Seeds in a bag

Growing Seeds In Plastic Bags: Learn About Starting Seeds In A Bag

We all want a jump start on the growing season and there are few better ways than germinating seeds in a bag. Seeds in plastic bags are in a mini greenhouse which keeps them moist and warm to speed sprouting. This method works great on most vegetables, especially legumes, and can also be used for annuals and other plants.

What Do You Need for Starting Seeds in a Bag?

In northern climates, seeds need to be started indoors for the best chance at germination. Other factors besides cold temperatures can affect sprouting, such as rain and wind, which may wash away seeds. To keep control of your future plants and get them ahead for the growing season, try the baggie seed starting method. It’s cheap, easy and effective.

You can use a clear plastic bag that has a zipper, or not. Even a bread bag will work, provided it doesn’t have holes. Remember, the two most crucial items for seed germination are moisture and

heat. By starting seeds in a bag, you can easily provide both, plus light if the variety of seed is one which is photosensitive.

In addition to the bag, you will need some material that is moderately absorbent. This might be a bit of towel, coffee filter, paper towels or even moss. Ta-da, you now have a perfect seed incubator.

Tips on Plastic Bag Seed Starting

It is extremely helpful if starting several kinds of seed to mark the bags first with permanent marker. You should also consult seed packets to see if they need dark or light to germinate.

Next, moisten your absorbent material. Get it good and wet and then squeeze out excess water. Lay it out flat and place seeds on one side of the material and then fold over. Put the seeds in the plastic bag and seal it somehow.

If the seeds need light, place them by a bright window. If not, put them in a drawer or cupboard where it is warm. You can use a seed germination mat if you wish since they produce a fairly low temperature and shouldn’t melt the bags. If so, put a dish towel over the mat first before placing the bags on top.

Caring for Seeds in Plastic Bags

Germination times will vary when using the baggie seed starting method, but will generally be faster than soil planting. Every 5 to 7 days, open the bag to release excess condensation which can contribute to damping off.

Keep the absorbent material moderately wet when needed. Some pros recommend a mister bottle filled with a 1:20 water/hydrogen peroxide solution to spray on seeds and prevent mold. Another suggestion is chamomile tea to prevent mildew problems.

Once they have sprouted, use toothpicks as dibbles and carefully transplant seedlings to soil to grow on until time to plant out.

We are observing seed germination in a plastic bag to go along with the book, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Be sure to see all of the garden themed activities at the end of the post. I get commissions for purchases made through the affiliate links in this post.

Observing Seed Germination in a Plastic Bag

Planting seeds and watching them grow is a wonderful activity for kids. There are lots of opportunities for experimentation while learning about how plants grow. The first step in plant growth is seed germination. You plant a seed and under the right conditions, the seed will begin to grow, or germinate. If you plant a seed in soil, it is difficult to see the germination process. However, if you plant the seed in a clear container in a wet paper towel, seed germination is much easier to observe. With this method for seed germination in a plastic bag, it is easy to germinate many seeds at one time in a small amount of space. This is perfect for using in the classroom setting. It’s also a great technique to use if you want to get lots of plants started growing before you actually plant them in the ground.

Supplies Needed

  • Plastic storage bags (gallon size or quart size)
  • Paper towels
  • Ruler
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips or binder clips
  • Water
  • Seeds
  • Hanging file folders
  • File folder storage box or milk crate

Cut your paper towel to the same size as the plastic storage bag. Cut a 1 inch wide strip of paper towel. Staple the paper towel strip to the top of the paper towel. Staple a V onto the strip of the paper towel to create a pocket for each seed. We created 3 pockets on each paper towel.

Place the paper towel into the plastic storage bag. The paper towel strip should be at the top of the plastic bag.

Add a seed to each V pocket. Pour a little water into the plastic bag to wet the paper towel. This will help paper towel stick to the plastic bag and keep the seeds at the top. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the plastic bag. Squeeze out any excess air.

Below Lily is holding up her finished bag.

