Science project

Water Transport in Plants


How is water transported in plants?


  • 3-4 Water Glasses
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • 3 or 4 fresh white carnations
  • Ruler
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board


  1. Fill each of the three water glasses with a half cup of water.
  2. Add twenty drops of food coloring.
  3. Stir the food coloring into the water.
  4. Ask a grown-up to help you cut the last centimeter off the white carnation. You should cut the stem at a 45 degree angle. 
  5. Immediately put the flower in the food coloring.
  6. Do not disturb the flowers. Observe them after 2, 4, 8, 24, and 48 hours, paying special attention to the bottom of the stems.
  7. If desired, cut 4 or so centimeters off the stem of one of the finished flowers to observe it more closely.


After just a couple hours, you might notice the food coloring in the stem. After twelve or so hours, the food coloring should tint the vessels within the flower.  Your results will vary depending on the quality of your flowers and cutting.  When you observe the bottom of the stem, you will probably notice the round xylem tubes are filled with food coloring.


You cut off the last centimeter of the stem at the beginning of the experiment to make sure that the xylem tubes exposed to the colored water weren’t damaged. The colored water moved up the stem  by cohesion and adhesion.  Water regularly evaporates from the surface of the flower.  As water molecules go into the atmosphere, water molecules behind them are pulled upward. In cohesion, one end of one water molecule is attracted to the other end of another water molecule.  The attraction of the water molecules to the side of the xylem tube is called adhesion.  Since the food coloring is mixed in, it gets to ride up the stem along with the water.

Going Further

Suppose you want to make flowers for 4th of July. You could split the carnation stem vertically, leaving the flower intact. Then, you can dip one side of stem in blue colored water, and the other in red.                

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