Carnations + Food Color

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Here’s a fantastic nature and science lesson… the science of which was new even to me as an adult!

Have you ever heard the term “transpiration”? It’s the process through which moisture is carried in a plant from the stem to the leaves and petals. Well, if you add color to that moisture, what happens to the petals?

All you need to find out are white carnations (or a similar white flower; we used what I think were daisies to start) and food coloring. It helps to have kid-safe (i.e. plastic) test tubes with a holder, so you can set up the project without unsafe glass vases. Travis helped place one white flower in each of four test tubes.

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We added food coloring to three of the tubes – be generous with the amount you use, about 10 to 12 drops! – and left the fourth one empty as a “control.”

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Imagine our surprise when a mere hour later, the color was starting to creep into our petals. Blue was the most immediate, for whatever reason, with a truly stunning effect.


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Green and red were a bit slower, but by morning, we had gorgeously tinged flowers. I will have to keep this in mind for holidays like St. Patrick’s Day!

If you have enough food coloring, consider setting up a full rainbow from red through purple… Alas, we were missing a few colors, and I was also too nervous to leave the rainbow assortment on a window sill where cat or toddler could knock them over. But we did like the results so much that we purchased a second batch of white flowers (Are these ones carnations, anyone?) and added orange into the mix.

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We also had a more vibrant green the second time around. All in all, great fun!

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