How to Make Your Own Plant Growing Gel

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Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan

  • Cornstarch

  • Measuring cups

  • Whisk

  • Bowl

  • Ice

Use seed gel to sow neat rows in both outdoor growing beds or indoor seedling flats.
Image Credit: brozova/iStock/Getty Images

A planting gel, sometimes called propagation gel, retains moisture around a germinating seed so it doesn't dry out during the the early growth stages. The gel simplifies planting small, difficult-to-handle seeds, such as carrots (Daucus carota). You can also pre-germinate the seeds in a moist paper towel before suspending them in the gel, which improves germination rates and allows you to start seeds early. Gels work well with most seed types, including annual flowers or vegetables like tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), or perennials like lupines (Lupinus spp,), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8.


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Gel Recipe

Step 1

Fill a saucepan with cold tap water. Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of water in the pan.

Step 2

Stir the cornstarch into the water with a whisk until it's fully dissolved.


Step 3

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly so lumps don't form. Boil for one minute or until the cornstarch mixture develops a thick, gel-like consistency. Remove the mixture from the heat and continue to stir until it quits bubbling.

Step 4

Fill a large bowl with ice. Set the saucepan on top of the ice to speed cooling. Allow the gel to cool to room temperature before using it.


Fluid Seeding Method:

Fill a 2-quart or 1-gallon size plastic bag half-full with the plant gel. Add the pre-germinated seeds to the gel, gently mixing them in with a skewer. The amount of seeds depends on the desired planting distance, but generally 1 part gel to 1 part seeds works well for most plant varieties.

Twist the top of the bag closed and secure it with a twist-tie or a knot. Clip off a lower corner of the bag to create an application spout. Squeeze the gel through the spout along each planting row in the garden bed.

Monitor the seed distance and adjust the amount of gel or seeds in the mixture as needed to maintain the desired planting density. Cover with soil to the depth specified on the seed packet for the seed variety.

Store unused gel or the gel mixed with the seeds in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to two days if you can't sow immediately.

Cover the seeded bed with a floating row cover to protect them from temperature fluctuations and pests until they are established. Mist the soil with water as needed so the top 2 to 6 inches of soil remains moist as the seedlings establish roots.