Bring some spring sunshine into your house this winter with a botanical project that will keep your kids excited for weeks as they watch their flowers go from boring bulbs to spectacular blooms. This simple project will teach your kids the basics of how flowers grow, from root production to green shoots and, finally, to beautiful flowers.
What you'll need:
Shallow glass dish, or a clean glass jar with a nice, wide mouth
Smooth rocks for lining the dish (a greenhouse or good hardware store will sell these)
What you'll do:
- Line the bottom of the glass with a layer of pebbles, about two inches deep.
- Pour water into the dish to almost (but not quite) cover the rocks.
- Place as many paperwhite bulbs as will fit in the dish on top of the rocks, pointy side up, hairy (root) side down.
- Place the dish in a bright location. The first roots should appear within the week.
- Keep the water level the same, being careful not to let the bulbs soak in water, which can cause them to rot. The amazing thing about these bulbs is that the roots will reach out for the water.
- Keep a diary of the different stages the bulbs go through. By the time spring comes, your kids will be able to explain how bulbs grow to all their friends.
Are Your Kids Asking Why?
There are all sorts of bulbs out there. Even ones we eat, like garlic and onions. If you don't want to cut apart one of your paperwhite bulbs, leave an onion out and wait for the shoot to start coming out. (If you're like some of us lazier cooks, you may actually have one in your pantry already!) Cut the onion in half to take a look at how the leaves form in the center of the bulb. Inside each bulb are the baby leaves waiting to flower. Because flower bulbs spend most of the year dormant and under the ground, it seems like they're doing nothing. Actually, they're still developing, using the food they stored during the previous growing season. The bulbs you buy are treated specially (usually subjected to cold), in order to get them to grow before it's really their time. By adding favorable conditions such as a warm house and a rise in humidity, it makes the plant think it's time to flower, and then to do the most important thing for a bulb -- grow leaves. It's the leaves that are responsible for photosynthesis, which feeds the bulb, and prepares it for the next dormant period and the production of a new