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Ask a Gardener - Frozen Flower Seeds

December 6, 2014

I accidently left my pansy and other flower seeds outside during the winter. They were left in the package and inside a freezer bag to keep fresh. Do you think these will still be okay to plant?
- Martha

Yes, your seeds should be okay to plant.  Many seeds can go through cold or freezing temperatures and be just fine.  A lot of annuals, like pansies, re-sprout from seeds that have sat through freezing weather all winter long.  But if you want to be sure, there are some easy tests you can use to check your seeds’ viability.    

Sink or Swim
One common seed testing method is to put your seeds in a bowl of water.  Let them sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.  The seeds that sink to the bottom are usually denser with nutrients and are good candidates for planting.  The ones that float to the top are filled with air and probably won't sprout.  There’s some debate about this method and it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s fast and easy and gives you a pretty good idea of your seeds vitality.  It usually works best with medium to large seeds since some seeds are so little, they’ll float no matter what.  

Paper Towel Test 
A more accurate, but somewhat more time consuming test is the paper towel test.  Place a small test sample of the seeds in question on a damp paper towel (You can use a coffee filter, too).  Then, fold the towel over and place it in a Ziploc bag.  Put the Ziploc in a warm place away from direct sun.  Check on the seeds each day and make sure the towel stays moist.  In about 10 days or so you should start to see little sprouts.  If half or more of them sprout, then you'll probably have good luck with the rest of those seeds.



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