Carnations + Food Coloring = Rainbow Flowers

I hope I'm not the only one out there who winds up responsible for planning her own mother's day gifts every year! I was pondering ideas for a project that would be both mom- and kid-friendly when I saw white carnations at the grocery store. They reminded me of how much I used to love dyeing flowers with food coloring when I was kid--there's just something so magical about watching the color travel up through the stem all the way to the tips of the petals. Just for fun, I thought I'd add a little color-mixing exploration and create a rainbow!

  1. Ages: 3 - 11

  2. 2+ hours

  3. A little messy


Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    To prep the flowers, I cut off the ends of the stem so they'd drink the water faster, then placed the stems in cups of water. I just happened to have the right number of flowers to do all the colors of the rainbow and have one left over to leave white, so we could compare the difference.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    I used paste food coloring because it was what I had on hand, but the liquid kind works just as well. The only trick with the food coloring is that it helps to use a lot! I mean, really a lot--the water should be dyed a nice, deep color.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    The mixing step turned out to be a lot of fun by itself. My son very seriously and carefully mixed each color until we had this lovely water rainbow in our window.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    And then we came back just hours later to find that our flowers were already starting to turn colors! We kept checking on our flowers throughout the day and watched the color deepen and spread. Some flowers turned out more vibrant than others, and it was really interesting to watch the patterns the colors make as they travel through the flower petals.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

    We left them overnight, and in the morning we had a lovely pastel rainbow.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Done!

    Add a little bit of ribbon and sweet little boy, and voila!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

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