When I worked in the Chicago Public School system as a recess coach, I often saw the classes out planting their own vegetables and herbs. Unfortunately, some of the plants the teachers chose were seeds that are slow to germinate. It was then that I realized that if you’re introducing your kids or a classroom to the concept of growing your own food, a good idea is finding fast-growing seeds that are easy to germinate.
Of course, it’s not just impatient growers who want fast-growing plants from seeds. We probably all do. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing those little green heads pop up from the soil. Having the flowers and edible plants ready to harvest or cut faster isn’t a bad thing either!
So, if you’re ready for some plants that grow quickly, you’ll love this list I’ve curated.
Vegetables That Germinate the Fastest
Get Spinach Seeds
For us leafy green lovers, spinach is a great option for fast-growing plants. The seeds sprout within five days of planting when you use primed seeds (regulating moisture and heat of the planted seeds). If you do no priming, spinach is still pretty fast with sprouts in 10 days. Typically, spinach is harvestable within 30 days of sowing.
Sow the seeds in rows about a foot apart, with the seeds one inch apart. Make sure the plants are in light shade, especially during summer, to avoid the spinach growing bitter.
Get Lettuce Seeds
Being huge salad fans in our household, lettuce is key in our garden, both indoors and outdoors. In the AeroGarden in our greenhouse, lettuce seeds germinate within two to three days. In regular soil or seed starting mix, it typically germinates within five to 10 days, depending on temperature and light. Lettuce likes pretty solid light and temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit for sprouting.
Within 21 days, you should be good to start harvesting your lettuce.
Get Pea Seeds
I’ve personally had peas pop up in four days, though most folks say the average is seven to 10 days. The key for me was simple: good soil, lots of water, and no squirrels! (Those fluffy rodents love digging them up, so be careful to plant them where they can’t get to them.)
Ideally, space the seeds out two to three inches apart, planting them about an inch deep, with rows spaced 18 inches apart. Cover them in water and give them a bright sunny spot to grow. When they start to pop up and get a few inches tall, provide them with some supports.
You should be able to harvest them in 60 to 70 days from planting.
Get Radish Seeds
When radish seeds are planted at their optimal temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit), they’ll germinate within four or five days. They may take as long as 10 days to sprout, though, if the soil’s a little cooler or the seeds are a little older.
Plant the seeds thinly, spacing them about an inch apart, in pots deep enough to accommodate the root growth. You should have some radish on the table within 25 days.
Fruits That Germinate Quickly
Get Watermelon Seeds
Most fruit is a bit slower to sprout since, well, most fruit grows on bushes or trees. But watermelons and other vine fruits are faster. In fact, watermelon seeds often sprout within three days of planting, though they can take up to 10 days to sprout.
Ideally, plant these seeds in 80-degree-plus weather and transplant the seeds into the garden when the ground temperature of your garden (or larger pot) is at least 70-degrees.
Plant the seeds in mounds 12 to 24 inches high, with ten feet between each mound. The vines growing these glorious melons tend to spread 10 to 15 feet long.
Get Cantaloupe Seeds
Not all melons are created equal and not all sprout as quickly, but cantaloupe are another reasonably fast sprouting fruit vine. They, like watermelons, typically take four to 10 days from sowing to sprouting. I’ve found that in the right conditions, they tend to pop up sooner than later and squirrels love to go after them! So, be sure to plant them indoors or in a protected area where the bushy-tailed critters can’t dig them before they get a chance to grow!
Because cantaloupe also does best when planted in warmer temperatures, ideally plant them indoors, using a heat mat, with the temperature set to approximately 80 degrees or a little higher. Then, transplant the plants to the garden when the ground temperature hits 70 degrees.
BN-Link Seedling Heat Mat
Waterproof heating pad for indoor seedling starting trays
Flower Seeds That Germinate Quickly
Get Marigold Seeds
This delightful flower is one of the quickest sprouting plants, often sprouting within just two to three days after planting. The blooms will pop out in about eight weeks. They’re an easy seed to grow, even for beginners, and add some nice insect deterrent to your garden, especially around fruiting plants.
After all danger of frost has passed, plant the marigold seeds directly in the ground of your garden or yard, spreading them an inch or more apart in full sun exposure. Water thoroughly after planting.
Get Zinnia Seeds
Another speedy flower seed is the zinnia. These beauties sprout within four to seven days, typically, though some varieties may take a little longer. Zinnias bloom within several weeks to a couple of months, depending on the climate.
Thin the plants after they’ve reached three inches in height so that they’re six to 18 inches apart for ideal air circulation.
Get Cornflower Seeds
Seedlings from cornflower seeds will pop up in about seven days. They’re a little slower than some of the others on the list, but they’re well worth the extra couple of days. These beautiful edible flowers add color and life to any space and attract bees for the pollination of your plants.
Sow the seeds evenly and cover with about a half-inch of fine soil. Water well and keep the ground evenly moist.
Fastest Herbs for the Garden
Get Cress Seeds
Cress is probably just about the fastest sprouting plant you’ll find. If it’s slow to sprout, it will take three or four days. If it’s fast? You could have little green heads popping up within 24 hours of planting. Cress is quickly ready for harvest as well, ready for picking with five to seven days. So, if you’re looking for a fast-growing herb, cress is a solid winner. When cress hits about 1.5 to two inches in height, it’s ready for harvesting.
For best results, sprinkle your cress seeds over the surface of the pot or sow close together in the garden in a tight-knit tow in a sunny location. If planting indoors, place in the windowsill for direct sunlight.
Get Basil Seeds
Basil doesn’t germinate as quickly as cress, but it is another fairly fast plant to pop its head above the soil. I’ve found my basil typically peeks out in about five days, though it may take as long as 10 days to really notice the herb growing. Additionally, basil is ready for harvest in as little as 21 days from sowing.
Basil needs warmth to grow really well, so be sure to keep the plants in a warm location, start them out with a heat mat, and make sure they have a good solid six to eight hours of light per day, whether indoors under a grow light or out in a sunny patch in the garden.
When the plants reach six inches and have three sets of mature leaves.
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Get Cilantro Seeds
My other favorite fast herb is cilantro. Most folks say it sprouts in about seven to 10 days, but again, I’ve found mine pop up closer to five or six days after planting. I keep them under a good grow light in a moist greenhouse as they sprout, though, so this could affect your sprouting time. This plant likes lots of light and warmth, so aim for a sunny spot in the garden.
Cilantro is ready to harvest in about 50 to 60 days.
Prepare, Plant, and Enjoy!
Once you’ve decided which of these plants are best for your region and garden space, you’ll want to gather up any equipment you need to get them started right. Keep in mind the right seed starting medium, grow lights, or heating mats for plants, or you may want a good seed starting kit. Just prepare ahead of time and those little sprouts will pop up even faster.