Dyed Flowers Science Experiment

Set up a simple and visually stunning science experiment with the kids to explore the transfer of water through a plant! This is easy enough for a preschooler to understand and makes a great introduction to practical science investigations.
This classic, fun activity was always one of my favourites to do with the kids when I was teaching Reception classes and produced a WOW reaction each and every time! It effectively demonstrates how plants transport water up the stem, via the xylem, to reach the leaves and petals and hydrate them. The brightly coloured water changes the bright white flowers in a short space of time and that again makes it perfect for little ones who don’t have too much patience for drawn out experiments!
In order to do this you simply need:
  • a few stems of bright, white flowers such as chrysanthemums, gerberas or carnations
  • jars filled with water and various shades of liquid or gel food colouring
Colour the water in each jar, and simply place the flowers in, watch and wait! Now that Cakie is old enough to be interested we introduced the scientific steps of prediction and observation during the investigation. I asked her what she thought might happen and she guessed that the flowers would change colour, but wasn’t sure how. She looked at the flowers and drew them as they looked at the beginning of the investigation, for us to compare with the end results.

Within an hour or so some of the outer petals started to change colours, especially the blue and green dyes which seemed to be the strongest. They were really excited and C. said she thought the water was travelling up into the flowers and out to the petals, changing their colour as it went. She concluded this from direct observation, and not from me at all, which is exactly how learning should be!
By the next day or two the colours had reached most of the petals on each flower and looked very effective. We noticed that the purple dye made the petals blue, not purple, and talked a little about how colours are split and combined in dyes.

 She then went back to her original observational drawing and added the colours where they had appeared on the flowers. We talked about comparing the pictures and how they represented the changes we had seen.

Older children could make notes about their predictions and the results, and could also label the diagrams with the parts of the plant and write about how the water moved through them.

 We have stuck this drawing, along with some annotations made by me, into a new scrap book to keep track of our investigations and activities. Cakie is very excited about it and wants to show it to everyone  at the moment!

 What they are learning while they play:
science/ knowledge and understanding of the world: performing a simple science experiment, making predictions and observations, understanding the parts of a plant, learning how water moves through a plant, drawing simple conclusions
creativity: drawing from observation and noticing changes in appearance

Cakie: 4.6
Pop: 2.11
Bean: 12 mos

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  1. says

    We did this with white tulips this week, it’s lots of fun. Have you tried spliting the stems and putting them in different pots? Our tulips didn’t split well so that part didn’t work out.

  2. says

    This looks fantastic. I tried to be clever and use some rather tired carnations for this experiment-it didn’t work as either the xylem was full of air or the flowers had just given up! This reminds me to try this again with fresh flowers!

  3. says

    did you use A LOT of food coloring? We tried this and it didnt work – so disappointing! The only thing I can think of is maybe we didnt add enough food coloring? After 3 days they were slightly changing – but nothing dramatic

    • says

      The nature detective site suggests adding 5 tablespoons of food colouring. We used blue “professional food colouring” about half a teaspoon and it worked great. The regular food colouring I added about a tablespoon (all we had left) and they took a few days to colour.

  4. says

    Fab! I’m going to buy some chrysanthemums on the weekend and do it with The Boy next week, thans! This is why you just got my vote in the MADs.