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Care Guide: Wisconsin Fast Plants

Living Care Information

Brassica rapa

commonly known as Fast Plants®

Quick Start Information

  • To ensure optimal germination rates, plant seeds the same year you receive them. Germination rates decrease over time.

  • Seeds are living and need to be kept cool and dry before planting.

  • You will need a high-intensity fluorescent or LED light source for your Fast Plants®, which need constant 24-hour light.

  • Unless you are planning to observe germinating seed disks or seeds placed on a paper towel, you will need a growing medium for your Fast Plants®. Carolina® Seed Starter Mix has been specially formulated to yield the best germination rates.

  • Several Carolina kits contain everything needed to germinate and grow Fast Plants®.

About the Organism

  • Wisconsin Fast Plants® are a model organism developed through over 30 years of selective plant breeding conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • The entire process—from seed to flowering plant—takes only 14 days under typical classroom conditions.
  • Fast Plants® produce viable seeds that students can harvest and grow in just over a month.
  • Different varieties of Wisconsin Fast Plants® are available with easily observable traits that demonstrate dominant/recessive inheritance patterns. Traits such as purple stem and non-purple stem color can be observed in just 72 hours.
  • The plants belong to the genus Brassica that includes common foods like cabbage, turnips, and cauliflower, which are important in nearly every culture.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophyta
  • Order: Brassicales
  • Family: Brassicaceae Burnett
  • Genus: Brassica
  • Species: rapa


Seeds in sealed packets should remain viable and free of insect damage for a year or longer if properly stored. Always store seeds in a cool, dark location protected from moisture. Recommended storage temperature is 0 to 20° C (32 to 68° F). Temperatures above 27° C (80° F) may reduce viability. Seed packets may be placed in a sealed glass or plastic container and stored in a refrigerator or freezer.

Note: seeds should be used within a year of receipt when the germination rates are greatest. The rate at which viable plants emerge from seeds typically decreases over time.


No housing information applies for this organism.


No feeding information applies for this organism. See fertilizer recommendations below.

Maintaining and culturing

Never allow germinating seeds or growing plants to dry out. Adequate moisture must be available to ensure proper germination. Seedlings and flowering plants also require a moist (not wet) growing medium. Most potting soils retain too much moisture for Fast Plants® and will result in poor germination rates. We recommend using a wicking system such as the Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growing System to easily maintain continuously moist conditions. Inspect growing systems daily, and top off water reservoirs before weekends.

The plants need intense light as soon as they emerge from the soil for 24 hours each day. Prepare your light source before planting, and place planted growing systems under lights right away to ensure that newly emerging seedlings receive sufficient light to keep from growing leggy stems. Keep young seedlings strong and stocky by positioning lights very close to plant tops during the first 2 weeks—about 3 to 10 cm (1 to 3") away is best.

Fertilizer is needed to grow healthy plants. We recommend using time-release fertilizer during planting such as Carolina's Wisconsin Fast Plants® Fertilizer. Testing the effects of fertilizer on the plants is a great ecology or independent study experiment.

Seeds planted on a Monday can be observed emerging before Friday at 24 to 26 °C (72 to 78° F), which is about room temperature. Plant on either a Monday or Friday to ensure that students can see them emerge.

Thin 5-day old seedlings according to the type of growing system used: 1 seedling per cell in quads or up to 6 seedlings in a deli-container growing system. Overcrowded seedlings will grow weak stems.

Fourteen days after planting in typical classroom temperatures, the plants will begin flowering. Wisconsin Fast Plants® do not self-pollinate. Seeds develop when pollen from the flower on one plant is moved to the flower of another plant. Pollinating can be done with bee sticks or pollination wands. We recommend using bee sticks (made with toothpicks and dried bees).

Pollination and fertilization leads to easily-observed seed development, completing the Fast Plants® life cycle. For selection experiments and genetics investigations, seeds can be dried approximately 3 weeks after pollination, then harvested and planted to grow the offspring generation.


Carolina provides living organisms for educational purposes only. As a general policy, we do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. In some states, it is illegal to release organisms, even indigenous species, without a permit. The intention of these laws is to protect native wildlife and the environment.

Although Wisconsin Fast Plants® look like some weed species of Brassicas, they are most closely related to turnips. The plants were selectively bred to eliminate seed dormancy mechanisms that are needed to thrive in the wild. As a precaution, however, we suggest that the plants be:

  • Maintained in the classroom until the end of their life cycle.
  • Donated to another classroom or science department.
  • Allowed to dry out or frozen before disposal in a municipal solid waste container.


No Biosafety information applies for this organism.



Which Wisconsin Fast Plants® kit or seeds should I order?

We recommend if you are just starting out with the plants to begin with either the Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growth, Development, and Reproduction Advanced Kit or Wisconsin Fast Plants® Elementary Exploration of Plant Life Cycles Kit.

Standard Wisconsin Fast Plants® seeds or seed disks are recommended for teaching and learning about life cycles, conducting selection experiments, and ecology studies.

Other seed varieties and kits are available for teaching single and double-trait inheritance patterns. Learn more about additional seed varieties.

What lighting and growing system do you recommend?

Choose a lighting system that fits your classroom needs and budget. Our Plant Light Bank provides excellent lighting and plenty of room for growing plants from multiple classrooms at the same time. Another good option is the Plant Light House®, which provides the right growing conditions for a single classroom set of plants®.

Select a growing system for your plants that works best for the number and age of your students. For example, you may choose to use the Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growing System with 1 quad shared by 4 students if you have multiple classes of secondary science students. This growing system is included in the Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growth, Development, and Reproduction Advanced Kit. For elementary students, we recommend the larger, stable deli-container system that is included in the Wisconsin Fast Plants® Elementary Exploration of Plant Life Cycles Kit.

What should I do to grow healthy plants?

Wisconsin Fast Plants® thrive when they have constant light (24 hours a day), moist growing medium, and temperatures that fall in the optimal range of 24 to 26 °C (72 to 78° F).

Be sure to adjust your plants or your lights to keep the tops of your plants very close to the light bulbs—3 to 10 cm (1 to 3") away.

Plant in a soil-free medium, and use a wicking growing system to maintain moist growing conditions.

If your classroom temperatures are cooler than the optimal range, your plants will be fine, though they will grow more slowly. If your classroom temperatures are warmer than optimal, your plants will grow more rapidly and may become spindly. Under extremely hot growing conditions, or when flowers grow into and touch hot light bulbs, Fast Plants® can become sterile.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com

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