Seed Orientation During Planting Improves Germination

Seed PlantingSeed orientation during planting isn’t something that most gardeners pay attention to, but perhaps they should as it could improve the germination rates and vigor of their garden. After all, we gardeners spend a lot of time planning, preparing, planting and tending our gardens, so why not take a tiny extra step that might give us much better results? Are you cognizant of how you plant your seeds, what direction they go into the soil?

All seeds have a built-in ability to orient themselves correctly and grow according to gravity. The roots will grow toward the pull of gravity and the stem or shoot will grow up and away from it. This is known as geotropism.

The radicle, or part of the seed that was attached to the parent plant, is where the root will emerge from. If the seed orientation has it pointed down, the new root will grow straight down with no wasted energy. If it is pointed upwards, the root and stem has to change direction which uses a lot of energy stored in the seed and decreases the vigor.

Most seeds are somewhat asymmetrical and are not likely to be planted with the radicle end up during natural dispersion or planting but can be when planted by humans, either by mistake or lack of knowledge. In natural systems, flat or oblong seeds will tend to be deposited in a horizontal position, so the stem and root will only need to change direction by 90° and won’t waste a lot of energy. Gardeners can help this system along when planting with proper seed orientation.

Round Radish Seed

Let’s take a look at some different seeds to see how best to plant them. Small and round seeds can be planted in almost any direction, as it is difficult to see where the radicle is and their small size doesn’t affect their orientation during germination as much as others. As a rule of thumb it is best to plant seeds at a depth of 2 – 3 times their diameter.

Seeds with points such as watermelon, cucumber, squash, pumpkin and corn should be planted point or radicle down. This gives the seed a head start as the root will emerge from the radicle and head straight down, while the shoot or stem will work toward the sun.

Watermelon Seeds Bean Corn Squash Pumpkin Cucumber

The radicle or point is toward the bottom of the photos.

 

Beans are a bit different, as the radicle or spot where the root emerges is on its side, except Fava beans which are on the end. Beans should be planted on their side with the radicle down, and Fava beans vertical with their dark spot on the bottom.

Fava-Bean BeanThe dark spot on the Fava beans is the radicle and should be planted downwards. The radicle on the beans is the white spot and should be planted downwards.

About Stephen

Stephen Scott is co-owner of Terroir Seeds, a family owned and operated heirloom seed company that focuses on the "Cycle of Terroir"- from the soil, to the seed, to the food you eat; providing heirloom seeds, education and information for all phases of the cycle.

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13 Responses to Seed Orientation During Planting Improves Germination

  1. Marifrances Hiltz January 16, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Loved the article on planting seeds in the correct direction! Thank you thank you. I am
    passing it along to my garden club and friend who garden.

    Marifran

    • Stephen January 16, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Thanks Marifrances, glad you found it useful!

  2. Faith Kienast January 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I really enjoyed this article and discovered that I’ve been doing it wrong all these years! I always planted the fat part of the seed downwards. Now my plants will really get going. I just have to wait till Spring comes and I can get started!
    Thanks for the great Information!

    • Stephen January 21, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Glad to help Faith, good to hear from you! I’m glad you made this comment, so now folks can realize that doing it “wrong” doesn’t mean that their garden won’t grow!

  3. Dennis Rich January 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Always good to know these little details.

    • Stephen January 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      You are right Dennis, we spend a lot of time getting the garden ready, it’s worth watching the little details that will make things grow better.

  4. Pat Green January 27, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Thank you for the seed orientation tips. I will share info with Master Gardeners & others!

    • Stephen January 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      You are welcome Pat, hope it helps your garden this year.

  5. Carol March 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    I had forgotten this. I also was taught when transplanting a tree, position it in the ground the way it was positioned in the container or wherever it is being moved from. I do know once my father-in-law planted what he called sensitive roses –they were, small plants he really liked. One year he planted them just however they landed. Not much happened, and later he dug them up to see why. Those that had .grown at all had started at the bottom, wound to the “top” of the seed, which was actually the bottom, then grew upwards. towards daylight. I reckon the proof is in the pudding.

    • Stephen March 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with this Carol! It is good to see.

  6. Harald A Smedal March 8, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    My father-in-law who died on 10/10/10 so we would not forget the date would tell me everything about the growing business, but I could not tell him anything. I instinctively knew to plant squash, cuke, corn(yes we transplanted corn by machine) seeds etc. with their tips down but Steve would not listen. It was the way he lived his life and it served him well. Enjoyed the article and short trip down memory lane. Harald

    • Stephen March 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it Harald!

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  1. January 2014 Highlights | Terroir Seeds - January 16, 2014

    […] and tending our gardens, so why not take a tiny extra step that might give us much better results? “Seed Orientation During Planting” gives you all the details to help make your garden the best possible this […]

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