Attach paper clips or binder clips to the top of the plastic bag and secure the plastic bag to a hanging file folder.

Place the hanging file folder inside a file folder storage box or milk crate. You can fit an entire classroom set of seeds in one box – each student gets his/her own hanging file folder and plastic storage bag.

My 7 year old was able to follow the directions and make his seed germination bag on his own. My almost 3 year old needed help with each step. It was a great project to do as a family. My husband does this seed germination activity with his high school botany students. He originally learned this method at a teaching conference from the University of Missouri.

Watch the video tutorial of the seed germination bags.

Make a plant journal to record the growth of your plants.

Check out our Plant Science Experiment inspired by Peter Rabbit. We wanted to find out which plant would grow the best.

More Activities from the Virtual Book Club for Kids

See more garden activities inspired by The Tiny Seed:

Alphabet Puzzle Cards – Sea of Knowledge
Flower Garden Name Puzzle – Still Playing School
Number Activities with Printable Flowers and Worms – JDaniel4’s Mom
The Seeds We Eat- Teach Beside Me
A Fun Way for Kids to Plan a Garden – Sunny Day Family
Seed & Plant Matching Game & {FREE} Cards – Preschool Powol Packets
Plant Biology for Kids – Mama Smiles
Rainbow Spin Art Flower Craft – Messy Little Monster
Garden Pretend Play and Fine Motor Activity – Views From a Step Stool
Build a Flower Creative Invitation from My Storytime Corner
Colorful Ribbon Flower Craft for Kids – Toddler Approved
Garden Flower Ten Frame – Rainy Day Mum

Subscribe to the Inspiration Laboratories newsletter. Each issue has exclusive hands-on science explorations for children, a recap of our latest activities, and special resources selected just for you!

If you have little ones in the house, this activity is an easy and fun way to teach them about seeds and plant germination.

This project has been around for years, and you can find a great lesson plan done by the Smithsonian HERE.

To germinate bean seeds, you will need:

bean seeds,

plastic zipper bags,

paper towels,


and a curious preschooler.

I started by having a conversation with my son about how plants grow. Thanks to Blue’s Clues, he already knew that plants need water, sun, soil, and air to grow.

We talked about how in every seed there is a tiny plant and food to help it grow. This concept might be foreign to preschoolers, in which case, a seed that has been soaked in water overnight can be sliced in two to reveal the inside of the seed.

When a seed first starts to grow, it is called germination. Germination can be done without soil.

The first step in creating a plastic bag “greenhouse” is to wet a folded paper towel. It should hold a fair amount of water, but not be dripping wet.

Slip the paper towel into the baggie. Place one bean seed between the towel and the bag and zip it closed.

The bags need to be in a sunny place, so I found that taping them to a window that gets direct sunlight is a good way to go.

Check the bags each day for progress. If your child is a little older, you could have him chart or journal the progress.

Over time, condensation will build up on the inside of the bag.

After a few days (five for us), the seeds will begin to sprout!

After a few more days, you should be able to see the roots spreading out and the leaves beginning to peek out of the seed coat.

You will need to explain to your preschooler that these seeds are just germinating (starting to grow). Since they are not growing in nutritious soil, eventually they will wither.

Next week, I will be sharing another Gardening with Preschoolers idea as part of The Brassy Apple’s S.O.S. series.

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Germinating seeds in a bag is a fun way for kids to view how seeds transform into plants right before their eyes. Seeds don’t need soil to start germinating, so you can place them in a sunny window and they will start sprouting right away. This allows kids to watch how seeds sprout, which is a process normally hidden by dirt. There is a lot to learn in this experiment, yet it is so simple to do! As long as you have dried beans and some plastic bags, you can make these seed germinating bags.


  • Bean seeds
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic baggie
  • Tape

You don’t have to purchase sees specifically for planting for this experiment. We used beans sold in the grocery store for human consumption for our seeds in a bag, and they sprouted right up with any problems at all!

