With the Kids

Food Coloring Flowers

Whenever we had white flowers in the house growing up, I’d give them the food coloring treatment. It’s always fascinating to see how this process works with the flowers. I’ve found the Carnation flower works best for this cool science project.

I bought a $4 bunch of white carnations at the local Walmart. Then we got out our flower vases ready with water. Don’t use the flower food it may come with, I did once and it didn’t work as well. Then pour in about 10 or so drops of your desired food color. We chose blue for the big bunch and tried a little red one too. I only used about 5-6 drops of red color for the small vase. Cut your flower stems off a few inches and place in the water.

It only took a few hours before we were seeing a hint of blue. By the next morning, the colors were all throughout the flower. They made a pretty border in blue and red.

My kids loved it and were amazed when the white flowers started to gain a touch of color. We have also done this project with food, celery works great. It’s fun to watch science in action.

129 comments

  1. I wake up in the morning thinking what fun thing can I do with my kids today? Then I click on your site and TA-DA! There is my answer. Thanks so much! Keep the great ideas coming!

  2. This is great! I’ll definitely be doing this with my son.

    I think I tried something similar with a carrot when I was a little kid…

  3. my mom used to do this with me and we used peonies that were growing in the back yard. watch out for the ants though.

  4. I just recently started reading your blog, and this is a perfect example of what I love about it. We used to do this as kids, it is fun and easy, but I had never thought to do it with my children — now I will. I dusted off my air-popper a couple of weeks ago, at your suggestion, and my kids didn’t even know what it was! Now they prefer that method to microwave popcorn. Thanks for helping me ward off mom burn-out.

  5. You could also try cutting the stem in half or quarters (about half an inch above the base) then put each piece of the stem into different colored waters and get multi colored flowers.

  6. We did ours yesterday; the kids think it’s pretty cool. It was good to get to talk about how things work inside the plant.

  7. Be sure to help your kids understand WHY this happens: the water molecules’ attraction to each other (surface tension) is stronger than to the pull of gravity, so the dyed water basically “climbs” up the tubes in the stem of the plant – it’s called capillary action.
    You can help your little ones see surface tension by using eye droppers to drop small drops of water onto pennies (lay them flat on the table.) The water forms a dome on top of the penny because the water molecules hold on to one another. Just be sure to drip the drops from close to the penny – not from way up above. Surface tension is also why those little bugs are able to walk on top of the water instead of sinking…

    1. Help!!!! my son has chosen how plants change color as his science fair project and I have no clue where to start… I see Liz has some excellent knowledge of this and any information or where I can go to get started would be GREATLY appreciated… I do not know where to start on this research paper due first……………….thanks in advance

      1. It is true that capillary action operates, but food coloring is mostly taken up because of the action of the vascular tissue. The plant, even though cut, is still taking up water/nutrients in water (obviously-this is why you put them in water).

  8. You can also see capillary action if you place two glasses next to each other one full of water and one empty with a piece of cloth draping from one to the other after a while the empty glass will have some water in it, this is a good way to water your plants if you are going away for a few days, try it and see.

  9. Also about water tension, if you fill a glass to the brim with water then add pennies to the glass, the water will seem to form a slight bulge over the rim of the glass, when it has done this drip a small drop of detergent into the glass and the bulge will be destroyed due to the action of the detergent which breaks down the surface tension, this is how detergents can remove dirt and grease, if you remove surface tension water and grease molecules have two similar attractors which will bind together in the absence of tension and so water will bind with the grease and dissolve it.

  10. oh my. i love all of your make and takes. i can’t believe you are going strong throughout your pregnancy! congrats.. you are my inspiration. loving all the unique things you are teaching your kids. so so fun.

  11. I did this with white peonies years ago, did them all in rainbow colors, then put them in a huge vase with ribbons tied around them Martha Stewart style, sat them on the patio table. Many neighbors commented on them. They are neat.

  12. Loran – It should only take a few hours before you start to see a few streaks of color. But overnight, it should be through most of the flowers veins and bright. I did this the first time and didn’t get enough color coming through, so I had to up the drops of color. Good luck and I hope they turn out bright for you!

  13. I have done this with Queen Ann’s Lace–which I think is technically a weed. I now live in western Canada and you have to pay for Queen Ann’s Lace at a florist shop because it doesn’t grow here!

  14. I’m a 7th grader and I’m doing a science project on this same topic. I took some bean plants and planted them in some soil. I watered one plant with regular water, and another with water that had purple food coloring in it. They just sprouted 3 days ago, and the plant being watered with purple water isn’t turning very purple…

    Anyway, hope you don’t mind if I use this cool site on my Bibliography…?

  15. this is so cool im doing a project about it in school right now so this helped me understand how to do it better! THANKS

  16. oh wow! i think this idea is way awesome…..i’m gonna use it for school, if its ok? ok…..whatever….bye ;-)

  17. hello again, i used this 4 my project at school…and i used carnations, lilies, and daisies…and the daisies & lilies died, but the carnations are still alive. why did the other flowers die and the carnations live? =\

  18. i’m in high school and got a cool idea for a science project that would be little work but a lot of fun. i havn’t done it yet, but i’m going to turn some white flowers yellow, and some blue, and then put the yellow ones in blue water and see if they turn green and the same with the blue ones in yellow water. i think it’ll be pretty cool

  19. I remember doing the same thing for a project when I was still in elementary. And I was so amazed back then. They’re so pretty with that hint of pink.

