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The 8 Best Seed Starting Trays for Indoor Gardeners

Utilizing seed starting trays is a great way to keep your seedlings organized and happy. With individual growing cells, you’ll easily be able to separate seedlings as they become ready for transplant.

Whether you want eco-friendly options or help with germination, there are so many different kinds of trays out there.

I’ve compiled a list of the eight best seed starting trays to use. Keep reading to discover which one works best for you!

A seed starter tray of chive seedlings.

Our Top Picks


Factors to Consider

Material

Typical seed starting trays are made from flexible plastic. This helps you retrieve the seedling plug from the tray for transplant.

Plastic seed starting trays are also the most budget-friendly option. I recommend them if this is your first year starting seeds indoors.

If you prefer an eco-friendly option, there are biodegradable seed starting trays available. With these, the whole seed starting tray can be planted. It will slowly break down into the soil, similar to cardboard or paper.

There are also reusable seed starting trays made from rubber and heavier plastic. You can push out the seedlings and the cells will pop back into place. This is a good investment if you start seeds every year.

A starter tray of watermelon seedlings.

Size

Size is the greatest variation you will see among seed starting trays. From four cells to 338, you can find a tray that works for you.

I recommend dedicating a separate seed tray for every type of seed. This will make labeling easier and help you avoid confusion.

If you’re starting a small home garden, small trays with six to 12 cells work best. If you’re starting seeds on a commercial level, the large trays may pay off for you.

You can also find trays with different cell measurements. Some cells are deeper and wider than other trays. This is helpful for fast-growing vegetables that take up a lot of room (think: pumpkins and watermelons).

Dome v. No Dome

A humidity dome with vents for seed starter trays.
A humidity dome with vents.

Some seed starting trays come with a germination or humidity dome. These clear domes help trap moisture and increase the humidity within the trays.

Humidity works similarly to a heat mat by simulating outdoor conditions to increase the chances of germination.

If your seedlings are getting too much moisture, some domes have a release cap.

Trays that include domes are usually pricier. But, it might be worth a shot if you’ve had trouble germinating a particular type of seed.


The Eight Best Seed Starting Trays

A seed starter tray of basil seedlings.

Now that you know how to evaluate seed starting trays, we’ll dive into our list of eight great products you can buy. We’ve selected items from a range of price points and explored the features, as well as the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which one is right for you.


Best Overall

Hoss 12-Cell Seed Starting Tray

My top pick for best seed starting trays is Hoss’ 12-Cell Seed Starting Tray. These are perfect for the everyday home gardener.

The 12-cell capacity is a good size for starting a sufficient amount of one type of seed. You won’t have to make space for a ton of seedlings, especially if you utilize a raised bed.

Each cell measures a roomy 2″ x 2″, giving you enough space to start fast-growing vegetables.

You can purchase these trays in a two-pack or five-pack. Each tray comes with its own humidity dome and a bottom tray for watering.

After each growing season, spray the trays out or slide them onto the top shelf of your dishwasher. They’re made of thick, durable plastic. So, you’ll be ready to re-use them for years to come.

Pros:

  • Sufficient size for most gardeners
  • Comes with a humidity dome and bottom tray
  • Reusable

Cons:

  • Pricey

Best Reusable

Burpee SuperSeed Seed Starting Tray

Burpee SuperSeed Seed Starting Tray | 16 XL Cell | Seed Starter Tray | Reusable & Dishwasher Safe | for Starting Vegetable Seeds, Flower Seeds & Herb Seeds | Indoor Grow Kit for Deep-Rooted Seedlings

If you need a good gift for the gardener in your life, look no further. Burpee’s SuperSeed reusable trays can house up to 16 seedlings, or they have even larger versions of this reusable tray.

What I love about this tray is how sturdy it is. A combination of thick plastic and silicone will clue you in on the quality.

Burpee made it easy to remove your seedlings by popping them out from the bottom. This will prevent you from damaging the root system of your seedlings.

Each cell measures 2″ x 2″, and has slots added to the silicone to help with drainage and aeration.

Once you’re done using the tray, it’s dishwasher-safe and easy to clean.

Pros:

  • Reusable
  • Made of sturdy materials
  • Easy to remove seedlings

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include a humidity dome

Best Biodegradable

Eco Pots Seed Starter Trays

Seed Starter Trays Kit | Ideal for Starting Seedlings & Easy to Transplant | 100 Organic Starter Pots for Planting Seeds | Biodegradable Seedling Starter Planter Tray

For a more eco-friendly choice, Eco Pots Seed Starter Trays leave no waste. The biodegradable seed starting trays can go in the ground with the seedling during transplant.

Each tray contains 10 cells measuring 1.35 inches on each side. When you’re ready to transplant, all you have to do is separate the cells and plant them into the soil.

The cells are made of recycled paper. As that breaks down, it will add natural matter to your soil and improve soil health.

You won’t have to worry about using excess plastic or storing cell trays. This also helps the seedling avoid transplant shock by not being introduced into different soil so quickly.

This kit also comes with labels, along with a small seedling shovel and digger.

The trays can break down easily if overwatered, so it’s important not to let your seedlings become soggy. Use a mister, or lightly water seedlings and drain off any excess water.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Helps with transplant shock

Cons:

  • Cells are small
  • Trays can break down if overwatered

Hoss 48-Cell Seed Starting Kit

Hoss’ 48-Cell Seed Starting Kit is a great all-in-one purchase.

You will receive two 24-cell trays, two germination domes, two bottom trays, seed starting mix, fertilizer, and labels. Just purchase lights and heat mats, and you’re ready to start seeds!

