The Celery Experiment and How Plants Absorb Water from their Roots


Toddler Science: A great way to introduce basic science concepts are through fun and visual experiments such as this Celery Experiment. It requires just a few items and is a fun way to teach children about how a plant absorbs water. This process is called Osmosis. We will learn about how plants absorb water using colored water and celery stalks.
celery experiment by Teaching Tiny Tots


  • Clear glass jars, cups or small clear vase

  • Fresh Celery stalks with leaves. Preferably the lighter leafier stalks near the center.

  • Water

  • Food Coloring


  • Explain experiment. We are going to find out how plants absorb water and grow. See Educational note for more.
  • Separate and select stalks of celery with leaves. Cut about a quarter inch off the bottom. The lighter stalks near the center will show the most color.
  • Put about 8 ounces of water into glass jar or vase.
  • Drop 3-4 drops of food coloring into jar.
  • Place stalks into the water and using stalk stir very gently until food coloring is dispersed evenly.
  • Have child/class make predictions about what will happen. Write it in a simple sentence and "point and read" together.
  • Make 2-3 observations and write them down. Check at intervals depending on availability, you will see slight results after 3 hours, significant results overnight and again at 48 hours.
  • Cut the bottom of the celery and you can see where the water was transported up into the celery stem.


Day 2

This is the result after 24 hours. We added a few extra stalks so that we would have a selection to work with. The celery in the purple took in some color but interestingly enough the leaves withered and did not do well. I tried it again and the same thing happened so there may be something in the purple dye that the celery does not thrive from.
celery after 24 hours

Day 3

This is the celery after 36 hours. The leaves are more vibrant, however starting to shrivel a bit. We removed the stalks that did not color as well for the photo.
celery after 36 hours
Here is a close up of the leaves.
close up of celery leaves after 36 hours

Tips and Suggestions

  • If you plan to do only one color, consider selecting blue. We found blue to have the most vibrant results. The colors we tested were purple, red and blue, green and orange. The blue was significantly brighter. After trying this three times, we noted the blue water level goes down the quickest.

  • Use the lightest, innermost stalks for this experiment. The darker green did not show the colors as well and were less healthy in comparison with the lighter green stalks.

  • Be sure to trim the bottom of the stalks with a knife or shears (adult step). Examine the bottom after 24 hours to see where the water is being drawn up into the stem. Blue showed this the most clearly of all the colors.

bottom of the celery showing osmosis

Other Ideas

Sequencing Board

  • Make a Sequencing board that you can use for other Toddler Science Activities or even for story retelling activities. Poster board, foam board or card board and some self adhesive velcro dots or strips cut into small squares and you are ready to begin.
  • Select either the loop or the hook side to place on the board. If you select the hook side, you will always use the loop side for your cards.
  • Place a dot at the top for the title and 3-5 more dots in a row under it. You may want two rows of dots
  • Glue pictures of the experiment onto cardboard or construction paper and stick on a velcro dot on the back of each. Remember to use the opposite piece as the one you put on the board for the pictures to stick.
  • Have your child place the pictures in the correct order. For older toddlers you can print a simple sentence about each picture as well, cut out and mount on cardboard and match the sentence to the picture.
  • Celery Experiment Sequencing Book

  • Take pictures of the major steps in this toddler science experiment, glue onto construction paper and add a sentence for each by printing on a computer or handwrite neatly. Have your child tell you the sentence or phrase if they are able to. Your child is more likely to be able to "read" something he or she says. This is also a great way to help reinforce and build comprehension skills.
  • Carnations

  • Another example of osmosis can be used with carnations. Use the same materials and steps above. You will have very pretty results!
  • Sequencing Game

  • Take pictures of the entire process Dropping coloring into glass, placing the stem into the colored water, Glue onto separate pieces of cardboard. Have your child place in the correct order on a flat surface. Or cut out the pictures, have your child arrange them and glue them onto a single sheet of construction paper and display.
  • Educational Notes

  • A book is a great way to introduce a toddler science activity. Go to the library or a bookstore and find a book on plants.

  • Plants absorb water through their roots through a process called transpiration. The water travels up tubes in the stems to all parts of the plants, and is used during photosynthesis to make food for the plant. When food coloring is added to the water, it travels with the water into the celery's stem and then into the leaves. Plants also absorb nutrients from the soil through the roots and up through the phloem in the plant's stems. The food coloring illustrates how nutrients are delivered to all parts of the plant.

  • Scientific Processes Used


  • Seeing the color of the celery leave change and the level of the water going down.
  • Hearing and listening to directions given.
  • Communication

  • Oral Explanation of how plants absorb water
  • Pictorial Showing pictures of plants in a book