  20. Having done this successfully with roses and carnations… I decided to try this on baby’s breath. Needing tiny dried and pressed flowers for nail art. I was really surprised at the results. I tried red food coloring for one bunch, to get a pink tint, and blue for another and then purple.
    Within three hours the baby’s breath bunch in blue food coloring was almost entirely blue. Each little flower was so beautifully colored with a nice deep blue; and not just the edges but the entire flower.

    However, I was disappointed to find the red food coloring barely hinted at pink in the baby’s breath. You have to put that bunch next to all white ones to even see there’s the slightest hint of a pink tinge. And the purple never happened at all. So far all three have been sitting over-night; the blue are getting bluer but the others will not color.

    Has anyone ever experimented with baby’s breath? Can anyone tell me what I might be doing wrong? All three bunches came from the same larger bunch. All three were cut at the ends in the same manner, and all three were put in the same tap water… I just can’t seem to figure out why the blue took so well and the other colors won’t.
    I’d be really grateful for any advice or tips.
    Thanks.

  21. This a cool expirment..!!
    I going to do this Experment for my Science project..!!
    Ya im going to get an A…!!

  22. can you do it with ather wite flowers beacaues im doing a sinence project on the same thing.But that was COOL!!!

  23. i am doing my science project about this, and when i did it, it was like the pics u put there!!! it was very cool!!! ;}

  24. OMG im doing this for a science project i better get a A++ i love this project it looks reaaly easy n fun!!! where did u get the idea its really cool i wonder what else u can do!!! THXXXXXXXXX LOTS!

  25. omg ilvethis thxx lots im doing this for my science project its reallly cool where did u come up this this n how do u do celery???????? n i wonder what else u can do!!! OMG i better get a A+++ itsw super sweeeet ekk it looks so muchys FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!hehehehehehehhehehehehhehehhehehhe

  26. can you please get a different and hard science experiment
    this experiment is good but everyone can do this
    so please i really needed immediately
    please sent it to my email address
    thank you so much and if you help me i would really apprecite this

  27. I am using this for my science project, but I used food coloring.. :( It took me a week and 5 days to finish this, The red one is still alive, but no food color into it’s stems. The green one is shrived up and just died along with the blue one, but the green did not work, and the blue was only the slightist bit on the tips… Yours looks sooooo pretty, I know now that I shouldn’t use food coloring… :(
    Well…. thanks! :P d: :D :) :j :] [: (: :O] :o]
    Jallie

  28. we would like to know if you cut the stem in half and put into 2 different colors will it combine or just you know just saty the 2 different colors?

  29. umm i think this is a great idea for me and my science buddy because we had nothing to do for the science fair untill my sister Lapraja sugjusted a science project to me i think we r going to have a blast at the science fair!!!

  30. my grandmother used to take me and my sisters for walks in the country where we would pick queen anne’s lace flowers (weeds) and do this. thaqnks for the memory.

  31. I did this for my science project, but I put only a few flowers in colored water in one day day, and kept the rest in regular water, and the next day, put in more flowers. It was something different to do.

  32. My brother done a project on this but he decided to use celery. Thank you for your procedure it helped my brother alot. ;)

  33. I did this for my sicence fair project and used gel food coloring. It did not work well. Only the green and yellow carnations showed little change in four days! I used carnations, pompons and fuji mums All the other flowers stayed white and statred wilting. Not sure what happend. I did it for a science fair project that is tonight. Not sure what kind of grade I will get but I won’t give up. I will keep doing this experiement till I figure out how to do it right. Next time I won’t use gel food coloring.

  34. i have tryed it in the middle school in 6t grade when we had to identify how plants make food and it’s coloring it was remarkable.

  35. how can u do that with potted plant and does it work!
    i have to do a science fair project and i need info
    please awnser

  36. Im doing a science experiment on plants and how food coloring affects a plant. From what i read here it has helped me alot. Im not going too copy it im just going to use the same flowers as you. :)

  37. i have a since progect to do and it is not telling me how to do it.:( do know how to ldo it? i will fall pleace help. here is my Q how long does it take to dye carnshions with food dye?

  38. I did this for an FFA project and called it, “my flower has a drinking problem” because essentially the flower is drinking the colored water. Also, if you add more food coloring and leve them for two or more days, they colors intensify and even look like a cheetah pattern. Something to try next time!

  39. I’m doing this too for a science assignment/assesment/project (whatever you want to call it)! Do you know what types of flowers I can use (I don’t know many flowers)

  40. This was really cool. I tried doing this own my own as a science project for school and it worked out great! It’s easy and simple. It took me 1 day until I started seeing color. I absolutely love this experiment! :)

  41. we did it & it change color we did one with 4 colors & the other one’s we did it one with red, blue, & puple

  42. we did it & it change color we did one with 4 colors & the other one’s we did it one with red, blue, & purple

  43. Just put red food coloring in my white Christmas poinsettias! Hope it makes a sweet color for Christmas! Ill be doing green in another white one if it turns out good!

  44. i did this for my science project this year and the teachers loved it! Its just so fun and interesting :)

  45. What brand of food coloring did you use? I thought about using this for my Senior project but they say that using food coloring for icing doesnt work as well

  46. You should be able to explain the “why” to your kids. Such a memorable experience is a teachable moment. This is why I’m so frustrated with the “science in action” statement at the end of this fun article. WHY is this happening? Just coloring flowers, without knowing the mechanism, isn’t science. I hope everyone who is considering doing this for their science projects, including me, thinks about this crucial point. Anyone who can add to the science discussion is very appreciated.

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