Before starting the experiment, soak your bean seeds overnight in water. This will sort of “wake up” the seeds and get them ready to germinate. You’ll get faster results if you pre-soak your bean seeds this way. Drain the seeds before placing them in the bag.

Dampen a paper towel and fold it into the bag.

Place the seeds along one side of the bag, pressing them against the paper towel. Seal the bag tightly, and hang in a window using tape.

Make sure the beans are visible on the side of the window where the kids will be observing their seeds sprout.

Wait 24 hours. You should be able to see the seeds start to pop open and sprout after this time.

Within 3 days to a week, you’ll have fully sprouted seeds!

In a few more days, you’ll see the leaves start to emerge.

At this point, your beans are ready to move to soil. Plant them in a rainboot garden, or another small planter and watch them continue to grow!

Spring Flower STEM InvestigationThe Best Science Tools for KidsFlower Scavenger Hunt Mini-BookArt and Science: Pointelism DiagramsGarden Money Math PrintableArt and Science: Painting with Gloop

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An activity for the Foundation Years to KS2 in order to observe seed germination.

Materials Needed

  • a few seeds
  • paper towel
  • stapler
  • plastic bag
  • ruler
  • water
  • label


  1. First, label bag with child’s name, date and seed name.
  2. Next, fold a paper towel so that it just fits inside the bag.
  3. Take a ruler and measure 7 cm from the top of the bag and staple a row of staples from one edge to the other through the plastic bag and paper towel. If you are using very small seeds then make the staples closer together. You will have a mini-pocket, 7 cm deep. This is where the seeds are going to sit.
  4. Next carefully pour enough water into the bag so that it will soak up through the paper towel but leave a small reservoir of water at the bottom of the plastic bag .
  5. Then, take the seeds and put them in the mini-pocket so they are sitting on top of the line of
  6. Seal up the seed bag so no air can escape or get into it. Tape it to a window or peg to a washing
    line strung across the classroom.

Within a few days depending on the time of the year the seeds will begin to germinate. Children can
clearly see the growth of roots and then the shoot. As soon as the young plants reach the top of the
sealed bag they can be carefully removed and potted up.

Ruth Thomas, The Cavendish School

Tags: 4-7 (KS1), 7 -11 (KS2)

Starting Seeds in Coffee Filters (or Paper Towels)

So tomorrow is Groundhog Day, and for the last 126 years, it’s been up to Punxsutawney Phil — wide-eyed and bushy-tailed from his slumber — to predict the fate of our gardening season. Will he see his shadow and cast another six weeks of winter upon us? Or will we be blessed with an early spring if he doesn’t?

Regardless of Phil’s forecast, you can still bring a little spring into your home by starting your seeds now and counting down the days, however many there may be. By the time the weather warms up, you’ll be first out of the gates with a slew of seedlings ready for transplanting!

This seed starting trick is sometimes known as the baggie method, and it works with coffee filters, paper towels, or even just newsprint.

Now why would you want to pre-sprout seeds in paper first, rather than simply starting them in soil? For one, it’s a good way to gauge if your seeds are viable to begin with, before you put them up in pots. Two, you can start a lot more seeds this way, and use only a minimum of space while they get going. And three, many seeds sprout much quicker this way (versus sprouting in soil), usually only taking a few days for germination.

To start, gather your supplies: coffee filters (or paper towels or newsprint), zip-top bags, and seeds. I like to use coffee filters because the paper is denser, which keeps the roots from growing into the fibers. Depending on how many seeds you want to pre-sprout at a time, cut the coffee filters as needed (I cut mine in half to fit standard sandwich baggies).

Wet the coffee filters and wring them out, so the paper is damp but not drowning.

Place your seeds on the bottom half of the paper, leaving an inch between seeds to give their roots room to grow.

Fold the top half over the seeds and slide them inside the baggies.

I like to blow air into the bags using a straw and then seal them up to speed up germination. You can also leave your bags flat, but keep them unsealed to provide air flow.

