How To Start Seeds Indoors

Updated: Sep. 01, 2023

Learn how to start seeds indoors. You'll provide your plants with a head start before they move outdoors for the season.

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Starting Seeds Indoors
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The Basics: How to start seeds indoors

Regardless of the type of seeds you’re planting, keep these simple steps for how to grow seeds indoors on your to-do list:

  • Before purchasing seeds of all kinds, check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to be sure the plants will thrive in your region. This is especially important once seedlings are transplanted into a traditional outdoor garden or container.
  • Seeds are generally sown indoors approximately six weeks before your area experiences its last frost of the season.
  • Start with clean containers devoid of debris or remnants of old soil or roots from other plants.
  • Mark containers with the name of what’s growing inside. This makes it easier to follow any specific instructions for each herb, vegetable or flower.
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Citrus-rind seed starters
Family Handyman


Herbs add a dash of flavor, not only to foods but also as ornamental features. There are many herbs to choose from. Some of the most popular include chives, dill, thyme, parsley, sage, oregano, basil and cilantro. Use an indoor herb planter to grow these herbs all year.

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grow tomatoes in a window box
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Vegetable seeds are easy to get started indoors. A well-planned vegetable garden can result in an abundance of fresh items for your culinary creations. You can even grow vegetables in pots.

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Home plants, succulent flowers


Flowers are a welcoming sight in the home, with their colorful petals creating a visual delight in any room. Display the plant in full bloom, clip stems to create a separate vase of flowers and dry the petals to make your own scented potpourri. Display your favorite flowers and plants in a vertical arrangement, whether on your deck, patio or even inside your home.

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Seeds planted in egg cartons how to grow seeds indoors

Tips for How To Start Seeds Indoors

  • For how to start seeds indoors, use trays, such as egg cartons, to plant seeds. The extra room of a large clay pot isn’t necessary until the plants have germinated and started to grow. Put several small holes in the sides and bottom of each compartment for ventilation.
  • Fill the containers with a good potting mix made specifically for seeds. It is lighter in weight than regular potting soil, which is important for tiny seeds that are trying to push their way through the soil to sprout.
  • Combine soilless peat moss along with a seedling mix with equal parts of perlite and vermiculite. This type of mixture promotes oxygen and retains moisture.
  • Once the mixture is blended, place it in a large container and use warm water to moisten it.
  • Fill the egg cartons or other small containers with the moist mixture.
  • Follow the planting instructions listed on each seed packet.
  • Cover the top of the tray with clear plastic wrap. This helps keep the potting soil moist.
  • New seeds need to be kept warm. Place the seed trays in a warm location out of direct sunlight. If possible, use a heating mat placed under the tray for faster germination. You can also sit the containers on top of a warm spot such as the refrigerator.
  • Once germination begins and seedlings will start to appear; the plastic wrap can be removed.
  • The seedlings are now ready to be placed in a location where they will receive bright light. As an alternative, some gardeners choose to use grow lights.
  • Use an organic liquid fertilizer once a week to keep seedlings growing strong.
  • At some point, usually when the stems exhibit additional leaves, it’s time to transfer the seedlings into larger containers filled with potting mix and compost.
  • Seedlings are delicate, so move each one carefully to its individual pot.
  • Water well.
  • Place newly transplanted seedlings in a location that does not receive direct sunlight for a few days. This allows the seedlings to acclimate to their new environment.
  • Water as needed, but be careful not to overwater.
  • Keep in mind when choosing seeds, some plants take longer to sprout than others and some require more sun. To ensure all plants receive adequate sunlight, you can use grow lights.

Like other living organisms, the more care provided, the healthier they will be. For successful gardens of herbs, vegetables and flowers, provide the key ingredients of sunlight, water and nutritious soil. If you follow these basic tips for how to start seeds indoors, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful garden year-round.