Crystal Rock Garden

Many people spend money on overpriced “grow your own rock garden” kits, when they can just as easily make them for free! All you need are some basic supplies, patience, and a sense of curiosity. What’s that? You have all three? Perfect, you can start growing your own crystal rock garden!

Time required: Several days to a week.

School links: Chemistry.

If you’re doing this project with kids, it’s not recommended for small children, and recommended that you supervise older children due to the ammonia used.

What you’ll need:
-At least eight large cotton balls;
-12 tablespoons of table salt;
-8 tablespoons of water;
-8 tablespoons of household ammonia;
-8 tablespoons of liquid bluing;
-Food colouring (all the colours you want your garden to be);
-Rubber gloves, goggles, and a ventilated room while working with the ammonia;
-Clear glass bowl, plate, or other surface to display your garden

1. In the dish of your choice, put the cotton balls. Arrange them as you like, possibly with real stones underneath some to make a pretty display. It’s not a good idea to move them much after the crystals start growing, so try to arrange it right now and you’ll save yourself grief later.
2. Put on the rubber gloves (and goggles if you want to be extra safe), and mix together 4 tablespoons each of the water, ammonia, and bluing. Carefully sprinkle this mixture over the cotton balls.
3. Let the dish sit still for about a day. Try not to disturb it much.
4. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of table salt over the cotton balls.
5. Let the dish sit still for another day. The crystals will now begin to form, but be careful, as they are fragile.
6. If any areas do not have crystals beginning to form, mix together another 4 tablespoons each of water, ammonia, liquid bluing, and salt, and sprinkle that mix over the bare areas.
7. Take a few drops of the food colouring and squeeze a drop or two of the colour over each cotton ball. This is a great way to personalize your rock garden.
8. After another day or two, the crystals should begin to really form and the garden will continue to grow. Soon, it will become a beautiful conversation piece for your table!

Once you’ve tried this, try doubling or even tripling the amount of supplies you use, and finding a larger dish, to make a bigger rock garden. This method of growing crystal rock gardens is great because you can customize it to fit the dish you have. Experiment with different colours – try a rainbow effect, a solid-tone garden, or a two-tone garden in the colours (your school colours, the colours of the room it will go into, or complimenting colours). This is a good gift, though not so great for shipping to a remote location.

Have fun making your own crystal rock gardens!