Nothing like setting up an experiment in the classroom and it not turning out exactly how you expected, right? Well, I’m here to share all my tips and tricks for growing beans in the classroom so your experiments are a success!
- dried beans (pole, bush, or lima beans)
- paper towels
- spray bottle of water
- clear glass jar or small clear plastic cup
My #1 Tip for Success
Before I go any further, I want to tell you the one thing I feel makes or breaks this experiment. It’s what will get you tall, lovely sprouts like the picture above in only ten days:
Soak the Beans in Water Overnight!
I can’t stress enough that you should soak the beans in water overnight beforehand. I’ve tried the experiment with and without soaking the beans. Soaking the beans boosts the germination process and you see roots in a day or two. Within ten days, the bean sprouts have a tall stem with leaves growing out of the top of the jar. When I’ve not presoaked the beans, it took five or six days for the first root to begin to emerge. Even then, the entire germination process seemed to go a lot slower.
Now that you’ve soaked your beans, let’s start the experiment!
- Fill the container about halfway with paper towels.
- Place several beans on the outside of the paper towels in the container so you can watch them grow.
- Spray the paper towels with water to dampen them.
- Place the container near a window or on a window ledge.
- Observe and watch the beans grow over the following days and weeks!
Can the Seeds Grow Without Soil?
We teach students that plants need water, air, sunlight and soil to grow. Some students may wonder how these seeds will grow without soil. It might be helpful to point out that you can germinate seeds, or help them start to grow, without soil. Why? It’s because the food the seed needs to start growing is inside the seed. The seed provides food for a short time and then you must plant the seedling in soil for it to continue to grow.
This experiment helps students learn the basic needs of seeds and plants. What happens if they don’t get what they need?
Prepare a few extra jars with beans and alter some of their growing conditions. Observe what happens.
- No water: Don’t soak the beans in water overnight or wet the paper towels in the container.
- No air: Use a sandwich bag for this one. Use a straw to suck as much air from the bag as possible before zipping it shut.
- No sunlight: Place the jars away from windows or even in a dark space like a cabinet.
- Not enough space: Place seeds in a group touching each other.
- No soil: Seeds will germinate without soil, but will they keep growing and produce fruit (beans) if left in the container with no soil? This will take a lot longer to observe. Another option is to plant the beans in sand. Give them water and sunlight, and observe what happens.
Growing Beans FAQs
What beans did you use?
I used pole and lima beans. I’ve successfully germinated both kinds.
Do I need beans from a seed packet or can I used dried beans from the grocery store?
While you may certainly use a purchased seed packet of beans, I’ve always had success germinating and sprouting dried beans I’ve brought at the grocery store. I recommend soaking and germinating a couple of dried beans at home to make sure your dried beans will work before doing it with your students.
How long will it take to see anything?
One or two days if you soak the beans overnight, five or six days if you don’t soak them. I soaked my beans overnight and put them in a jar and baggie. The very next day I already saw the root coming out of most of the beans.
Can I do this experiment anytime of year?
I think so! I live in the Midwest and germinated these seeds towards the end of January! Even though it was cold outside and the windows themselves felt cold, there was enough sunlight and warmth to begin germination. If you want to keep the plants alive or transfer them into a garden, you will need to begin germination closer to actual planting time.
What if the paper towels get dry?
Use a spray bottle of water to moisten the paper towels if you feel they are too dry.
Can I germinate beans in a sandwich bag?
Absolutely! Just place a damp paper towel and several beans in a zip-top sandwich bag and seal it. Then tape or place the bag on or near a window and watch them grow!
Students learn so much about plants by growing beans in the classroom. It’s really fun to watch the little beans grow so quickly. Sometimes there’s a huge difference from day to day. I hope these tricks and tips help you and your students become expert germinators!
More Plant Resources
Parts of a Plant Lollipop Activity
I really enjoy to see the plant growing.
hi this is cool info
Hey there! I am soaking my Lima beans to grow in our classroom and I noticed they are wrinkling and some of them are splitting. Is this normal? Thanks so much for your info! We’re excited to try it!
