How Much Water Do Seeds Require To Germinate? Garden Tips 2024

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Seeds of any kind need the right environment to germinate. Temperature, air, and moisture are all vital for seed germination. Most seeds germinate best in a dark environment, without any light or with just a little. Many people germinate seeds by soaking them in water, but timing is vital. 

You can germinate seeds in soil or a growing medium, or by wrapping them in a permanently moist paper towel. You can speed up germination by soaking some seeds in water. Either way, water is a vital factor for successful germination. If you don’t give your seeds water, the embryos will die. If you give them too much water, including soaking them for too long, the seeds will rot.   

How Much Water Does It Take for Seeds To Germinate?

Soaking seeds in water speeds up germination by softening the tough protective coating some seeds have. The water encourages new growth from inside the seed and enables it to quickly push through the hard shell.    

If you’re going to soak your seeds in water, submerge them in water for 8-12 but no more than 24 hours. If you soak them for too long, they will start to decompose and rot. 

Almost all seeds germinate when soaked, from small cannabis seeds to large thick-skinned broad beans, corn, or clivia seeds. Don’t soak tiny seeds like carrots, celery, lettuce, radish, spinach, or most annual flowers.

Small seeds need to be germinated in a suitable medium. You can use a well-drained potting mix, a ready-prepared soilless product, or you can make your own seed-starting mix. 

You can also wrap your seeds in a moist paper towel. Once you see that seed starting to germinate, transfer them to a seed-starting medium or potting soil. 

Whatever medium you use, you need to keep the soil moist. It must never become waterlogged with saturated water (liquid water). 

So, a big problem is deciding how much water seeds need for germination. Unlike a recipe that might say to add a cup of water to a stew or sauce, there are many factors that determine the needs required for successful seed germination. 

The exact amount of water needed will depend on the type of seed, the growing medium you use, the temperature, and a host of other environmental conditions.

Also, remember that, apart from keeping the soil moist without saturated water, seeds need light, the right temperature, and oxygen to germinate. 

What happens when seeds germinate? 

It’s impossible not to be enthralled when you watch the miracle of seed germination. As seeds start to take up water the enzymes that start the growing process become active. 

The embryo starts to swell and lengthen. Then it breaks through the outer layers of the seed.

The plant tissue responsible for initial growth is the root meristem. This is activated, and the embryonic root pushes through the outer layer. 

Then embryonic leaves, known as cotyledons, break out. The shoot meristem is activated, and true leaves start forming. 

At this point, the plant needs light and energy, which it will get from the sun or a grow light. 

Watering Methods to Help Seeds Germinate

There are several accepted watering methods that will help seeds to germinate. They include bottom watering, watering from the top, and spraying with water. 

These watering methods are essentially the same as those that you use for watering plants in pots and other containers.

Once your seeds have germinated, it’s important to monitor the soil moisture regularly. You will probably have to adjust your watering method as needed to ensure the seeds are receiving the right amount of moisture. 

Watering from bottom

This method is achieved by placing the seed trays or containers in a bowl or on a tray of water. This is how water is absorbed from the bottom up. 

You just need to be sure to keep the tray constantly full of water. 

Watering from the top

Here, you water the soil or growing medium from the top, taking care not to wash the seeds away. The obvious tool to use is a long-nosed watering can. 

Water with a spray bottle

This method is quite time-intensive, but it works well for seed germination. You will need a spray bottle, ideally with an adjustable spray top. 

Then all you do is mist the soil regularly to keep it evenly moist.

Factors that affect seed germination?

There are several factors that affect seed germination, specifically a suitable environment:

  • Temperature
  • Light
  • Oxygen
  • Soil pH 
  • Moisture

It’s important to realize that these factors affect different seeds in different ways. For example, different seeds have different optimal temperature ranges for germination.

All seeds need oxygen to germinate but not all seeds need light to germinate. Some prefer to be kept in a dark environment. 

The acidity or alkalinity of the soil can affect seed germination. It depends on the requirements of the seeds and plants you are growing. 

All seeds need to be kept evenly moist to germinate, but not waterlogged. Excess water can negatively affect germination and cause root rot before the roots are properly established.

Additionally, the germination of seeds is not only about how much water seeds need. There are other closely related factors that you need to consider.

For instance, if you cover seeds with a thin layer of peat moss or vermiculite, this media can help to prevent the seeds from drying out. This helps to prevent overwatering. 

Covering seeds with a transparent humidity dome or even clear plastic bags will also help because this will increase humidity. This is another control that maintains conditions without the risk of saturated water in the soil. 

Also, the rate at which seeds germinate varies. For instance, it can take anything from 5-30 days for grass seed to germinate, depending on the type.

Cannabis seeds on the other hand can germinate in 12-72 hours. 

Can seeds germinate with too much water?

It is very unlikely that your seeds will germinate with too much water. As we have said, they need water, but if they get too much, the seeds will drown before they start to germinate.


Growing plants from seed can be enormously rewarding. But, even before they start to grow, you have the added challenge of germination. 

You have two main options. Scatter your seeds in the fertile ground where they will get light and oxygen. Then keep the soil moist while nature takes its course.

Take a more structured route and germinate your seeds in seed trays or pots. This way you can control the environment more easily, particularly how much water they get.

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