Jump to main content

Harmful or Helpful? The Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on the Roots of Plant Cuttings & on Seed Germination

296 reviews


Hydrogen peroxide (often used as a disinfectant) has also been approved for use in pesticides. This science fair project investigates whether hydrogen peroxide has any effects on seed germination or on roots of plant cuttings.


Areas of Science
Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
Material Availability
Readily available
Average ($50 - $100)
Use caution when using the knife. Always use oven mitts when you remove items from an oven. Adult supervision is recommended.

Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies


The purpose of this science fair project is to find out the effect of different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) on the roots of plant cuttings, and on seed germination.


Hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) is known as a common disinfectant; however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also approved the use of hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient in pesticides. The EPA has deemed hydrogen peroxide safe for use on non-food and food crops, both before and after harvest, because it is an effective algicide and fungicide at low concentrations. It also breaks down quickly and safely in the environment, into water (H2O) and molecular oxygen (O₂), as shown in Equation 1.

Equation 1:

2 molecules of hydrogen peroxide 2 molecules of water + 1 molecule of oxygen
2 H₂O₂ 2 H₂O + O₂

Algae and fungus can often attack not just leaves and stems, but also roots, and even seeds. Agricultural scientists are always searching for safe compounds to use on seeds and roots to protect them from pests. In this science fair project, you will investigate whether or not hydrogen peroxide is also safe for use on the roots of plant cuttings, and on seeds during germination. Watch this time-lapse video to see seeds germinating.

video growing corn time lapse

Terms and Concepts



A very basic introduction to seed germination:

A more-advanced explanation of root systems and how they work, using corn as an example:

Information on hydrogen peroxide:

Visit these websites for information on how to cut and grow plant cuttings:

Visit this website to see time-lapse plant videos showing germination and other plant activities:
  • Hangarter, R. (n.d.). Corn Germination. Plants-In-Motion. Retrieved February 28, 2012.

Materials and Equipment

Materials for Both Experiments

Materials for Seed Experimentation

Materials for Plant Cutting Roots Experimentation

Disclaimer: Science Buddies participates in affiliate programs with Home Science Tools, Amazon.com, Carolina Biological, and Jameco Electronics. Proceeds from the affiliate programs help support Science Buddies, a 501(c)(3) public charity, and keep our resources free for everyone. Our top priority is student learning. If you have any comments (positive or negative) related to purchases you've made for science projects from recommendations on our site, please let us know. Write to us at scibuddy@sciencebuddies.org.

Experimental Procedure

Carefully read through this Experimental Procedure before beginning. You can run both tests at the same time, so you do not need to finish the seed germination test before you begin the plant cuttings' roots test.

Testing the Seeds

  1. Use the 250-mL graduated cylinder to make four batches of growing solution. If you don't have a graduated cylinder, you can use a 1-cup measuring cup (250-mL) and a teaspoon measuring spoon (5-mL). Pour each solution into a bowl once it is mixed. Each growing solution will have a different concentration of hydrogen peroxide:
    1. No hydrogen peroxide: 250 mL (1 cup) of water
    2. Low hydrogen peroxide: 5 mL (1 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide, 250 mL of water
    3. Medium hydrogen peroxide: 15 mL (3 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide, 250 mL of water
    4. High hydrogen peroxide: 30 mL (5 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide, 250 mL of water
  2. With a permanent marker, label sandwich baggies with the name of the seeds you're germinating, and the growing solution. There should be a total of four bags (representing each different growing solution) for each type of seed: none, low, medium, and high hydrogen peroxide growing solution.
  3. In each plastic baggie, fold a paper towel or paper napkin so that it lies flatly inside the bag.
Seeds on a paper towel sealed in a plastic bag
Figure 1. Arrange the moistened paper towel and seeds in the plastic baggie as shown above.
  1. Spoon in the type of growing solution labeled on the outside of the bag, until the paper towel inside is evenly moist, but not dripping wet.
  2. Place 10 seeds in a row across the paper towel inside each bag. Make sure the seed type matches what is labeled on the outside of the baggie.
  3. Make sure all the baggies are properly sealed.
  4. Spread the baggies on a table, counter, or other surface, indoors where they can get sunlight.
  5. Check on the bags daily for 10 days and record in a data table in your lab notebook how many seeds have germinated in each bag. Record all observations in your lab notebook.
  6. Make graphs showing the percentage of seeds that germinated and the average time to germination for each type of plant in each growing solution. Did hydrogen peroxide concentration affect seed germination?

