By Sam Burbach, Education & Programming Coordinator – 07/1/2020

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The 4th of July will be here on Saturday so it is a great time to try out a fun FLORAL fireworks experiment at home! In the lesson to make a self-watering planter a few weeks ago we discussed capillary action, which simply put, is the uptake of water such as within a plant. In cut flowers, water from the vase is carried up through the flower stem to keep the blooms looking fresh for several days, even though the stem has been cut off the plant.

With cut flowers, anything that is in the vase of water can also be pulled up the stem, which is why it is recommended to use a floral preservative solution in the vase of water to extend the life of the flower. A floral preservative has three main components – sugar, acidifier, and bactericide. The sugar provides food to the flower, the acidifier lowers the pH of the water which helps with faster water uptake in the cut flower, and the bactericide helps control the growth of bacteria to maintain flower health. This combination of ingredients will help extend the life of cut flowers. 

We can see signs of capillary action taking place through the level of water going down in the vase and the flowers not wilting, but we don’t really see this water uptake happen. And while we cannot watch the water moving up through the stem like we would watch a drink move up through a straw, we can view evidence of the water from the vase ending up in the flower petals through a fun and colorful experiment that kids will love! 

Not only will this experiment be fun, but it will also give you some festive floral decorations for your home! A lot of times we see white carnations used for floral coloring experiments, but daisies and mums also work well and look even more like fireworks making this perfect for the 4th of July! 

Here’s how you can try it at home!

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • White flowers – daisies, cushion mums, spider mums, carnations, etc.
  • Clippers or pruning shears
  • Food coloring (I used red and blue for the 4th of July)
  • Vases (1 per color)
  • Floral preservative (optional but recommended)
  • Lukewarm water

How to Make 4th of July Firework Flowers:

1. Prepare vases of water. Fill each vase with lukewarm water and mix in floral preservative (optional). Warm water will travel up the stem faster than cold water!

2. Add enough food coloring to each vase to give the desired hue.

3. Prepare your flowers. Remove all foliage and stems that will be below the water level to prevent bacteria from forming. Removing extra foliage will also allow more water to go to the flower instead of the leaves. 

4. Give each stem a fresh cut to open up all of the xylem (water carrying) tissue. Cut the stem a little longer than you plan on using in your final arrangement because we will be cutting the stems again.

5. Immediately place the stem in the vase of colored water.

6. Repeat for all the flower stems, alternating between colors.

7. Keep the flowers in the dyed water for about 24 hours or longer. After a few hours, speckling started to show up on the flower petals. The longer the flowers sit in the dyed water, the more color will appear in the flower.

8. Once the color you like has been achieved, rinse off the stems, recut them again and place in a clean vase with lukewarm water and floral preservative (still optional but recommended) to enjoy!

Happy 4th of July!