Color Changing Flowers

Color Changing Flowers

About a year ago I tried to use food dye and water to dye some flowers I had from the farmers market. The change wasn’t as obvious as I had hoped and although I wanted to attempt it again with whiter flowers I kept putting off further experimentation. Recently I was gifted several white lilies and, luckily, remembered the experiment in time. It worked perfectly this time. We loved watching how the petals changed color and were able to see where the water gathered in the petals by seeing where the dye changed the hue and darkened. I wanted to share this with you in case you had flowers on hand or if you’d want to buy some specifically for this purpose. White would work best, but if you have some other color on hand what’s the harm in trying?

Do you have extra flowers lying around? Why not check out how water moves through flowers by putting them into diluted food dye? Watch the dye change the flower petals and show exactly where the water goes. This could be the entire experiment or you can it as a platform for more discussion and research about flowers.

As mentioned above last year we tried this with a variety of flowers, bought specifically for this purpose, from the farmer’s market as we weren’t able to find plain white flowers. I ended up using three mismatched vases so looking back the food dye and water quantities may have been different for each vase which meant the dye concentrations were probably also different levels. I’m not sure if I either didn’t use enough food dye or if most of the flowers were too dark too see much of the dye, but we ended up being a bit disappointed at the end result. I wanted to carry out the experiment again but kept putting it off and forgetting about it… at least until recently.

Three vases
Last year I used a variety of vase sizes and a variety of flowers. I tried to put at least one of each flower into each color of water to better compare any changes.
Mostly white flowers with some blue hue added from the food dye in the vase of water.
Some flowers has an obvious change, but most weren’t too obvious and I was a bit disappointed.

I was given gorgeous white lilies last month and something made me remember this food dye experiment. While the kids were eating I started gathering supplies and talked through what I was doing while they watched. Like before I decided to use the three main primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. I grabbed three jars (leftover yogurt containers) so all three ‘vases’ would be the same size this time.

Three identical jars lined up on a paper towel lined tray.
I used a wooden ‘tray’ and lined it with paper towel in case water or food dye spilled. I then laid out three identical containers that were sturdy enough to not tip when filled.

I then filled them up with food dye making sure to use more than I thought I needed to make sure the water would be concentrated enough to transfer the dye to the flowers. I made sure each jar looked like it had the same amount but didn’t take the time to measure each specifically.

Each jar with a layer of food dye at the bottom.
I poured red, yellow, and blue water-based food dye into each jar making sure they they had the same amount.

I then moved the tray to the table so the kids could see what I was doing. I filled an easily pourable jug with water so they could watch me fill each jar with water.

Tray with the jars of food dye laid out next to my vase of flowers, jug of water, and scissors.
Laid out the tray, a jug of water, and scissors so the kids could watch what I did next.
Yellow, blue, and red filled jars.
Yellow, blue, and red vases filled with a combination of food dye and water.

I then took three lilies and trimmed their stems so they wouldn’t be too tall for the jars. Each lily went into their own vase and I rearranged the jars so there’d be enough room between them. I considered changing out the main vase’s water and adding food dye to that too but instead decided to keep it plain as a control. I did this, mainly, in case the dyed flowers only changed a little bit so we’d have a white lily available to compare the dyed flowers against.

White lilies in their own respective vases.
After rearranging the jars so the lilies fit on the tray I pushed the tray and larger vase off to the side on the table so it would be out of the way while we waited.

And now we waited and watched the changes.

Over the next day:

One day later and and I love their color.
One day later and and I love their color.
One day later and and I love their color.
One day later and and I love their color.
One day later and and I love their color.

Two days later:

Two days later and their darkly colored especially at the edges.
Two days later and their darkly colored especially at the edges.

Changing it up in the future

In the future I’d love to put the lilies in the food dyed water sooner so we could enjoy their colors for longer. I’m curious if adding the food dye to the water may shorten the flowers life span in comparison to the plain water. This could be tested by taking two lilies that are just now opening and putting one in plain water and the other in dyed water. I’d also love to put a lily into the one color and then see what happens if you switch it back to plain water. Does it just fade? What if you switch it into another color? If you turn the flower red and then put it into blue water does the flower slowly switch to blue gradually with the blue pushing the red out or does the flower go purple before blue? Needless to say both the kids and I enjoyed this I can definitely see doing this again.

Depending how much time you want to devote to the experiment and how far ahead you planned you could combine this with flower-related coloring pages, crafts, or sensory play. Next time we do this I want to make a stop at the local library beforehand to pick up reference books on flower anatomy and how flowers function for the kids to read to better explain what’s going on and to delve further into the subject when they’re excited about it.

Have you tried this experiment before? Did it work or did it flop? How did your petals look with the dye and was their pattern different than my lilies? I’d love to hear more so feel free to share in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram. I hope your day is going great!

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