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Title says it all. I need to grow ONE plant. How many seeds to grow? It's a small clay pot.

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    Zach - welcome to the group and thanks for posting your first question. What type of plants are you planting? Feel free to add additional details if you think that would be helpful – JStorage May 30 '17 at 15:24
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    I'm planting radishes. It's for a science experiment. – Zach Z May 30 '17 at 16:07
  • @ZachZ What kind of experiment is it? That may influence our answers considerably. – Shule May 30 '17 at 23:28
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If you really need one plant growing in the center of the pot, then get 3 or 4 pots, mark them with numbers (so you don't bias your experiment by choosing the one that is "growing the best" or whatever) and plant just one seed in each pot. Use the lowest numbered pot where the seed germinates for your experiment You can eat the other radishes in a salad, of course!

If it doesn't matter whether the plant is in the center or not, put 3 or 4 seeds in one pot equally spaced apart, again mark the pot with numbers so you know which plant you will keep before they start to grow, then pull out and throw away all the plants except one.

Radish seeds should germinate in 4 to 14 days - if not, you have done something wrong!

  • Alternatively, for an experiment where selecting the strongest seedling would be a mistake, plant (say) four seeds and label them 1 to 4 (for example using cocktail sticks next to them with one to four bands on the sticks). Choose the lowest-numbered one that germinates, thin the others. Gardeners, of course, pull up the weakest seedlings. If they are keeping their own seeds for the next crop, they'll let the very best few plants go to seed, thereby selecting a strain of plant that best suits their particular garden environment. – nigel222 May 31 '17 at 12:51
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If its radishes, and only one small pot, plant 3 or 4 seeds - thin out later after germination, when they've developed two true leaves each (the first 'leaves' are the cotyledons, and don't count) to leave the strongest growing one. By 'thin out' I mean remove them.

It's still safer to start off two pots though, then if anything happens to the strongest seedling, you've got a back up going already.

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    The OP says this is for a science experiment, so you don't necessarily want to keep the "strongest seedling." See my own answer. – alephzero May 30 '17 at 18:08
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Seeds have different germination capacities among species, so it depends on what you are sowing. The germination capacity varies with seed age, so you will get more seedlings from last year's seeds than from older ones, let's say from three years ago.

Considering that for some species the time of the year when they are sown is really important, I would use at least 5 seeds from the beginning and then I would thin them out, instead of sowing one or two and then sowing some more at a later date in case the first ones didn't germinate.

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    Also keep in mind that it's hard to actually buy a single seed, you likely are going to have extra seeds anyways. – enderland May 30 '17 at 20:47
  • Somehow I doubt the OP's motivation is optimizing the number of seeds they purchase. Avoiding wait/see/replant cycles seems more plausible (science projects usually have deadlines). Extra seeds can be used later, to grow radishes for food instead of science. – aroth May 31 '17 at 6:43
  • I have posted this answer before the OP mentioned what species he wants to germinate. After he added this info, more to the point answers have been published. I don't intend to edit my answer because I believe the other answers already cover the useful details. I see no point in repeating the things other members posted. – Alina May 31 '17 at 14:41
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Since all seeds may or may not germinate, I recommend you plant 4-5 seeds. I would sow them a few inches apart rather than together (I have done that in the past) so if more than one germinates (which is likely), you can keep the strongest and remove the rest easily by pulling them out. If you sow them together, pulling one out could damage others since the roots may be intertwined. If they are farther apart, you can pull them out or cut them from the stem so you don't damage roots of the healthy one.

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I concur with Bamboo, but I might also add that radish seeds generally seem to have excellent germination rates (and they generally sprout fast). So, odds are high that if you just planted one seed per pot, you'd be okay (although I've never grown them in pots or anything but garden soil). However, it's still a risk. If you don't want to risk it, plant a few more seeds and thin, if it won't harm your experiment. If you don't want to select for the strongest, just thin random ones (not ones you specifically choose to thin).

Use seeds that say 'packed for 2017' (if you're buying them in the USA) for the best results. That means their germination rates have been tested and are high enough to be sold legally during 2017. Each state has its own laws on germination testing.

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One option (as with all, depending on what you are seeking to find) is:

Germinate the seeds first, e.g. using paper towels kept constantly wet for a few days. Then just divide the seeds into germinated and not germinated (a binary choice will help avoid the 'selection of the fittest' effect mentioned by others) and plant them in pots, one germinated seed per pot.

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I would plant several pots, each with one seed (being sure to use sterilised compost)

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