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How to Create a Hand-Dyed Bouquet

Drop the stems of white flowers into food coloring and water, and watch the flowers drink up the color. The kids will love trying out different hues to create a rainbow bouquet.

Spike Gillespie

Imagine creating a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, each a dreamy color of your choosing? It's easy to do, thanks to food coloring and the ability of flowers to not only soak up water but also to soak up coloring.

Dyeing white or light-colored flowers is a fun way to demonstrate how plant stems work like drinking straws. There's a magical element, too, as the flowers begin to change color, sometimes as quickly as within a few hours. You can select flowers from your garden or pick up a bunch at the store. Carnations and roses work especially well. Using white flowers yields the most dramatic change, but try the experiment with yellow and pink blooms, too — you'll get a neat effect when the tips turn a contrasting color.

Note: Food coloring stains, so be sure to work on a table or counter covered in newspaper, oilcloth or plastic sheeting. If you want to avoid stained fingers, you can also wear latex gloves.

Materials Needed:

  • cut flowers (carnations and roses work best)
  • food coloring
  • hand pruners
  • tall glasses or Mason jars
  • water
  • protective covering for work surface
  • vase (optional)

Prepare Color Baths

1. Add a couple of cups of water to a tall glass or Mason jar.
2. Add a few squirts of food coloring to the water — 20 to 30 drops — and stir with a spoon. Darker is better and will show up better in the petals, so don't skimp on the coloring.
3. Repeat, using a clean jar for each new color.
4. You can also mix primary colors to create orange and purple water; consult the food coloring packaging for instructions on how to make a new color.

Immerse Flower Stems

1. Using hand pruners or sharp scissors, cut the flower stems at an angle (Image 1). Cutting the stems under water helps prevent air bubbles.
2. Drop the flower stems into the colored water (Image 2).
3. Let the flowers remain in their color baths for at least 24 hours. Depending on how quickly your flowers slurp up their water, you might need to add more water and color. Full color may not develop until 48 hours.
4. When you're satisfied with the color changes, remove the flowers from their color baths, add water to a vase or fresh glass, and arrange the bouquet.

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