Drink It Up: A Experiment in Dyeing Flowers

Violets are red,
Roses are blue,
This little experiment,
Can make all this true!

That’s right, with this very simple science experiment, you can change the color of flower petals from the inside. It’s safe, interesting, educational, and more importantly – fun. Plus, your children will be learning basic lessons on plant structure and biology.

Do your children dream of blue carnations or lavender chrysanthemums? Show them how the feeding mechanisms of flowers can be used to color them in any shade you desire. 

And after the experiment is over, show them the science behind the magic (don’t worry, we’ve provided you with a full scientific explanation at the bottom!). Explaining the “whys” and “hows” will give your kids a leg up in science class. And the results will be so fun, your unique flowers will be demanding prima donna attention in a centerpiece.

What you’ll need:

  • White flowers (chrysanthemums, gerberas, or carnations work best)
  • Water
  • Liquid or gel food coloring (bright colors like red, blue, or green are ideal)
  • Several clear cups or jars

Ready to get the botany lesson going and experiment with the color wheel? Start off by trimming your flowers, removing any excess petals, thorns, etc. For best results, cut the flower stem at an angle. And for even better results, cut the stem under water, to prevent it from drying up when it reacts to the air.

Fill each of the jars with warm water and about 20-30 drops of food coloring. Try using different colors in each of the cups or jars.

Place the flower stems in the colored water with the petals hanging outside the glass. Don’t worry, the food coloring won’t harm the plant in any way. Then, sit back and wait (for up to one day). You’ll return to see that the flowers have magically changed colors.

For extra credit

Split the stem up the middle and put each side in a different-colored jar. This will give you two-tone flowers with half of the petals one color, and the other half another.

You can even cut the stem into more slices, and make a “rainbow colored” flower.

Pretty cool, huh?

Once you have the process down, try using other flowers (sunflowers, daisies, roses, etc.) You can use any flower you want. Find out which flowers work the best, and which colors dye the plants the fastest.

Try turning a rose blue, or make red daisies for Valentine’s Day. 

Observe and record

Consider giving your children their own scientific journal to records the results. Before jumping into the experiment, your kids can come up with a hypothesis, or prediction, as to what they think will happen when you place a white flower in colored water.

They can then draw in what’s actually going on, and write up some of their observations.  What has changed after an hour, after two hours, after five? They can also document whether some colors work better than others, which flowers drink up their dyes the fastest, and what happens when you use a flower that’s not white.

So what’s actually happening?

Plants actually drink water from the ground with their roots through transpiration and capillary action. Amazingly, even when a flower is cut from its roots, the stem steps in to do all the hard work. Flowers are constantly losing moisture through their petals, and as the water evaporates, it pulls more water up along with it.

Show your kids the end of a cut stem, and you’ll see lots of little tubes. These tubes are called xylem, and they’re like little straws that the plant uses to suck the water from the ground and up into the flower petals.

The interesting part is how these xylems are able to defy gravity, and bring the water up the long stem. It’s due to an attractive force between the water molecules called cohesion, which means that water molecules sort of stick to each other as they’re pulled up – just like when your own body pumps blood back up to your heart.

The flower uses its drinking water to make food in its petals. The oxygen from the water is “breathed out,” or evaporated from the petals, and the dye is left behind. 

How does it apply to me?

Explaining the process of transpiration also teaches kids about the importance of how their food is grown and cultivated. The experiment shows kids how plants can drink anything that’s in the water. Well, just like how the dye travels up the xylem, chemicals and pollutants can also travel up into the plant and affect our health when we eat them. So take the opportunity to add in a lesson on the importance of eating organic fruits and veggies for maximum health.

In one simple experiment that should cost under $10, you’re able to teach your child a number of scientific discoveries – from plant biology to color experiments and healthy eating. You’ll be showing your kids the amazing world of science, and hopefully, you will be getting them interested in the reasons behind what’s happening.

So remember, science isn’t just memorization. It’s all about the hands-on learning when you start to experiment. 

What are some of your favorite scientific experiments for kids?

Tags : education   science   experiments   activities   

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