These 24-cell trays look almost identical to the 12-cell trays. The cell width is the same (2″ x 2″), and these are also easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

I would recommend splurging for this kit if you have a medium-sized garden. It’s also useful if you haven’t already invested in seed starting mix and labels. For $50, this really is a good buy.

Pros:

  • All-in-one kit
  • Easy to clean
  • Reusable

Cons:

  • None

Jiffy Professional Greenhouse Seed Starter

Jiffy J450ST20 SuperTrive Seed Starter, Brown

If you want to skip purchasing seed starting mix, look no further than Jiffy Professional Greenhouse Seed Starter. The kit comes with 50 seed starting pellets that expand when in contact with warm water.

The pellets will grow to 1.5″ tall with an indent left for your seed. All you have to do is insert the seed and lightly cover it with the mix.

The included dome will help generate humidity and accelerate germination. It’s also very easy to water your seedlings with this kit. You can pour water around the pellets, so they receive water from the bottom.

Once you’re ready to transplant your seedlings, you can actually plant the entire pellet. It’s a convenient way to get into seed starting.

Pros:

  • All-in-one kit
  • Easy to water
  • Included dome

Cons:

  • Pellets tend to dry out quicker than standard trays

Hoss 338-Cell Seed Starting Tray

Hoss’ 338-Cell Seed Starting Tray makes the perfect tray for commercial gardeners. It’s also ideal if you like to start all your seeds in one tray.

Even though it contains so many cells, the entire tray only measures 26″ x 13″. That’ll easily fit on an average tabletop, and you won’t have to worry about keeping several seed trays together.

Hoss always sells quality products, and this tray is no different. The sturdy plastic is made to be used year after year.

Each cell is designed to encourage seedlings to form downward roots. This is to help avoid rootbound seedlings.

Hoss recommends growing small, upright vegetables in this tray such as onions, broccoli, and cabbage.

Pros:

  • Sturdy plastic
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Reusable
  • Good for bulk-seed starting

Cons:

  • Pricey

720-Cell Seedling Starter Trays

Seedling Starter Trays, 720 Cells: (120 Trays; 6-Cells Per Tray), Plus 5 Plant Labels

This is a great budget-friendly option. These 6-cell seed starting trays come in a pack of 120, so you end up with 720 cells in all. I’ve used these trays almost every year, and they always do the trick for me.

They aren’t built from the sturdiest plastic. But, if you don’t tend to reuse your trays, these are ideal. That’s not to say they couldn’t be cleaned for reuse though.

These trays fit great in standard bottom trays, which makes them easy to water. Each cell measures 1.5″ x 1.5″, and they go 2.25″ deep. The cells also have holes at the bottom for drainage and aeration.

This particular pack also comes with a few plastic labels. It’s a great, cost-friendly buy if you’re wanting to try out seed starting.

Pros:

  • Cost-friendly
  • Convenient size
  • Perfect for beginners

Cons:

  • Plastic is flimsier than other trays

Living Whole Foods Plant Growing Trays

10 Plant Growing Trays (No Drain Holes) - 20

Finally, on this list of best seed starting trays, I’ve also included the best bottom trays. If you’re using cell trays with no water reservoir, you need these.

This pack of 10 bottom trays measures 20 inches long by 10 inches wide.

Not only do they make watering trays from underneath so simple, but it also helps organize your seedling trays. You can group similar seedlings together in one bottom tray.

You can also use these for when you begin to harden off your seedlings. It makes it easier to transport several seed starting trays together.

Just put your seedlings trays in these bottom trays and pop them under your grow lights. You’ll be surprised how convenient they make seed starting.

Pros:

  • Easy to transport seedlings in
  • Great for watering from underneath

Cons:

  • Not the best for actually starting seeds in

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I reuse seed starting trays?

Yes, you can easily reuse seed starting trays. If you plan on purchasing reusable trays, I suggest splurging for trays with sturdier plastic. These will be easier to clean, and many are even dishwasher-safe.

But, any plastic cell tray can be reused. Just make sure to clean it thoroughly before the next growing season.

2. Do I really need a humidity dome?

A humidity dome is very helpful for germination, but it’s not required. I’ve had good luck germinating seeds without a humidity dome. I do think it’s worth a shot if you can’t get a certain seed to germinate though.

Seedlings under a humidity dome.

If you’re not using a humidity dome, I recommend utilizing a heat mat.

3. How do I clean my seed starting trays?

Cleaning your seed starting trays will remove any diseases that might have been present in the previous year’s soil. Every season after using your trays, spray them out to remove any loose soil.

Then, submerge the trays in warm water along with dish soap and/or bleach. This will disinfect the trays, while also loosening any caked-on soil.

Once the trays have sat in the solution for several minutes, remove them and rinse them with water once again. Allow the trays to dry before storing them to avoid mold and mildew.

4. Are drainage holes necessary?

Yes, cell trays should contain drainage holes to encourage aeration and avoid soggy soil. I don’t recommend using bottom trays as seed starter trays. They don’t have drainage holes, and you could potentially run into seedling rot.


Wrapping Up the Best Seed Starting Trays

Seedlings sprouting in a biodegradable seed starting tray.

It’s time to get your seeds started with one of these best seed starting trays. My top pick overall is Hoss’ 12-Cell Seed Starting Tray for its durability and size. But, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices.

Finish your seed starting checklist with a visit to our Seed Starting page where you’ll find more seed starting blog posts. We’ll give you a round-up of the best products to use. Or, check out our posts on successfully starting different vegetables!

Shopping for your garden can get overwhelming, fast. So if you’re looking for advice on garden tools and garden supplies, then you’re in the right place! And if you’re looking for a unique gift for a loved one, how about a gardening gift?