Seth Wisely said

November 2, 2010

chemical flower bed, popular mechanics 1927

Filed under: curiouserly, wantonly bizarre — Seth Wisely @ 20:59


  • Get a small goldfish bowl
  • fill the bottom with fine sand to a little over half an inch
  • buy the following from a hardware store or other creative source
    • copper sulphate, two ounces
    • a few small pieces of zinc (size of postage stamp)
    • a few small pieces of alum (aluminum?) enough to fill a tablespoon
    • a teaspoon full of potassium bichromate crystals
    • one can of water glass [sodium silicate solution]
    • three or four inch length of aluminum wire cut into half inch pieces
  • scatter the materials over the sand in the bowl in a “hit or miss” fashion
  • mix one part of the water glass with three parts water
    • pour the mixture slowly over the chemical-strewn sand
  • the depth of liquid should not exceed four to six inches
  • set the bowl aside in a place where it will not be shaken or jarred

“Soon you will see queer little colored growths appearing here and there which in the course of a few days will grow upward and assume various shapes.  In a week or to you will have a chemical garden similar to the one pictured.  You will have some mushrooms, fungi, grasses, beats, and oranges.  Nearly all colors of the spectrum are represented.  Most curious are the growths which extend downward into the sand along the sides of glass.  If left undisturbed the chemical flower bed will grow for weeks.  And then like living things the growths will slowly disintegrate.”




The alternative to buying the magic rocks kit (or other crystal growing kit) from a toy store.  Magic rocks grow TOO quickly compared to the chemical flower bed.


1985 materials update for chemical flower bed

  • glass jar
  • tweezers or tiny spoon
  • 300 mL water
  • 150 mL sodium silicate
  • Chromium chloride (green) solid
  • Ferric chloride (orange) solid
  • Aluminum potassium sulfate (white) solid
  • Cobalt chloride (purple) solid


for more variations interweb search:  Chemical Demonstrations, American Chemical Society


Seth Wisely said: if only stores were as accommodating now


Blog at

%d bloggers like this: