Winter Sowing and Stratification

Two Ways Germinate Your Seeds in the Winter

1. Winter Sowing Outside

Winter is the optimal season for sowing native seeds! Michigan native plants are naturally adapted to live in a Michigan climate, which brings periods of freezing temperatures. For optimal germination, many types of native seeds require exposure to cold, moist winter conditions in order to germinate and grow well. This process is called “stratification.”

For the best results, we recommend sowing your native seeds into protected containers and keeping them outside through the winter. Think of them like mini-greenhouses. This gives your seeds the best chance for germination and the plants will grow and bloom better during the growing season.

Where can you get local native seeds in Rochester?

  • with free membership at our Locally Sown Native Seed Library! Locally Sown is housed at the Dinosaur Hill Nature Center. Membership is an opportunity to take your gardening full-circle by donating your collected seeds back to Locally Sown at the end of the growing cycle.
Easy Winter Sowing Instructions Using Materials That You Have Around The House the link below for a printable PDF:

Winter Sowing

2. Stratification (Germination) of Seeds Indoors

If you did not sow your seeds in containers outside in January or February (instructions above), you must simulate stratification for a period of time before you plant in the spring. No worries! It is easy!

Below you will find a link to a printable PDF that offers simple instructions by tapping on the link above the pictured instructions:


Each native pant seed time in the refrigerator varies. Download this handi-guide to find the perfect amount of time for your seeds to stay moist.


Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with questions!

More Great Winter Sowing Resources!

The Wild Seed Project

Wild Seed Project's Guide: Autumn and Winter Seed Sowing in 6 Easy Steps by Heather McCargo

The link below will take you to a great interview with Heather McCargo, that was featured on the A Way to Garden Podcast, about winter sowing. It may answer some questions for you!

Winter Sowing of Native Plants with Heather McCargo
of the Maine Wild Seed Project

Video: Winter Sowing Native Plants with the Expert

The following video by Pennsylvania based gardener and pollinator advocate, Heather Andrews (Garden Thoughtfully) offers some great tips for using recycled containers, like gallon milk jugs for your winter sowing project.

NOTE: The video comes out of Pennsylvania, but the timing is basically the same for us here in SE Michigan. However, the resources they mention for getting seeds are NOT for SE Michigan. Please see our Resources page or our Locally Sown seed library for local native seeds!