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Once a week we will be featuring a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom.

Most of you who celebrate Easter have taken part in the time-honored, yet messy, tradition of dyeing Easter eggs. Try a new twist this year, and dye some carnations to brighten someone's day and learn a little in the process about how a plant absorbs water and where it goes.

For this activity, you'll need:

  • 6 white carnationsYour carnation will turn the color of the dye after a short time.
  • 6 plastic cups
  • Food coloring (red, blue, and green work well)
  • A knife
  • Water


  • Fill each cup half full with water.
  • Add about 20-30 drops of food coloring to each cup of water. In this case, more food coloring is better!
  • Before placing any of the flowers in the colored water, trim the stem of each flower at an angle to create a fresh cut.
  • Place one freshly cut white carnation in each of the cups of colored water. Make some predictions: Which color will be soaked up first? How long will it take?
  • You'll want to check back every few hours to see how things are progressing. It may take as much 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.

If you want to go natural (which we at Heifer International strongly encourage), try these websites for tips on how to make dyes with food products:

How does it work?
Most plants "drink" water from the ground through their roots. The water travels up the stem of the plant into the leaves and flowers, where it makes food. When a flower is cut, it no longer has its roots, but the stem of the flower still drinks up the water and provides it to the leaves and flowers.

If the water a plant uses to grow was polluted, would that affect the plant? In what ways?

You can find this activity (courtesy of Steve Spangler Science) and others in the Classroom Resources section of Heifer International's website.

Don't forget to let us know how it works for you in the comments.


Linda Meyers

Linda Meyers, an Arkansas transplant originally from St. Louis, Mo., started working at Heifer International in 2011. She enjoys dragging her three children on nature hikes and snapping photos of them and everything around her. She has a bachelor’s degree in English has been “in the process” of writing the great American novel for 24 years.