As the days grow warmer and it is looking more and more like spring; it is the perfect time to talk about how plants grow. My boys and I have been learning a lot about the importance of why it rains so much in the spring. We have been fascinated by and experimenting with capillary action. As I kid, I remember seeing the popular science experiment of turning flowers different colors. However, it wasn’t until recently that I understand what a great project this can be for young children. By playing with the color changing of carnations, you can teach children how essential the function of stems and root systems are to plant growth. Here’s a look at the science behind the project and how to play around with capillary action.


Most children look at a flower or tree and would assume that plants absorb water from the top. After all, that is where the rain first comes in contact with the plant. However, water is absorbed from the ground through the plants roots. Plants defy gravity and pull water up and into their leaves and flowers through a process called capillary actions. Rain falls down to the soil and than travels up the root system or stem of the plant and into the leaves and flowers. This provides the plant with hydration and nourishment. Roots and Stems are like the plants straw that help it drink up the water.


  • Bouquet of White Carnations
  • Different Colored Water Based Food Dye
  • Glass Cup or Vase
  • Measure Cups
  • Water
  • Scissors


  1. Set out your vase on a flat surface and prepare a pitcher of water.
  2. Have your helpers fill each vase with water about 1/3 of the way full.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water. Keep one color per vase.
  4. Next, trim the stem off the flowers to fit the size of your vase. Cut the stem in half at the base of the stem about inch long before putting each flower into the glasses.
  5. Let the flowers sit for at least 12 hours.
  6. Observe the change of color on the petals over the course of the next 2-3 days.


How A Seed Grows- By: Helene Jordan

How Plants and Trees Work – By: Dorion Young

Tell Me Tree – By: Gail Gibbons

A Tree Grows Up – By: Delano