What is germination?

The germination of seeds is a process thanks to which the planet Earth is full of plants. It is important for the survival of plant species, but also for animals and, consequently, also for human beings, since although we do not like vegetables we need to eat fruits and vegetables, as well as protect ourselves from the sun and / or enjoy of the nature.

But while we take it for granted that all the plants in the world propagate in some way, those that do so through the production and subsequent germination of seeds have it very complicated. First, it will be the predators and then the fungi, bacteria and viruses that will try to damage them. The risk of them spoiling is very high, but luckily we have learned to minimize it. Let’s know what germination is.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What is germination?
  • 2 What are the stages of germination?
  • 3 How do you know if a seed is going to germinate?
  • 4 Treatments to get them to germinate as soon as possible
    • 4.1 Sand them with sandpaper
    • 4.2 Thermal shock
    • 4.3 Stratification
  • 5 Tips for buying quality seeds

What is germination?

Germination is the birth, if I may speak, of a plant. It is the first step in your life, and the most important. It may have taken as little as a few days, which is the time many herbs take to sprout, or perhaps several years, as does some trees that live in the extremely cold climate regions of the world.

But what is clear is that those that manage to germinate are lucky, because the seed has to be in good condition to be able to fulfill its function. But what are those conditions? That is to say, What characteristics must it have to germinate? The new options are the following:

  • Must have matured. It must be fully developed and have its final size.
  • It must be viable; In other words, it must have the means for germination to take place. And that is only possible when the flower is pollinated, since it is when the ovary is fertilized.
  • It is crucial that you are healthy and in good condition. If it has been attacked by an enemy (animal or microorganism) it will be difficult for it to germinate.

What are the stages of germination?

Germination goes through 4 stages

Image – Wikimedia / MAKY.OREL

This process has three stages, which are:

  • Radicle appearance: it is the one that will soon become the main root that will serve the holding plant. After a few days, secondary roots will sprout from its upper part; These will be the ones in charge of looking for humidity.
  • Hypocotyl sprouting: The hypocotyl it is the main stem. It arises quickly, and almost always curved downwards, although there are exceptions (that of palm trees, for example, grows straight from the beginning).
  • Cotyledon emergence: The cotyledon It is the primitive leaf, the one that will be in charge of giving strength to the seedling so that it produces the first true leaves. As soon as these sprout, it will dry up. It is necessary to differentiate the plants that have a cotyledon (monocots) from those that have two (dicots). The first are herbs, palm trees, bromeliads, starlets or banana trees, among others; on the other hand, the latter are trees, shrubs, aromatic plants, or climbing plants, among others.
  • Budding of the first true leaves: it is the final stage of germination. From now on, the plant will be able to gain strength and size.

How do you know if a seed is going to germinate?

A quick way to find out is to consist of fill a glass with water and put the seeds

. Those that sink will be those that germinate, and those that remain floating will be those that will not. The normal thing is that it is seen immediately, but if they measure half a centimeter or something more, it is best to leave them 24 hours.

What plants is this method for? Vegetables, bulbous, legumes, palms, trees … In short, for practically all.

Treatments to get them to germinate as soon as possible

Pregerminative treatments help the seeds to germinate

There are several methods to find out. But it is important to keep in mind that there are many types of seeds, and not all of them need the same conditions to germinate; for this reason, not all methods work for all seeds.

Sand them with sandpaper

The seeds of many trees are covered by a film that is very thin but also hard that protects them against cold and heat. It is the case of Delonix direction (flamboyan), tipuana tipuRobinia pseudoacacia, Albizia, Acacia, etc. One way to get them to germinate as soon as possible is to sand them a bit with a suitable paper.

You have to do it carefully, passing the sandpaper a couple of times until we see that the color changes. Later, they are put in a glass with water and, if they sink, it is that they will germinate.

Thermal shock

We continue with the trees. There are some, such as Acacia or Albizia for example, which germinate sooner if subjected to thermal shock. This is a method that consists of filling a glass with hot water, placing the seeds in a strainer and putting this in the glass for a second. Immediately afterwards, they have to be put in another glass with water at room temperature and kept there for 24 hours.

After that time they will be ready for sowing, and germination will normally occur after one or two weeks.


It is a pre-germination treatment that will stimulate the germination of those seeds that need to be cold or hot for a few weeks before germinating. Therefore, there are two types:

  • Cold stratification: is one in which the seeds are exposed to low temperatures, below 10ºC, for a few months. This is what, for example, maples (Acer sp), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), oaks and the like (Quercus), etc. 
  • Warm stratification: this is where the seeds are exposed to high temperatures, such as baobabs (Adansonia).

Both can be done artificially when the conditions in our area are not adequate. For example, in the first case, what we would do would be to plant them in a tupperware and place it in the fridge; and in the second fill a thermal bottle with hot water (without burning) and introduce the seeds in it where they will be one or two days.

Tips for buying quality seeds

If you are one of those who like to sow seeds, to finish we offer you a series of tips so that you can get the best quality ones:

  • Make sure the seller is legit: Today many of us buy plants and seeds online, but you only have to do it if the seller gives us confidence. For example, if you are on Amazon, eBay, or similar sites, you should have the most positive reviews.
  • Buy fresh seeds whenever possible: in some online nurseries you will see that it says »new». For this reason, it is highly recommended to buy the new ones, since they are the ones that the seller has just acquired and therefore, the ones that are most likely to germinate.
  • Bet on sellers in your country: The international sale of seeds is allowed, but only if they are sold of species that are not threatened. There are many plants that are included in lists of endangered species. To this must be added that countries have their own laws and regulations that control the importation of seeds from other places. Therefore, the best thing we can do as buyers is to opt for the nearby trade. This way we will not take unnecessary risks.

We hope that this information will be useful to you to know what germination is, and how to know if they can germinate.

What is germination?

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