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How Plants Take Up Water

A person waters flowers.

Water is necessary for plants to live, but do we know how absorb that water? In this activity, we will learn more about how a plant takes up and moves water throughout its system.

Plants have tissues called xylem that contain tiny channels that move water and nutrients up from the roots and phloem, which moves sugars converted by photosynthesis from the leaves to the rest of the plant.   

This activity will help us answer the following questions:  

  • How quickly will water and nutrients move through plant tissues? 

  • Will this movement be affected by external factors, such as heat and wind? 

  • What are the effects of different substances in the plant water? 

Activity Supplies

  • White carnations or celery stalks (light-colored celery selected from the center of the bunch works best) 

  • Nine jars or clear glasses  

  • Knife or scissors 

  • Water and clear soda 

  • Food coloring  

  • 6 tablespoons salt  

  • Fan and heat source or light 

Activity Steps

  1. Label the jars with the following: Water, Soda, Salt, Water H (heat), Soda H, Salt H, Water W (wind), Soda W and Salt W.
  2. Fill the three “water” jars half full.
  3. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 cup warm water, add 1 cup cool water and pour mixture in a jar labelled “salt.” Repeat two times so there is salt water in all three jars labeled “salt.”
  4. Fill the three “soda” jars half full.
  5. Add five drops of food coloring to each jar. It is best to use the same color as some colors show easier in the plant tissue.
  6. Cut ¼" off the end of each stem or stalk and place one flower or celery stalk in each jar.
  7. Place the “Water,” “Soda” and “Salt” jars in a controlled area (normal room temperature).
  8. Place the “Water H,” “Soda H” and “Salt H” jars in an area near a heat source or a light (warmer room temperature).
  9. Place the “Water W,” “Soda W” and “Salt W” jars in an area near a fan (windy area).
  10. C heck the plants daily and record observations of how far the dye has traveled using the observation chart below.
  11. At the end of three days, record your conclusions. Cut the stem open to observe the channels through which the water traveled.

What are your final conclusions? Are any plants dying? Has the dye traveled faster in some than others? Why do you think that’s happening?

Observation Chart







Salt water  



Salt water  



Salt water  


Day 1  


Day 2  


Day 3  


Final Result s




Adapted from a lesson plan by Author: Crystal Beran