Testing the Plant Cuttings' Roots

  1. Get the containers for your cuttings ready by washing them with soap and water. Then wipe the inside of each container with a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol to sterilize the container.
  2. Using masking tape and a permanent marker, label each container with the type of plant and type of growing solution you'll be putting in there.
  3. Make four batches of growing solution, one at a time, and each with a different concentration of hydrogen peroxide. The exact quantity of the growing solutions you'll need depends on the size and number of containers you're using. Make as many liters of growing solution as you need by doubling, tripling, etc. these recipes:
    1. No hydrogen peroxide: 1 liter (L) of water
    2. Low hydrogen peroxide: 20 mL (4 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide in 1 L of water
    3. Medium hydrogen peroxide: 60 mL (12 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide in 1 L of water
    4. High hydrogen peroxide: 100 mL (20 tsp.) of hydrogen peroxide in 1 L of water
  4. Sterilize any tools you'll be using to move the sand or to cut the plants by wiping them with paper towels soaked in rubbing alcohol.
  5. Sterilize the sand by placing it in an oven-proof container (like a casserole dish or baking pan) and heating it in the oven at 200°F for 30 minutes.
    1. Make sure the sand is coarse. The sand particles must be large enough so that there is room in between the sand grains for air to penetrate and bring the growing plant roots oxygen.
    2. Allow the sand to cool completely, then fill each container ¾ of the way full with the sand.
  6. Make your first cutting and then immediately follow steps 7–9. In total, you'll need at least 12 cuttings (3 or more replicates for each of the growing solutions) of each plant type you want to test, but do not make all the cuttings at once, or they will dry out and might not grow well. How to make each cutting depends on the type of plant from which you are cutting. Visit the websites listed in the Bibliography, above, for more information.
  7. Immediately after making each cutting, place it 1-2 inches deep in the sand, depending on the length of the cutting. You can use a sterilized (with rubbing alcohol) skewer, butter knife, or other such tool to create a hole for the cutting.
  8. Press the sand firmly, but gently, around the base of the cutting. Add enough of the growing solution to moisten the sand. Note exactly how much growing solution you used and add the same quantity of growing solution to all subsequent cuttings. Record the amount in your lab notebook.
  9. To prevent the cutting from drying out, place a clear plastic baggie over the cutting and container. Secure the open end of the plastic bag to the sides of the container using a rubber band.
  10. Repeat steps 6–9 for each cutting.
  11. Place all of the plastic-tented cutting containers in an indoor location where they get only indirect sunlight. If they get direct sunlight, too much heat might build up in the plastic tenting and kill the cutting.
    1. Make sure all the containers are in the same location.
  12. Check the condition of the cuttings, daily, for 18 days. Each day:
    1. Open each plastic tenting for a few minutes to allow fresh air in.
    2. While the plastic is open, check the moisture level of the sand. Add more of the appropriate growing solution if the sand appears to be getting dry. Do not let the cuttings dry out!
    3. Record what the part of the cutting that is above the sand looks like in a data table in your lab notebook. Include drawings if you'd like.
    4. Re-secure the plastic tenting.
  13. On the 18th day, insert a butter knife underneath the sand to gently lift up each cutting and examine the roots. Note all your observations in your lab notebook.
  14. Place each cutting, with its roots, on a piece of paper. With a pen or pencil, trace the roots on the paper. Using a ruler, measure each of the tracings and calculate total root length for each plant. Keep track of the data in a data table in your lab notebook.
  15. You may also want to try one of the other measurement options from the Science Buddies Measuring Plant Growth guide.
  16. Create graphs illustrating your data. Did the concentration of hydrogen peroxide have an effect on the quantity of root growth? What about the visual appearances of the roots?
icon scientific method

Ask an Expert

Do you have specific questions about your science project? Our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.


  • What concentration of hydrogen peroxide is toxic to plants? Is the same concentration toxic for both cuttings and seeds?
  • Do seeds and roots of different varieties of plants respond differently to hydrogen peroxide? Try the above experiment with a variety of seed types or plant cuttings to find out.


If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Career Profile
With a growing world population, making sure that there is enough food for everyone is critical. Plant scientists work to ensure that agricultural practices result in an abundance of nutritious food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. Read more
Career Profile
As the world's population grows larger, it is important to improve the quality and yield of food crops and animal food sources. Agricultural technicians work in the forefront of this very important research area by helping scientists conduct novel experiments. If you would like to combine technology with the desire to see things grow, then read further to learn more about this exciting career. Read more
Career Profile
Growing, aging, digesting—all of these are examples of chemical processes performed by living organisms. Biochemists study how these types of chemical actions happen in cells and tissues, and monitor what effects new substances, like food additives and medicines, have on living organisms. Read more

News Feed on This Topic

, ,

Cite This Page

General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Harmful or Helpful? The Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on the Roots of Plant Cuttings & on Seed Germination." Science Buddies, 28 Jan. 2022, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/PlantBio_p036/plant-biology/hydrogen-peroxide-plants. Accessed 3 Feb. 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2022, January 28). Harmful or Helpful? The Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on the Roots of Plant Cuttings & on Seed Germination. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/PlantBio_p036/plant-biology/hydrogen-peroxide-plants

Last edit date: 2022-01-28
Free science fair projects.