Cold Stratification Techniques

Updated: Jul 6

We are now a month into Autumn and this is the perfect time to start germinating many different seed varieties!

To be prepared for the warmer months coming, now is the perfect opportunity to work out and prepare for what you may want to be growing. Be sure to check the propagation notes before starting any processes so you are well informed and will get a better strike rate rather than being frustrated when seeds are reluctant or slow to germinate.

Many seeds will stay dormant until the proper time for them to start sprouting, often cold stratification is required and this is basically the process of simulating a cold damp Winter to push the seeds into sprouting at a time that better suits you, the grower.

The time needed to stratify the seeds is dependent on species and conditions but in many cases 8 weeks is sufficient.


There are various ways of doing a cold stratification on seeds that require it, using a few different types of media to get the same effect – breaking seed dormancy.


Materials required

  • Seeds

  • Peat Moss*/Sand*/Sphagnum Moss*/Vermiculite* or Paper Towel

  • Water

  • Zip Lock Bags

  • Sharpie/Permanent Marker

  • Container for mixing

  • Refrigerator


The basic principles using any of the above-mentioned media are the same.

Note – If the paper towel method is used, this process is slightly different.


  • Place half a cup of the media* (approximation depending on the amount of seeds to be cold stratified) with some water until the media is well moistened but not too wet

  • Add seeds and mix well

  • Put seeds and media* into a zip lock bag and seal

  • Label bags with seed variety and date stratified

  • Place onto a tray (in case of any leaks) and put into a refrigerator for 4 weeks (or as long as the propagation notes/directions advise to)

  • If seeds start to sprout in the refrigerator, be sure to remove them immediately and plant into pots to keep propagation growing for good root growth

  • Once there is no chance of frost damage, it is time to take the seeds out and continue the propagation process

  • Note – Paper Towel Method – Soak seeds for up to 24 hours, moisten the paper towel and wrap around the seeds and place in the refrigerator

Species that need cold stratification include but are not limited to;

  • Abies

  • Acer

  • Actinidia

  • Akebia

  • Cedrus

  • Cryptomeria

  • Cunninghamia

  • Cupressus

  • Eucalyptus - cold climate species only

  • Nyssa

  • Pinus

  • Pyrus

  • Quercus

  • Sequoia

  • Toona

  • Zelkova


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