How to Grow a Salt Crystal Garden
How to Make a Crystal Garden
Crystal gardens are "gardens" made of crystals that can grow in glasses or on porous surfaces such as sponges or cotton balls. They are fun, easy to make, and an interesting experiment for children.
Growing on a Cotton Ball or Sponge
Collect your materials.You’ll need a plastic container (a to-go dish works well) to hold your sponge pieces or cotton balls. To make the crystals you’ll need salt, water, ammonia, and laundry bluing (one brand, “Mrs. Stewart's Laundry Bluing,” is usually recommended). Food coloring can also be added, but is not necessary.
Mix your ingredients.The crystals that will be grown will be made from a solution of salt, water, ammonia, and laundry bluing. The ammonia is included to speed the evaporation of the solution and thus also the growth of the crystals.
- In a separate container, mix two tablespoons of salt with four tablespoons of water. Stir for two minutes to dissolve as much salt as you can.
- Then, add two tablespoons of ammonia and two tablespoons of laundry bluing; continue mixing. The mixture will now be fairly viscous and blue in color.
Pour onto your sponges or cotton balls.Some salt may remain undissolved at the bottom of the mixture, be sure to include this when pouring over your sponges or cotton balls. The salt which is topmost on each piece may begin to turn back to a white color, but this is nothing to worry about.
- If using sponge pieces, wet them first and then ring them out so that the mixture sticks better.
- If using cotton balls, try not to drown any of the pieces to avoid deflating the balls; use enough on cotton balls to cover the top only.
- If using food coloring, place one drop on top of each sponge piece or cotton ball after the mixture has been poured on top.
Leave out overnight.Have the container sit uncovered in a room temperature environment overnight. By the next day, your crystal garden should be fully formed.
- If you’d like to have it continue growing, you can re-make the mixture just described at a lower ratio. Add this mixture to the base of the crystals already formed (not on top to avoid damage) to encourage extra growth.
Growing in a Clear Glass
Gather your ingredients.Besides the glass (large drinking glass or jar will work) that will house the garden eventually, you’ll need epsom salt, water, and any food coloring you’d like to add (though it’s optional).
- Access to a microwave helps to heat the water you’ll use, but especially warm tap water will work as well.
Measure out your salt and water.To make the garden, you’ll be using equal parts water and salt. You’ll want to gauge how much to use based on the container that will house the crystal garden.
- For a regular-sized drinking glass about five inches tall, use ⅓ cup water and salt.
Heat water and add color.Having the water be on the warm side will aid in dissolving the salt, which is crucial to the formation of the crystals later on.
- If you have a microwave on hand, put however much water you’re using in a microwave-safe container and heat for 45 seconds. As mentioned above, warm tap water will work fine.
- After heated, add your food coloring if using any, no more than a dash should be required.
Add water to salt.Have your measured salt in the container which will house the garden. Add the heated water immediately after heating it or retrieving it from the tap.
- Stir the mixture for about two minutes to dissolve the salt into the water. Some salt may still be resting at the bottom, it’s alright to ignore this.
- Be sure to have oven mitts or some other heat-resistant glove if you're handling water just microwaved.
Cool the mixture overnight.Provided you have a refrigerator and freezer on hand, place the mixture in the freezer for 10 minutes. After the time has elapsed, move it from the freezer into the refrigerator.
- If you have no freezer, it will work if put straight into the refrigerator.
- Leave the mixture in the refrigerator overnight to allow the crystals to grow.
Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and clean.There may be some additional liquid left in the jar, pour this out into the sink.
- Using a damp paper towel, wipe the upper portions of the glass to allow a better view of the crystals towards the bottom.
- Be careful not to nudge any of the crystals, they are very fragile.
Growing with Sugar
Have your material at hand.You'll need sugar, a tall glass container (a jar works best), a pencil or dull knife, string (not nylon), a saucepan to boil water, and food coloring if you choose to use it.
- Gather these and place them nearby, preferably close to your stove for ease of use once the solution is made.
Tie and cut your string.You'll need to tie your string to the middle of your pencil or knife. Once done, place the pencil or knife flat over the top of the glass jar so that the string will drape down inside.
- Cut the string where it reaches the bottom of the glass so that it doesn't spool at the bottom.
- Be sure the string hangs as best it can in the very center of the container, to avoid uneven crystal growth.
Boil the water and stir in the sugar.Now you'll make your solution using 1 cup of water and 3 cups of sugar. It is important in this step to be sure the sugar is dissolved.
- Put the water over high heat until it begins to boil (bubbles should cause the water to roil). Keep on high heat once boiling.
- Using spoonfuls, mix the 3 cups of sugar in until they are totally dissolved. The water may become murky, but you should see no visible sugar crystals.
- If using food coloring, include it in the solution after dissolving the sugar. A few dashes should be enough.
Transfer the solution into the glass container.Here is where the crystals will be left to grow along the length of the string. If the knife/pencil is disturbed when pouring, be sure to replace it to its original position once done.
- Be careful when moving boiling water; use oven mitts and walk slowly.
Find a safe place and leave it to grow.Look for a place where most people don't go like a guest bathroom or closet. Keep it high enough off the ground so that it doesn't get any dust in the solution.
- Crystals should appear as soon as the next day, but will continue to grow until the solution has evaporated entirely.
Enjoy your crystals.Since these are made of sugar, they are essentially rock candy and can be eaten without worry. If your aim is still to decorate or make a garden with them, consider hanging them where they can catch the sunlight. Or find a container in which to display a number of them (try with different colors) in attractive patterns.
Video: How To Make A Crystal Garden
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