How to Start Seeds in an Egg Carton (and Transplant the Seedlings)

Updated on May 22, 2019
Christy Kirwan profile image

I have a degree in ancient history and a passion for reading, cooking, DIY projects, tea, science fiction, and a myriad of other subjects.

Recycle old egg cartons to sprout seeds!
Recycle old egg cartons to sprout seeds! | Source

It's planting season and you're ready to start your garden. But it can be difficult to sow and sprout seeds directly in the soil. Many don't survive and weeds can interfere with the growth of your plants.

Instead of buying more plastic seed-starter pots or expensive kits, try using some free materials you'd otherwise just be throwing out. Egg cartons and coffee grounds work great, and you'll be doing the environment (and your wallet) a favor.

Materials You'll Need

  1. An old egg carton.
  2. Scissors.
  3. Potting soil.
  4. Coffee grounds.
  5. Seeds.
  6. A waterproof plate or tray (to set the egg cups on).

A few of the materials you'll need.
A few of the materials you'll need. | Source

How to Start Plants in Recycled Egg Cartons

Time to get started!

  1. Mix your coffee grounds with potting soil and set aside. I usually make a half-and-half mixture of equal portions soil and grounds. A soup bowl full of this mixture should be plenty for this project. If you aren't a coffee drinker, don't worry! You can always stop by your local Starbucks and ask for used grounds. They're usually happy to give them away for free.
  2. Cut the cups of your egg carton apart. You can plant your seeds in the egg carton without cutting it apart, and you can also cut it apart after your seeds have sprouted, but I found that doing it in the beginning helps to prevent your roots from getting tangled later. It also keeps you from accidentally crushing or breaking sprouts while trying to separate the cups later.
  3. Fill your individual egg cups about half full of the soil/grounds mixture. Keep the recommended planting depth in mind. You should be able to find this information on your seed packets. Some seeds will need to be planted deeper, so add less soil during this step for those seeds.
  4. Add the seeds. Be sure not to add too many seeds to each egg cup. Overcrowded seedlings will often die off. For larger plants like squash, I plant 1 or 2 seeds per cup. For smaller plants like cilantro and parsley, I plant about 4 or 5 seeds per cup. Remember that not every single seed will actually sprout, but that sprouted seeds will need room and soil resources for nutrients.
  5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil/grounds mixture. Once again, you'll need to keep the recommended depth in mind. Some seeds like more cover than others.
  6. Place the seed cups in a waterproof container. I use (and re-use) a disposable plastic dinner plate.
  7. Water your seed cups. Since your cups are in a waterproof container, you can simply pour water into the container. I pour water directly into the plastic plate rather than over the individual seed cups. The paper of the cups will soak up the water, keeping your seeds moist. I maintain about a centimeter of water in the bottom of the plate at all times.
  8. Place your seed cups in the sun. Different plants have different sunlight requirements-- the seed packets of your plants should give you the particulars. But all plants need sunlight to grow. Be sure that your seed cups are in a place where they can get enough sun.
  9. Water your cups regularly and watch your seeds sprout and grow!

It's usually easier to cut your egg cups apart before planting.
It's usually easier to cut your egg cups apart before planting. | Source
Place seed cups in a waterproof container.
Place seed cups in a waterproof container. | Source

How to Transplant Your Seedlings

The nice thing about using paper egg cups is that once your seedlings are sufficiently grown, you can plant them directly in the soil, paper cup and all. As you can see in my photo, the roots will be able to grow right through the paper, which will break down into compost eventually. The paper will also help your newly-planted seedling's roots stay moist until it breaks down.

When your seedlings are sufficiently grown, you can plant them directly in the ground.
When your seedlings are sufficiently grown, you can plant them directly in the ground. | Source
Seedlings can also be replanted into a pot or other container after sprouting.
Seedlings can also be replanted into a pot or other container after sprouting. | Source

Repotting Your Seedlings

Some seedlings' roots may outgrow the egg cups before they're ready to be planted outside. When this happens, you can simply plant your seedlings (egg cup and all) into a larger flower pot or container.

I like to save disposable paper cups for this purpose. When your plants are big enough, most paper cups can also be planted directly into the soil. They'll break down into compost eventually just like the egg cups.

