Inside: Bring chemistry to “life” with a simple flower science experiment. If you are doing this activity in spring, use dandelions!
What do you do when you read that pennies can be used to preserve cut flowers? You test it out, of course! To make it more scientific, we added two more test substances intended to preserve our flowers and a control sample.
If you are wondering what pennies have to do with preserving flowers, here is the gist of it: copper (which pennies are made of) is considered a fungicide, which is a fancy way of saying that it naturally kills the bacteria and fungi that breed in flower vases and shorten the life span of your cut flowers.
For the purity of the experiment, pick your own flowers in the wild to make sure they don’t already have additives. We picked dandelions. If you can’t pick your own flowers, make sure you ask a seller if the flowers were already treated with preservatives or dyes.
Are you curious to find out if pennies really can preserve flowers? Join us for the thrill of scientific discovery and for the pleasure of aesthetics too (because flowers are so pretty to look at :)!
Flower Science Experiment
What you need
Pennies (I bet you always knew you would put that penny jar to good use someday 🙂
Flowers (for the precision of the experiment, stick with one kind for each jar)
4 jars, cups, bottles, glasses, cleaned out mayo containers, or any other clear receptacles
What to do
- Fill four jars (cups, bottles, glasses) halfway with water. We are using 16oz mason jars. If your containers are bigger, double all your measurements.
2. Add a handful of pennies and 1 Tablespoon of sugar to the first jar (don’t forget to double for bigger jars) and mark with #1 somewhere on the lid. I put a piece of tape on the lid and wrote 1 on it.
Just a refresher:
Pennies are made of copper, and it’s believed that copper prevents the growth of bacteria. Sugar, on the other hand, serves as flower food now that they can’t get their nourishment via their roots.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar + 1 tablespoons of sugar to the second jar and mark it with #2. This is the second sample in our investigation, the one we nicknamed Traditional, because it’s what florists have been recommending for years. The idea behind this is that vinegar inhibits bacterial growth and sugar nourishes flowers.
- Add 1 tablespoon of bleach + 1 tablespoon of sugar to the third jar and mark it with #3. Bleach, as you know, is a very powerful substance. It kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including the influenza virus. Will bleach inhibit bacteria growth or kill the flowers instead?
I don’t know!
This is my first time using it. I personally never buy bleach since it’s so awful for the environment, but a friend let us borrow hers. Note that we again added sugar to nourish our flowers and keep the number of variables under control.
- Leave the 4th jar as is. It’s our control sample with just water.
- Add flowers to each jar. You can choose to simply stick your flowers in the water or submerge the flowers in the water. My kids chose the submersion option.
Submerging flowers creates a unique effect, doesn’t it? The beauty of the flowers seems magnified in a mesmerizing way.
By the way, try making a “Calm Down Bottle” using freshly picked dandelions! I can honestly say that I use it as much as my children because it’s so magical.
- Observe what happens and write down your observations day by day. Maybe even morning and evening for good scientific regularity.
Flower Science Experiment Observations
We can’t stop staring at our samples. They are simply gorgeous.
We ended up keeping them mostly on our kitchen table, so we can see them and talk about our experiment throughout the day.
Some surprising findings today: sample #2 (the vinegar sample) is the worst looking of all. I thought vinegar was the florists’ choice?
Pennies jar (#1) is doing the best ↓
Even the control group is looking good ↓
The bleach sample is okay, but some flowers are definitely getting bleached. I hope you can see that in the pic ↓
Pennies and control samples still look the best.
It definitely seems reasonable to conclude that when I get a bouquet of flowers next, just using (1) plain water or (2) adding pennies+sugar is much more preferable to using vinegar or bleach.
As you can see, the penny jar is definitely in the lead. Vinegar jar is the worst. Bleach jar flowers are white on the edges. And the control sample is wilted and cloudy.
All samples are pretty much dead. I’m aborting our flower science experiment today because I don’t want to wash jars filled with rot 🙂
What’s on your kitchen counter? Next time you pass a patch of dandelions, pick some for this kitchen science experiment.
Hey, wait a minute!