Do Seeds Need Light To Germinate? Including A Plant List

Starting seeds indoors is an excellent way for gardeners to jump-start their growing season, particularly in areas with limited outdoor growing time.

A crucial factor for successful germination is understanding whether seeds need light to germinate or not.

This article will examine the germination process, the role of light during germination, a list of seeds that germinate in light or darkness and how to provide the best lighting conditions for starting indoors. By creating the ideal environment for germination, you’ll be able to grow strong, healthy new seedlings that will thrive in your garden.

Understanding Germination

What is germination?

seeds that need light to germinate

Seeds germinate when a seed transforms into a seedling. Germination occurs when the seed absorbs water, which triggers the activation of enzymes that break down stored nutrients.

These nutrients fuel the growth of the embryo within the seed, eventually leading to the emergence of the radicle (the embryonic root) and the shoot (the embryonic shoot).

The shoot will develop into the stem and leaves of the plant, while the root system will anchor the plant and absorb water and nutrients from the soil.

Factors affecting germination

Germination requirements consist of four main factors: temperature, moisture, oxygen, and light. Each of these factors plays a significant role in the success or failure of the germination process.

Understanding the importance of each factor and how to manage them effectively can greatly improve your results.


Seeds require a specific temperature range to germinate. This range varies depending on the plant species, but most seeds will germinate at temperatures between 60°F and 75°F (15°C and 24°C).

Maintaining consistent temperatures within the appropriate range is crucial for the activation of enzymes within the seed and the overall germination process.

Temperature fluctuations outside the optimal range can lead to delayed germination, uneven germination rates, or even seed dormancy.

Cold temperatures can slow down the germination process, making the seeds more susceptible to rotting or diseases. On the other hand, excessively high temperatures can cause the seeds to dry out, killing the seed embryo inside and preventing germination.

To maintain a proper temperature for a seed to germinate, consider using seedling heat mats, thermostats, or placing seeds in a location with stable temperatures, such as a room away from drafts or direct heat sources.


Water is essential for seeds to germinate, as they need to absorb water to activate enzymes, swell, and break through the seed coat. Maintaining consistent soil moisture levels is crucial for successful germination.

Seeds that do not receive enough moisture may fail to germinate or have slower germination rates. Conversely, seeds that are exposed to excessive moisture can become waterlogged, leading to rot or fungal diseases.

To provide optimal moisture for germination, use a well-draining growing medium that retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. Avoid overwatering your seeds by using a spray bottle or watering can with a fine nozzle to gently moisten the growing medium.

Alternatively, you can use a self-watering system or cover your seed trays with a plastic dome or plastic wrap to maintain humidity levels.


Oxygen is necessary for cellular respiration, a process that generates energy the seed to germinate. Adequate airflow around the seeds ensures they receive enough oxygen to support growth.

Insufficient oxygen can lead to poor germination rates or seedling death, while most seeds exposed to excessively moist soil or compacted growing media may also experience oxygen deprivation.

To ensure proper oxygen levels, use a light, well-draining growing medium that allows air to circulate around the seeds.

Additionally, avoid overwatering, as this can create anaerobic conditions in the growing medium, reducing the available oxygen for the seeds. You can also increase airflow by using a small fan in the growing area, which can help to prevent diseases caused by stagnant air.


The role of light when you sprout seeds varies depending on the sed. Some seeds need light to germinate, while others need darkness to germinate or are indifferent to light conditions. Light-sensitive seeds may fail to germinate if they do not receive the appropriate amount of light exposure.

For seeds that need light to germinate, provide the necessary light exposure by placing them near a sunny window or using artificial light sources. For seeds that prefer darkness, cover them with a layer of soil or a dark cloth to block out light. For seeds indifferent to light conditions, maintain proper temperature, soil moisture, and oxygen levels to ensure successful germination.

Understanding Photoreceptors in Seeds

Photoreceptors are proteins in seeds that are sensitive to light and play a vital role in regulating germination. Two primary types of photoreceptors are involved when seeds are germinated: phytochromes and cryptochromes.


Phytochromes are sensitive to red and far-red light. They act as molecular switches, controlling seed germination by detecting the presence or absence of light. When seeds are exposed to red light, the active form of phytochrome promotes germination. In contrast, exposure to far-red light converts the phytochrome to an inactive form, inhibiting germination.


Cryptochromes are sensitive to blue and ultraviolet (UV) light. These photoreceptors regulate various plant processes, including germination. Cryptochromes absorb blue and UV light, stimulating germination in light-sensitive seeds.

Determining the Specific Light Requirement for Your Seeds

To ensure successful germination, it’s crucial to research and understand the specific requirements of the seeds you’re starting. Here are some steps to determine the appropriate light conditions:

  1. Consult seed packets or seed catalogs: These resources often provide essential information about the requirements for germination, including whether the seeds need light, germinate in darkness or are indifferent to light conditions.
  2. Research online or in gardening books: Reputable sources can provide detailed information about the specific requirements for various plants. Be sure to cross-reference multiple sources to ensure accuracy.
  3. Experiment with different light conditions: If you’re unsure about the requirements for your seeds, you can conduct a simple experiment. Sow seeds in multiple trays, placing some in light and others in darkness. Monitor germination rates to determine the optimal light conditions for your seeds.

By understanding the role of photoreceptors, the impact of the light spectrum on germination, and the specific light requirements for your seeds, you can create the ideal environment for to germinate seeds indoors and growing healthy, thriving plants.

How deep should you sow seeds, and what it has to do with light?

seed tray for germination

Recommended planting depth has to do with whether light is necessary for the growth of plants.

Therefore, light from the sun is necessary for plants to grow. Light provides the energy needed by a plant to do photosynthesis and other life processes that make it possible to survive until the next day.

What happens if you plant seeds too deep?

A seed that needs light planted too deeply will not do well. This is especially true for seeds that do not germinate in the dark, such as lettuce seeds, cabbage, and dill.

Some types of seeds germinate without exposure to light. These seeds need less energy for their growth process because they grow roots downward instead of seeking out more light like most plants do when growing upward.

They also do not have many leaves on them compared with other plants. Meaning they require less water, making them perfect candidates for gardening no matter what your climate is like!

What happens if you plant a seed too shallow?

If you do not plant a seed deep enough, it will never grow roots. The top of the soil surface is mainly made up of air and water, so there is no room for the root system or seeds to grow deeper into the ground.

Which seeds need light to germinate?

thin layer of soil surface

There are three types of light for seed germination:

There are three types of light for seed germination:

Which vegetable seeds need light to germinate?

Some seeds, particularly those from plant native to open, sunny habitats, need light exposure in order to germinate. Light-sensitive seeds are often small and have a shallow planting depth, allowing them to receive adequate light exposure. Most seeds that need light to germinate should be left uncovered by soil.

Some vegetables, fruits, and herbs seeds that need light to germinate properly should not have a soil cover. All the examples here are of plants with tiny seeds that have a thin layer of seed coat. Here is a list:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Collards
  • Dill
  • Leeks
  • Green Onion
  • Lettuce

What seeds germinate better in the darkness?

Seeds that prefer darkness to germinate are typically large seeds that are sown deeper in the soil, blocking out light exposure. Ideally, it is best to bury the seeds at least twice the seed’s diameter in depth.

Some vegetables, fruits, and herbs do not need light to germinate. All the examples here are of plants with tiny seeds that have thick seed coats.

Here is a list:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Basil
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Tomato seeds
  • Watermelon

Plant seeds indifferent to light conditions

Many seeds germinate regardless of the light conditions during germination, meaning they will sprout regardless of whether they are exposed to light or kept in darkness. These seeds often have a wide range of acceptable germination conditions, making them versatile and adaptable to various environments.

How to Provide Proper Light Conditions for a Seed to Germinate Indoors

seeds that need light covering to germinate

Using natural light

If you have a sunny windowsill or a well-lit room, you can use natural sunlight to provide the light needed. Place seed trays or pots in a location that receives direct sunlight for at least 6-8 hours a day.

Be cautious of overheating, as direct sunlight can cause temperature fluctuations that may harm the seeds. You can also place seeds in a mini greenhouse or cold frame near a window to maintain consistent temperatures and humidity levels.

Using artificial light

Artificial light sources can be an excellent alternative to natural sunlight, particularly if you don’t have access to a sunny windowsill. Fluorescent lights, LED grow lights, and full-spectrum bulbs are all suitable options for needs that need light to germinate.

Hang the lights above the seed trays or pots, ensuring they are adjustable so you can maintain the proper distance from the seeds as they grow. Keep the lights on for 12-16 hours a day to mimic natural light conditions.

