing for planting.
- Spacing: With the seeds that come in packs of 100(herbs, veggies or flowers) you can usually sow the seeds more liberally and then thin the seedlings to space them out, for houseplants or succulents, we recommend being more careful with sowing and giving more space for each seed.
- Depth: some seeds will be happy to just be scattered on the surface(like African Violets), while other seeds will appreciate being covered in soil. The most common depth for planting will be anywhere from 1/8"-1/2".
where to place your seed setup
step 6) the right conditions
As mentioned in step 1, the key conditions for seeds to germinate include heat, light and humidity. For common garden seed varieties like herbs or veggies, these conditions don't need to be as specific as they can tolerate a decently wide range of conditions, and are able to germinate quickly even if they're sown directly outdoors.
However, most rare and tropical seeds need the conditions they'd have in their native, tropical regions, which generally means really high heat and humidity, and not too much light. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- For light: ideally use grow lights, but the key thing is *keep your sowing station OUT of direct sun*. Direct sun rays can hurt the seeds and overheat them, it’s a common misconception and beginner mistake. Use a bright windowsill that doesn’t receive much direct sun, or one that only receives a little bit of morning or afternoon sun. North-facing windows are great, west-facing and east-facing is usually fine, but careful with those bright south-facing windows and make sure the seeds are not being blasted with direct sun!
- Heat: if you have a heat mat, crank it up to 70 or 75F(that’s for most seeds, but you care page will usually specify), and keep it from exceeding 85F.
- Humidity: a greenhouse, ziploc bag, jar, or any kind of dome like that is needed for germinating exotic seeds, and definitely helps even for herbs or veggies if you want to maximize germination rates.
keeping the seeds happy
step 7) maintenance
Do you tend to over-love or under-love your plants? If the former, then remind yourself to mostly leave the seeds alone so you don't disturb their conditions too much! If, on the other hand, you tend to forget about your plants(like me!), set reminders on a weekly basis or so to check on the setup. These are the key things to keep track of:
- Is there condensation on the humidity dome? If you don't see a good amount of condensation form within 24 hours on the dome(I'm talking about considerable drops), then you probably need to add water and/or increase the temperature.
- Keep the soil moist: Check the soil moisture levels once a week or so, you can either do so visually or by lightly prodding the soil with your finger. If it doesn't feel very moist, then gently add some warm water.
- Warmth: Temperatures need to stay consistently in the 70-85F range. If it gets too cold or too warm, then the seeds may not make it.
- Light: Double check to make sure the seeds aren't getting blasted by sunlight if you have them by a windowsill!
making sure sprouts grow into happy seedlings
step 8) caring for the sprouts
Setting things up can be a challenge, but in my experience, caring for the sprouts is the most difficult part because each situation is different. The key thing to keep in mind is, your sprouts are transitioning from the conditions seeds need to conditions the plants need. That means they still need high humidity and warmth, however not in the same way seeds do. Here's the general process you'll want to follow when you see sprouts:
- If your humidity dome has air vents, then open them. If not, take off the dome for an hour a day to start. It's crucial to start giving the seedlings fresh air, as well as start acclimating them to outdoor conditions .
- Once most of the seeds germinate, start removing the dome for longer periods daily so within about a week you can leave it off for good without shocking the seedlings with the change in temperature and humidity.
- Provide more light. If you're using grow lights, great, keep them under grow lights. If you have them by a windowsill, make sure they're getting bright indirect light. They need to start making their own energy through photosynthesis and light is crucial.
- Keep the soil moist, so many sprouts die from underwatering(or in some cases, overwatering). So check in regularly to make sure moisture levels are good
- Do you have them on a heat mat? I recommend acclimating them to be off the heat mat, that way the soil doesn't dry out too much. Keep them warm, but they don't need the same heat levels that seeds need.
watch the seedlings grow!
step 9) seedling care
Congratulations! Your sprouts are growing into little seedlings and they may have 1 or 2 sets of leaves now. That first set of leaves are the baby leaves, and the second set are called adult leaves. Now that you have a good setup with good moisture, warmth and lighting, let's consider fertilization and re-potting.
- Re-potting: Do you have your seedlings in a greenhouse? They may be getting crowded. A good time to know your seedlings are hardy enough to survive a move is if they have their first, or second, set of adult leaves. Be gentle, and keep the roots intact, and make sure to give them a home that will give them enough space to grow but not too big(usually you only want to size up planters 2" at a time, so if you're at a greenhouse, move them to a 4" planter and if they're in a 4" planter, move them to a 6" planter)
- Fertilization: Usually if your seedlings have their 2nd or 3rd set of adult leaves, you can start fertilizing them with diluted liquid fertilizer. Noot or Arber are brands we recommend, but most liquid fertilizers for indoor plants work! Diluted the strength by half, and water the seedlings anywhere from once a week to once a month with the fertilized water(more frequently in the growing season, and less frequently during the colder months).
- Light: Seedlings generally need more light to grow than their adult plant counterparts. So if you have them under grow lights, they should be fine, however, if they're by a north, east or west facing window, they may need a bit more light. You can start gradually acclimating seedlings to more sun(gradual is very key!). South-facing windows actually work wonderfully, but again, make sure they're not being blasted with sun for 6 hours a day right away. However, if you can give your seedlings 1-3 hours of gentle sunlight from a window, that can really boost their growth!
enjoy your indoor jungle :)
step 10) plant care
Now that your seedlings are growing larger, hopefully you have them on a good routine with watering and fertilizing and have the baby plants in a good spot with good lighting!
I'll get messages asking why their seedlings are growing so slowly, and oftentimes it'll come down to either the planter size, light or lastly, fertilizer. So keep an eye on your baby plants to make sure they're not root bound in their planter and still have room to grow, that they're getting good lighting and adjust to give them more light if needed, and finally if you've addressed the other two, make sure you're giving them good soil and fertilizer.
Another thing to consider is pest control. I recommend regularly gently washing the seedling's foliage, which is a very good way to check the foliage to see if there are any bugs crawling around and just to wash off any bugs or eggs that might be on the plants. In general, growing from seed is great because you won't have pests on the plants you grow from seed *unless* they get infected from other plants in your collection.
If your seedlings are a little older and you have been washing their foliage but they're still infested, then I recommend trying an insecticide or beneficial bugs to help with the issue. In general, the best prevention for pests is by giving good, regular care to your plants so their natural defenses are strong!
join our community of hobbyists :)
step 11) sharing your progress!
If you have any questions, or have photos and videos to share, we would love to hear from you! We have a new forum where you can go and ask questions to get answers from fellow gardeners(and of course, from us!), social media, and of course, you can reach us by email.reach out to us
let us help you!