My sprout has been in the ground for a week now and it's doing great! The egg cup is covered with soil, but it's still under there helping my little guy grow. :)
My sprout has been in the ground for a week now and it's doing great! The egg cup is covered with soil, but it's still under there helping my little guy grow. :) | Source

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Egg Carton Should I Use?

Egg cartons are typically made of paper or styrofoam materials. Paper egg cartons are a much better choice for this project for several reasons:

  • Styrofoam is not biodegradable and will not break down in the environment.
  • Styrene, a major component of styrofoam, is believed by the EPA to be a potential carcinogen, meaning that it may cause cancer in humans and animals.
  • Styrofoam is not water-absorbent and will not soak up and retain moisture for your seedlings.

Since styrofoam is made of such nasty stuff (both for people and the environment) it's a good idea to avoid buying eggs in styrofoam containers. Paper egg cartons are much more useful, safe, and healthy, both for this project and many other repurposing and recycling projects.

Why Coffee Grounds?

Coffee grounds are great for gardening because they add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to the soil. In the case of your egg carton seedlings, they will also help maintain a high level of moisture.

Questions & Answers

  • Can I grow lemon seeds in an egg carton?

    Yes! You can sprout lemon seeds using an egg carton. Here's a good guide on how to start lemon seeds:

  • Can you use this method for starting cactus seeds?

    Cactus seeds should grow just fine, but you will need to make sure you use a sandy, loamy soil and I'd recommend planting only one seed per egg cup. Some may not sprout, but if you have two or more sprouts in a single cup, they'll be hard to separate with your fingers later because of the spines.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      2 months ago

      wow this was so helpful I would have wasted my egg carton but this is a good way to make them useful

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      you can also use the egg shells - works like gem!

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      can you use this for flowers too? specifically lavender/alyssum


    • profile image

      Leslyn Harcourt 

      2 months ago

      So glad that l have these egg cartoons which l have been saving .l also have some egg plant seeds so l am going to get started using this method. Thanks for the helpful tips.

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      I also am having some mold?? on my soul in my cups. I haven't gotten any sprouts yet but looks like two have some kind of bubble that looks about to burst? Hoping that's the germination??

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      This is great! I use this trick all the time, and it is a great way to reuse paper egg cartons. Good life hack!

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      Hi— anyone have trouble with soil molding while in the paper egg carton? I’ve been watering as recommended (and have some nice sprouting!!) but there’s a nice spread of fluffy white mold on my soil ):

      Any suggestions are gladly welcomed

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      What a clever idea to reuse the egg cartons for growing seeds of herbs and what not. I might consider giving it a go this spring. Voted up for useful!

    • Susan Trump profile image

      Susan Trump 

      5 years ago from San Diego, California

      This is great. I just bought little seed holders for 65 cents which I thought was a deal, but this is the perfect recycler. I'm going to leave the carton whole and put it in a glass dish to water from below. Then there will be gifts of sprouted seeds.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 

      6 years ago

      I do this too! I also use plastic fruit, pudding, and jello cups as reusable small "starting" pots for seedlings that transplant easily. I just poke a few holes in the bottom, fill them with my starting mix, and I'm off and running!

      Great Hub!

    • TarrinLupo profile image

      Tarrin Lupo 

      6 years ago from Peterborough NH

      Great idea, it will save me a few bucks on those plastic seed starting trays.

    • iluvceleb profile image


      6 years ago

      That's wonderful idea. I have a lot of egg plaatic containers, which we usually throw it away. This is very useful. Aside from cilantro and parsley, what are other seeds that i should try?

    • Fiona Jean Mckay profile image


      6 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for the tip on coffee grounds - I knew you could add them to compost and as worm food but had no idea that they were good for seedlings as well. BTW, I also use toilet roll inners, standing on a tray to sprout seedlings - they also work well.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      People like Wabash Annie, are probably familiar with using egg cartons but you are introducing them to a whole new, environmentally conscious age group. Great hub with lots of helpful pictures. I was especially impressed with the coffee grounds!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      7 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      I used egg cartons many years ago and completely forgot about it. Thanks so much for reminding me what a great idea it is.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)