If you are a keen gardener, you will likely want to get a start on your spring seedlings as quickly as possible or be able to extend the growing season for as many plants as possible.

A propagation tray is a great way to get that head start that you want.

There are many options for germination trays, which can accommodate to all conditions and budgets:

  • Heated trays help to improve germination and keep humidity levels constant creating the ideal environment for growing.
  • Hydroponic trays take all the hassle out of watering the seedlings. These tend to be slightly more expensive
  • Simple no-thrills trays can be extremely cheap and helpful.

In this post, we will look at the top propagation trays to help you decide which ones are best suited to your needs.

Best Heat Propagation Trays

A heat propagation tray comes with a heating pad that is placed underneath it.

For most people, this is used as a germination tray for when temperatures are really cold, but it is helpful even in warmer climes because it gives the plants the source of heat they need for energetic growth.

According to several studies, a temperature range of 75 to 85 Fahrenheit can increase germination by as much as 50%.

In this category, given our own experience and user feedback, our choice is Hydrofarm’s CK64060:

Hydrofarm’s Jump Start CK64060

This is a good starter model – it is reasonably priced and comes with everything that you need, including a plastic tray with space for 72 seedlings, the dome, and the heating mat. This heating pad work really well and the dome is higher than normal to give seedlings more space to grow.

This model presents great value for money, but if you’re looking for an even cheaper option, we also recommend the following seed starting mat:

Heat Mat with 2 Propagation Trays

This kit has a slightly lower capacity, allowing for 40 seedlings. If you’re an amateur gardener this should be more than enough.

The propagation trays aren’t of the best quality, but the heat mat is of good quality.


Best Hydroponic Trays

Hydroponic trays work along similar principles. The main difference, however, is that the plants are grown in water that has a rich nutrient mix in it instead of in soil. They might use heating pads and domes as well, but this is not always the case.

Hydroponics is a little more involved than planting in soil, but when you get it right, you can expect better crops over a shorter period and using less space.


DWC Hydroponics System Growing Bundle

This bundle gives you everything that you need to start off, and it comes in at a reasonable price as well.

It’s beginner friendly and directed at herbs, however, in our experience, this can be used to germinate almost any kind of plant.

Yamix 2 Set Two-Tiered Seed Sprouter 

This simple modular seed sprouter is great for our budget gardeners. It is super easy to use and the design will look great inside any house.

The major downside is that it does not allow for much root growth, so you will have to transplant the seedlings fairly early in their life, which may cause some shock to the plant.

However, we’ve heard of people growing micro greens from seed to harvest in such setups, so if you’re looking to grow your own herbs and salads, this might be a good option.


Best Propagation Trays with Thermostat

These do initially cost a little more. It will also usually work on a domed system with a heating pad, but this time you have a thermostat as well.

The advantage here, though, is that the thermostat keeps the heating pad at the ideal temperature. It does this by measuring soil temperature and comparing that to the ambient air temperature.

You will set the temperature that you want to keep the soil at and then let the thermostat do its work. It is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your seedlings do sprout faster and grow at optimal rates.


Vivosun 10″x 20.75″ Germination Kit

This is the best option here because it contains everything that you need to get you started and offers real value for money.

You get your tray, the heating pad, the dome and the thermostat.

All you need to do is plug it in and ready to roll.

This will allow you get a degree of sophistication that other setups simply can’t offer. If you add a few extras such as a ph tester, you’re well on your way to grow exotic and complicated species.

Wrapping it Up

We have given you a few excellent choices to get started off with. We chose options that are reasonably priced so that you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank and you will still get great results.

Which one you select is going to depend on which suits you best, but for our money, the Vivosun is the best option. With the thermostat, you are able to ensure that your plants are getting the warmth they need to stay nice and toasty, without getting roasted.