Place your baggies in a warm area of the house. For me, that’s a south-facing window, but you can leave them anywhere with a decent amount of heat and humidity, such as a bathroom or laundry room. Just don’t keep them too hot (like on top of a heating pad), as you risk cooking the seeds before they ever sprout.

You can see the greenhouse effect created by the baggies here, which aids in germination. Because of this, you shouldn’t have to re-moisten the coffee filters while waiting for the seeds to sprout.

Within a few short days, you should see your first sign of life — a radicle emerging from the seed coat. This is the primary root and develops from the embryo of the plant.

Once the radicle reaches an inch or two in length, carefully transplant the pre-sprouted seed in soilless mix, burying only the radicle (the white part) and keeping the stem and seed coat above the soil line. Handle the seed by its seed coat, as the radicle is very delicate. If any part of it has been enmeshed in the paper, cut around the root and plant the whole thing in a pot, paper and all. The roots will grow around the paper and the paper will eventually disintegrate.

I tend to transplant the seed as soon as it’s sprouted so that it doesn’t rot inside the baggie. Sometimes you can wait until the first leaves appear if you need a guide as to how deep to bury the stem, but definitely keep an eye on the moisture level inside the baggie and provide plenty of air circulation.

After you have transplanted all your seedlings to seedling pots, keep the soilless mix moist and avoid watering directly on top of the new seedlings. You’ll want to harden them off for a few weeks before moving them outside, but once they develop their second set of leaves (the true leaves), they’re ready for their final place in the garden.

Get ready for gardening with this simple experiment that lets kids observe seed germination, minus the dirt!

Watching a sprout emerge from a dry seed is nothing short of miraculous. Plant a bean in a plastic bag to watch roots form and leaves emerge before your very eyes.

You’ll Need

  • Small plastic zipper storage bag
  • Dried, uncooked beans, peas, or seeds
  • Paper towels
  • Water

Safety Tips and Hints

  • Dried beans are choking hazards for small children.
  • For this experiment, choose a window where the seeds will get plenty of light, but won’t be blasted by intense sun all day. If your windows are freezing cold, tape the bag to a clear glass or vase in a sunny spot indoors, rather than a window.

What to Do

Step 1: Have your child cut a paper towel in half and fold it a few times so it can fit into the zipper storage bag.

Step 2: Soak the paper towel in water and slide it into the bag. Smooth it so that it’s relatively flat.

Step 3: Let your child position two beans or seeds about three centimeters from the bottom of each bag, on one side of the paper towel. Don’t worry if they don’t stay in place, but if necessary, stuff a little piece of paper towel into the bottom of the bag so that the seeds aren’t sitting in water.

Step 4: Seal the bag part way, leaving an opening near the top so the growing plants can get some air.

Step 5: Tape the bag in a window with the beans facing indoors, so that your child can watch them as they grow.

Step 6: Read the section below, on the science behind the fun, to your child so that she knows what to look for as the seed germinates and grows.

The Science Behind the Fun

Dried beans and peas are seed that contain dormant (sleeping) baby plants. These tiny plants need signals to make them “wake up” and emerge from the seed. Germination is the name for the processes the plant goes through in order to sprout from the seed and form leaves.

Plants need special signals to germinate, including light, air, and water. Temperature can also play a role, which is why you don’t want to put your seed against a freezing cold window.

When a plant first sprouts, it gets nutrients from the seed. You can see the seed shrinking as the plant grows. As a plant matures (gets older), it depends on roots and leaves to collect the energy it needs. Once it reaches a certain size and uses up the nutrients in the seed, your window sprout will have to be transplanted into soil to survive.

Creative Enrichment

Record the beans’ germination by drawing and measuring them each day. Have your child make a science notebook and use it to record his observations.

What happens if you do the same experiment, but put one bag of beans in a window, and another one in a dark closet?

Plant more than one type of bean or seed to compare how quickly they grow.

You can find more experiments like this one at, and in my books Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), and my upcoming book STEAM Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Projects Exploring Science, Technology, Art and Math (available wherever books are sold).

All photos © Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

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