Monitoring and Adjusting Light for Optimal Germination

To ensure successful seeds sprout, it’s essential to monitor and adjust the light conditions as needed. For light-sensitive seeds, provide the appropriate amount of light exposure based on their specific requirements. For seeds that need darkness to germinate, cover them with a layer of soil, a dark cloth, or a tray to block out light.

Keep the soil moist and the temperature of the growing medium to avoid overheating or drying out the seeds. Adjust the position of the seed trays or pots, or the distance of artificial lights as needed to maintain optimal growing conditions.

Getting your questions answered

Do carrot seeds need light to germinate?

carrot seeds

Tiny carrot seeds grow without light. They need to be planted in moist, well-drained soil about an inch deep when the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If they are not germinating successfully, the soil may not be moist enough, or the temperatures may be too low.

The best thing to do is place a plastic cover over your container. This will help maintain moisture in the air and keep out any weed seeds that might blow on top of your seedling containers from nearby gardens. 

Generally, carrot germination occurs after about 14-21 days, depending on temperature and humidity levels. It’s essential to grow them immediately to grow big enough before winter sets in.

How many hours of light do lettuce seeds need to germinate?

Lettuce seeds germinate properly only if you expose them to light for about 12 hours a day. The ideal soil temperature for lettuce seed germination is between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once the soil temperature is close to that range, a lettuce seedling can germinate approximately two days after being planted into the ground. You can sprinkle them on soil or vermiculite and then cover them with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite.

How much light do onion seedlings need to germinate?

Onion seedlings need light to germinate. The amount of light most seedlings need depends on the type of onions you have planted. 

Generally, sweet or yellow onions do not require light to germinate. For dry onions, you do need to expose them to at least eight hours of sunlight a day for three weeks before the first seeds begin sprouting.

Onion seedlings do not like cold soil or direct sunlight. They do best in soil temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They will not develop properly and die quickly if these two conditions constantly exist in their environment.

Suppose your onion seeds do not produce any green shoots after you sow them. In that case, it is likely because of cool temperatures and/or that there wasn’t enough water available. When planted into the moistened potting mix on top of a heating pad or under grow lights.

Do tomato plants need light?

Tomato seeds need three conditions to germinate. Those are warmth, water, and oxygen. 

They do best when planted in warm, lightly moist soil. The soil temperature should be a minimum of 75 degrees Fahrenheit for most plant species to sprout well.

Tomato seeds do not need light exposure to sprout and do better in moist soil than in dry, cracked earth. It’s essential to water your tomato seeds often, so the soil doesn’t dry out. If your tomato seeds are not germinating, that’s probably because it lacks sufficient water or warmth.

Do all seeds need light to germinate?

No, some seeds need light to germinate, while others prefer darkness or are indifferent to light conditions. It’s essential to research the specific light requirements for the seeds you’re germinating.

Can I use regular light bulbs to germinate seeds indoors?

While regular light bulbs may provide some light, they are not ideal for seed germination. Fluorescent lights, LED grow lights, and full-spectrum bulbs are better options for providing the necessary light conditions.

How long should I keep the lights on for seed germination?

When using artificial lights, aim to provide 12-16 hours of light per day to mimic natural sunlight conditions.

How close should artificial lights be to my seed trays or pots?

The distance between the lights and the seeds will depend on the type of light source used. Generally, keep the lights 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) above the seeds and adjust as the seedlings develop.

How do I know if my seeds are receiving enough light?

If your seeds are germinating and growing steadily, they are likely receiving adequate light. Most seedlings that are not receiving enough light may become leggy or pale in color.


In conclusion, the need for light during seed germination varies depending on the plant seed. Some seeds need light to germinate, while other seeds prefer darkness or are indifferent to light conditions.

When starting seeds indoors, it’s essential to provide the appropriate light conditions to ensure successful germination.

By using natural or artificial light sources and monitoring and adjusting the environment as needed, you can create the ideal conditions for your seeds to sprout and grow into healthy seedlings.

Happy Planting 🙂

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Daniel Buckner is an indoor gardening enthusiast and hydroponic expert with years of experience cultivating a variety of plants. Passionate about sustainable living and urban gardening, Daniel shares his knowledge through engaging content to inspire and educate fellow gardeners. Discover the joys of indoor gardening with Daniel's practical tips and valuable insights.

1 thought on “Do Seeds Need Light To Germinate? Including A Plant List”

  1. so helpful – info all in one place. i clicked on this site just in time as i am growing seeds indoors and all have different needs. live in eastern canada zone 5b so need to get started early.!!


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