That’s a great question! The wrinkles are completely normal. As for splitting, when the inside of the bean rehydrates quicker than the outside, the bean will split. It happens sometimes. You can have students examine the split beans to see what’s inside the seed. Good luck and I hope your students enjoy growing their beans!
Hi, I’m a PreK teacher and have found the past several years, that the beans get moldy in the children’s ziplock bags. How can I avoid the mold?
That’s a great question! I might try doing it with glass jars instead of baggies. I’ve never had an issue with mold when growing them in glass jars like I shared in the blog post. I also leave the lid off to allow air circulation.
If you need to use bags, you might try leaving the top open or making a few holes near the top of the zipped bag. Another idea is to only leave the beans in the bags for just a few days and plant them as soon as you can.
I hope these ideas help! Good luck!
Hi Cara! Two easy tricks are 1) spritz rather than soak the towels in water 2) staple a horizontal row of staples about two inches down the bag and place lima beans along the staples before sealing. Veteran teacher tip—best of luck!
They need to wash their hands thoroughly before “planting”.
When do you put the bean in soil?
Hi! I plant them as soon they look like the one pictured with roots, stem, and a few leaves. They shoot up very quickly, so it’s not long before they’re ready to be planted.
Now that my granddaughter brought home her bean,what do we do with? A single plant. Does it need something to climb? Or will it get bushy? We weren’t given any follow up info sadly. HELP
That’s a great question! If you can find out what kind of bean it is, that would be helpful. Some beans are runners and need to be staked or have something to climb, while others don’t. Other than that, just plant it in soil and watch it grow!
I tried this experiment with my class and we have a few moldy plants. We wet the paper towel again every day. Does this mean the plants are dead?
Hi! If you do this experiment again, I suggest just lightly spraying the paper towel with water whenever it feels dry instead of watering them each day. If you soak the beans beforehand, they already have a good bit of water inside them. I also take the top off of the jar after they begin sprouting so air can circulate. Hopefully, doing those two things will stop the mold problem. Good luck!
Suggestions on the bean plant being towering over the cup?
Do I need to get dowel rods? I feel bad because my kids are taking them home and I wanted them to be successful .
That’s a great question! Even though the plants stick up over the cup, they’re usually sturdy enough to send home. If you want to give them extra support, you might stick a straw in the cup and gently tie the plant to it. I hope your students have a great experience sprouting seeds!
hi im in 5th grade and when i grow up i will show my children this and might do this for their birthdays
If the seeds have mold, does that mean they are dead? Or can I salvage them?
Additionally, how do I safely transfer them to plant so that students can take home? Do I need a certain type of soil? A pot?
Hi, Alex! Those are great questions. First, if your seeds have mold, I would throw them out and start over. When you try again, here are my tips to avoid mold:
1. Just lightly spray the paper towel with water whenever it feels dry. If you soak the beans beforehand, they already have a good bit of water inside them so they don’t need lots of water. Too much water in the jar or bag will allow mold to grow.
2. Take the top off of the jar after they begin sprouting so air can circulate. If you use zip-top bags, open the bags after the beans sprout.
3. Avoid direct sunlight for long periods. Too much heat inside the jar or bag will cause mold to grow. The beans will still sprout near a window with indirect sunlight.
If you want to plant them for students to take home, use potting soil (not garden soil) and any small plastic container like yogurt cups, bottom half of a water bottle, or other small plastic cups you might have in your recycling bin.
I hope those ideas help! Good luck!
Will pinto beans grow?
Hi, Maria! I’m so sorry I’m just seeing your question! I’m not getting emails when someone posts a comment like I usually do, and I’m not sure why. I haven’t tried pinto beans because I’ve read they don’t sprout as reliably as other beans. It might be interesting for kids to try to grow pinto beans along with other types of beans to see which ones sprout the best.
I have jars without lids. Do I need lids to begin this process?
That’s a great question! You don’t need lids to begin the process. You might put plastic wrap or aluminum foil over the jar for the first few days. I think it’d be interesting for kids to observe a covered jar and one that isn’t. Then, they can see if covering the jar affects growth.
This activity is perfect for children who love to explore what is in store for them in the real world. Thank you so much for sharing this.