The quantity and quality of light required for light-stimulated cell expansion in leaves of Phaseolus vulgaris L. have been determined. Seedlings were grown in dim red light (RL; 4 micromoles photons m-2 s-1) until cell division in the primary leaves was completed, then excised discs were incubated in 10 mM sucrose plus 10 mM KCl in a variety of light treatments. The growth response of discs exposed to continuous white light (WL) for 16 h was saturated at 100 micromoles m-2 s-1, and did not show reciprocity. Extensive, but not continuous, illumination was needed for maximal growth. The wavelength dependence of disc expansion was determined from fluence-response curves obtained from 380 to 730 nm provided by the Okazaki Large Spectrograph. Blue (BL; 460 nm) and red light (RL; 660 nm) were most effective in promoting leaf cell growth, both in photosynthetically active and inhibited leaf discs. Far-red light (FR; 730 nm) reduced the effectiveness of RL, but not BL, indicating that phytochrome and a separate blue-light receptor mediate expansion of leaf cells.