Spring has officially arrived, and there are tons of ways to engage students with spring-themed activities, crafts and experiments. With the spring season comes spring flowers, and this science experiment for kids explores the functions of roots and stems and their role in plant growth.


  • 6 white carnations
  • 8 plastic cups
  • Food coloring (red, blue and green)
  • Knife
  • Water


  • Fill four of the cups one-half full with water.
  • Add about 20-30 drops of food coloring to three of the cups of water (red, blue, and green). In this case, more food coloring is better! The fourth cup should contain just plain water.
  • Before placing any of the flowers in the cups of water, have an adult trim the stem of each flower at an angle to create a fresh cut. For cut flowers, it is important for the stem tubes to be filled with water.
  • Place one freshly cut white carnation in the cup containing the uncolored water. Then place a freshly cut white carnation in each of the three cups of colored water. Save the remaining two carnations for the next step. As you wait to see the results, make some predictions: How will the carnation in the plain water compare to the carnations in the colored water? Which color will be soaked up first? How long will it take? Will one of the colors create a deeper colored flower or do the colors all absorb to the same degree?
  • Have your adult helper use a sharp knife to slit the stem straight down the middle. Put each half of the stem into a cup of different colored water (try positioning the red and blue cups next to each other, for example). Make a few more predictions: Which color will be soaked up? Will the colors mix to make a new color or will the color of the flower be divided down the middle? Just remember to keep the ends of the stems wet at all times and to make fresh cuts on the ends.
  • You’ll want to check back every few hours to see how things are progressing. It may take as long as 24 hours for the colored water to work its way up to the white petals. At the conclusion of your experiment, remember to examine the whole plant carefully including the stems, leaves, buds, and petals to find every trace of color.

The Science:

By dyeing the carnations, students will discover how water travels through plants using a process called capillary action. The experiment also provides an opportunity to discuss pollution and how some chemicals in the soil and groundwater can contaminate growing plants and vegetables.

Source: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/colorful-carnations.

For more spring activities, crafts and experiments, visit our Spring Activities board.