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  • GrowNYC Education

Farmer Scientist: Xylem Leaf Dye Experiment

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Have you ever wondered how water travels through leaves? What happens when you water a plant? Water is essential for the survival of plants, and plants need a way to "drink" the water in order to stay strong and healthy! In this experiment, we used food coloring, water, and leaves to see how water moves through leaves.

You can watch the video below, click through the Google Slides link for a fun and educational presentation that is great for students at home or in class, view photos from our experiment, and then follow the instructions to try the experiment yourself!

Watch the video

Google Slides Presentation

Check out our Google Slides presentation! Feel free to share with your students at home or in class.


View photos from the experiment.

Get Inspired!

If you do the experiment at home, we'd love for you to share it with us on social media: tag @grownyc and use the hashtag #GrowNYCEducation

Xylem Leaf Color Experiment: Instructions

Objective: To investigate how water travels through leaves using food coloring and leaves and to learn about the importance of the xylem in the process of water and nutrient transportation in plants.

Material(s) needed:

  • Leaves: you can use leaves of all different shapes and sizes! The experiment works best if the leaves have visible veins and are a lighter shade of green/orange, or have a white center.

  • Water

  • Clear cups

  • Red food coloring


  1. Get outside and collect a few leaves! Make sure the leaves have stems.

  2. Fill your cups with water about halfway.

  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water. The darker the water, the clearer the results!

  4. Place your leaves into the cups, taping them to the sides if the stems are too short. Just make sure some of the stem is in the water.

  5. Observe the leaves over the next few days. Take photos or draw pictures of your leaves every day to record the changes.


After several days, you should be able to see that the red dye has travelled up the plant - what you're seeing is the plant's xylem in action!

The xylem is the tissue in plants that carries water and minerals from the root to the rest of the plant. Xylem is found in the roots and in the leaves. It’s like a circulatory system for plants!

Stay tuned for our next experiment!

Post author: Nicole Engen

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