Growing Indoor Plants From Seeds

Growing Indoor Plants From Seeds

A different method of propagation is by using seeds. To germinate many house plants high temperatures, controlled humidity and sometimes laboratory equipment is needed. However, there are many plants, particularly flowering ones, that can successfully be grown from a seed. Impatiens, geraniums, primulas, begonias, and grevillea are but a few.

Preparing the container

First choose a clean seed tray and line it with crocks or gravel at the bottom to provide good drainage. Fill it with fine compost to within 2 cm (3 in) from the top. Use compost specially mixed for seeds, which contains next to no fertilizer; it helps to add about 20 per cent sterile vermiculite to aid root growth. Firm the compost gently down with the fingers so that it all is of an even thickness. Then water with a fine spray until it is well soaked. Further watering should not be necessary until after the seeds have germinated. Sow the seeds, either by scattering them, if they are very fine, or by placing them in neat rows, if they are larger. Cover lightly with more compost. Label with variety and sowing date. Place a sheet of glass over the top and a sheet of newspaper to protect young seedlings from strong light when the first shoots appear. Put the tray in a warm place and wait. Turn the glass over daily to prevent damping off. When the young plants have secondary leaves, pot up carefully into individual pots.

Seeds and pips

There are lots of other plants that can be grown from seeds and pips and kept for a certain time in the house. Most of them are temperate plants, however, and must be put out into the garden sooner or later. The acorn is one such example. It will soon sprout and within a few weeks a young oak tree will appear. The same is true of fir cones. Place them on top of a bed of peat compost and spray them with water from time to time. Soon the seed will fall out of the cones and germinate and you will have a small forest of young fir trees.

Fruit pips

You can try all sorts of pips; oranges, lemons and grapefruit are obvious choices. Plant the pips in a pot 2 cm (4 in) down, water well and cover the top with plastic. About half of the pips should germinate, but remember that they come from large trees and at some stage citrus trees will need a home in a large greenhouse. Date stones can be germinated on damp blotting paper.


Avocado pear stones germinate easily even if they do tend to take a long time. It is a good idea to germinate these over water. Push three match sticks into the stone and balance it over a glass of water, with the water just touching the base of the stone. Germination can take up to three months. As soon as the stone splits, roots will grow down into the water and a shoot will appear. Pot up carefully, leaving the top of the stone clear of the compost in the pot. When the shoot has made four leaves, pinch out the growing point. It will then send out side shoots and make a compact bush. The plants can grow quite tall but rarely produce fruit.


Carrots, turnips and beetroot tops can be planted indoors and will soon sprout a mass of green foliage on the top, but in the house this growth is short-lived. It will soon turn yellow and look nasty.

Experimenting with plants like these is popular with children as growth is quick and spectacular.


Some plants produce young plantlets in the same pot, but separate from the mother, like clivia and caladium. Others reproduce themselves quite naturally during the course of their growth, like chlorophytum. The flowers at the end of the long stem develop into plantlets which can be potted up separately. With bromeliads, young side shoots appear when the mother plant is flowering. These should not be removed until the adult has dried up and died. Ivy, philodendron and ficus pumila all throw out roots which can be pegged down into compost and will soon establish themselves. The new plant can then be severed from its parent.

Dividing up plants is another method of propagation, often used with ferns. Knock the plant out of the pot and break it up carefully into as many pieces as required. Some plants can be pulled apart without too much damage; others need to be cut with a sharp knife before potting. Any cut surfaces should be dusted with a fungicide.

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