A Crystal Christmas Tree

    Kids, this crystal Christmas tree project works quickly from a paper or sponge tree that “grows” crystal foliage. 

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    An adult partner will need to obtain and handle these materials:

    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml water
    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml table salt (preferably uniodized)
    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml Mrs. Stewart's liquid laundry bluing agent
    • 1 tablespoon or 15 ml household ammonia
    • food coloring

    Make the magic solution by dissolving the salt in the water and stirring in the bluing liquid and then the ammonia.  Bluing is a non-toxic and biodegradable bleaching product made of a very fine blue iron powder suspended in water (this is called a "colloidal suspension").

    Here are two ways to try growing your crystal tree. You can cut a sponge into the shape of a Christmas tree, set it in a shallow dish, and pour the crystal solution over the sponge. Set the dish someplace where it won't be disturbed. You can dot the sponge with food coloring (like ornaments), if desired. Depending on the temperature and humidity, crystals may start to appear on the sponge tree in less than an hour. You should have a nice set of crystals if you let the dish sit out overnight.

    Another method is to cut a cardboard or blotting paper Christmas tree. If you make two of these trees, you can cut one halfway down the top and the other halfway up from the bottom, match the notched ends together, and create a standing 3-dimensional tree. Again you can decorate your tree with food coloring ornaments, or use green coloring alone in the solution to make a solid green tree. Set this tree in a shallow dish that contains the crystal growing solution. Crystal 'leaves' will start to grow on your tree as the liquid is wicked up the paper and evaporates. 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    December 2010



    Anne Marie Helmenstine, “Magic Crystal Christmas Tree“,

    You also can get inexpensive kits to grow magic crystal Christmas trees: