Picture of Grow your own Magic Crystal Tree

If you found an ad for this instructable in the back of a comic book, it would read something like:
"Amaze your friends by growing a crystal tree out of common table salt and a few other ingredients available from the grocery store"

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Picture of Gather Your Materials
Gathering the ingredients is probably the most difficult step. To grow your Magic Crystal Tree, you'll need:
- Mrs Stewart's Bluing
- Table salt
- Household Ammonia (the kind with no soap added)
- Cardboard (not corrugated)
- Bowl
- Water
- Measuring spoon
- Food Coloring (optional)

The bluing is the hardest item to find but can be found in the cleaning section of many grocery stores. You can find the ammonia close by.

The cardboard I used came as packing material from a new shirt, or the backing from a paper notepad. Cereal box cardboard might work, but it's thinner & has printing on one side...

Depending on the temperature & humidity of your location, the ammonia is optional, but speeds up the crystal growth -- the tree in this Instructable started "sprouting" in less than an hour. Without ammonia, it may take a couple of days to start.
terriilyn4 months ago

I remember doing this with my "Mimi". (grand mother) I am now a Mimi and look forward to doing it with my grand children. I never would have found the recipe with out your "ible" probably wouldn't have thought to. so thank you.


the discoverer10 months ago

Nice . Thanks for posting this :)

Two questions:
1) You said the ammonia was optional, depending on humidity, etc. I live in one of the rainiest cities in America so it's always very humid here, so would that make the ammonia more or less important?
2) If I wanted to make little kits as gifts, where I pre-mixed the solution and kept it in a bottle, do you know if it would keep and for how long?
Thanks! BTW, great instructable!
My Mom used to do this for us, when we lived in Seattle, back in the 1960's, and it worked fine-she always used ammonia.. We used charcoal briquets for the base then, but any thing that is somewhat porous will work for the crystals to grow on. Using briquets gave kind of a fairy-land look to the creation. Mom would put the briquets and solution in a pie plate, and let my sis and I put drops of liquid food color on the briqs to make the different colored areas, Magic to little kid! Just make sure they don't try to play in it!

sylbl122 years ago
I remember buying kits for my children, am looking for activities for my grandchildren over the holidays, this is definitely a good idea, thanks for sharing.
neetz3 years ago
i just have a question, can you use horse bluing? the kind that makes them white?

So, it's a great instructable, undoubtly gonna try it. BUT, I'm from Denmark, and therefore I don't understand what "Bluing" is. Can you explain for a Dane?

It's a additive used to make whites whiter in the laundry.  It was quite popular years ago, but not widely used now.

Uh, I see. Do you think chlorine could be a good alternative?

If you don't believe it from me, then read this.
 No, no, no!  Ammonia tries to evaporate, and will carry the chlorine with it.  I almost died once from breathing chlorine.  Probably the worst way imaginable to die. 

Also, don't try bleach (another whitener), as mixing that with ammonia makes truly dangerous things.  Read here: www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/classic/A795611
No, I wouldn't think so.
Denmark!! Me too!! Well no my mom is, dad isn't, i'm half-and-half!
onyx953 years ago
Oh my goodness I haven't done this in such a long time. My kids are going to love it.
Thanks so much for sharing it.
Does the bluing do anything, apart from colouring the salt? Would the project work without it?

the bluing is a colloid aka the crystal seed you need it to grow the crystals it otherwise is just a mix trust me it doesn't grow a thing.
tiag794 years ago
This looks interesting but I'm not too sure I want to try this just yet. Maybe when my 4 year old it 5 or 6. She'll probably think it's candy from the coloring, lol. But I must admit that I think this would be a nice science experiment for my 13 yr old to give a try.

It's bowl, not bowel.
claudiapatx4 years ago
Cool. I remember buying kits that we did this with as a kid in the 70's...Magic Grow or something like that. They really made a killing off of us kids, didn't they?
CraftBear4 years ago
Would it work with any shape "tree" do you think?
mik3 (author)  CraftBear4 years ago
It should work with any shape, but it's best as long as the material is porous ...
As a kid, we used charcoal briquettes, and there's another instructable that uses a toilet paper tube: http://www.instructables.com/id/Salt-Crystal-Garden/
RMDelete4 years ago
I think I just had a "bowel" movement here :)
mik3 (author)  RMDelete4 years ago
Hmmm, if I fix the instructable, nobody will know what you're talking about
D00M994 years ago
I see in the video that the crystals fall off sometimes. Any way to prevent?

Also, any scientific reason as to why this happens? Very interested in the process.
mik3 (author)  D00M994 years ago
The crystals are pretty fragile, so when get too big they break & fall off by themselves. Growing them in a place where they don't get jarred too much can help.
Do you think you might be able to use the cone styrofoam? The food dyes would certainly be absorbed. I will go ahead and try it unless you know why it would not. I will email you a picture of it if it turns out great. Thank you for the idea because I have grandkids that would it.
 YEARS ago, my grandmother and I did this very same thing.
We used pieces of brick.  Made a little pile like a small mountain range.
Then the ''forests'' grew!!  Place drops of different colors of food coloring
in different locations for a multi color effect
uuuhhhgggh!!? i need your help.? my tree is taking forever to grow, help me, did i do something wrong? HELP! its a goood idea thoughh(:
MissMush5 years ago
Just though I would jump in here:  If you are trying to find the Mrs. Stewarts Bluing - check this list of all the stores in Canada/USA that stock it!!

canadian nh6 years ago
my dear, just now I saw the picture of ammonia used here it is liquid, it isn't available here liquid it is powder, so can I use it?, if so liquid will be very little only 1 spoon water, salt and powder ammonia will not desolve well isn't it? reply me pls thanks
canadian nh....from another canuck...you can get liquid ammonia north of 49, but you may have to go to a janitorial supply  store to get it without soap
JKibs956 years ago
"...adding more water/salt solution to the bowel." serious rotflol
mik3 (author)  JKibs956 years ago
Well, it's one way of having fun while sitting 'round & watching the crystals grow... ;-)
JKibs95 mik36 years ago
Maybe not "fun" per se.
 Unless you define "fun" as a nasty burning sensation...
did you knock the crystal growth from the side of the bowl back into the solution? that's kind of what it looks like.
suzzy5195 years ago
hey pretty cool !!
Rhelirien5 years ago
Does the salt get hard? Is this something you can keep hanging around for a long time or is it more of a novelty that you throw away when its done growing?
mambogirl55 years ago
that is awesome makes me want to make one right now even though its late!!!
gibbon7 years ago
Nice time lapse video! I want to make one!
same here!!!!!!!
StarFace6 years ago
This is fantastic!

And to think I bought one of these for my younger brother a few years back and paid nearly 10 quid for it when I could of made my own. And your finished product looks a hell of a lot better than the packet one I bought!!

By the way, I live in the UK and I'm just wondering if you have any idea if there is an alternative of some description to Mrs Stewarts Bluing? =S Or even if you know where you could get Mrs Stewarts Bluing over here because right now I can not find ANYWHERE that has any idea at all what it is or where I can get hold of it!

mik3 (author)  StarFace6 years ago
Possibly "laundry bluing" or "washing blue". Technically, Mrs Stewart's Bluing is a colloidal suspension of a blue dye (ferric hexacyanoferrate). The key is the colloidal suspension, which means that it's really an extremely fine powder, which acts as nuclei for the salt crystals to form. Other laundry bluing might work, but check the ingredients for ferric hexacyanoferrate, or possible "Prussian Blue".

You might also check eBay or Amazon for Mrs Stewart's Bluing.

Thanks for the comments,
So would any colloid work?
djamelal6 years ago
i bought one of theese, now i feel like a nugget. such a good idea i have made one but it fell over. = $
k06306 years ago
that's cool! I would like to ask what is the max. height i can have if i want to grow a really large one?
Vehan6 years ago
I think it is cool but what is mr stewarts bluing?
cape cod6 years ago
That is awesome!
youngstuna6 years ago
i think that this invention is really cool
frogmama6 years ago
frogmama6 years ago
Do you have the video posted on Youtube or somewhere? Thanks!
k8monster6 years ago
Hobby or art stores will sell a thin cardboard that us usually used to build working models... It's called chipboard
Or ask a scrapbooker or a place that sells open-stock scrapbook paper. The OS paper comes wrapped with that as a stabilizer for packaging.
mik3 (author)  k8monster6 years ago
Thanks -- it's good know places to find the materials. Other possibilities for the tree "skeleton" are pipe cleaners, or toilet paper tubes.
fwjs286 years ago
time lapse video would be sweet....
canadian nh6 years ago
nice work congratulations, if you have any other arts please show us. I'm in kuwait now, I'm going to my home Canada, I don't know if I can find them there, but I wonder is ammonia which I know white powder? bcz no liquid amonia here, one more question please is this tree fragile? how can we keep it if it is so? and how long it stays? thnks
mik3 (author)  canadian nh6 years ago
Thanks! The ammonia I used is a liquid not a powder. It's used for cleaning. Some people have had luck growing the crystals without using ammonia. The crystals are pretty fragile -- a hard breath or a bump can break off the growths.
I used to do this when I was a kid but we would put charcol in a fish bowl and follow the same directions pouring the mix on the charcol and then dripping food coloring on the charcol. It was really cool but didn't smell very good.
emdarcher6 years ago
where did you get the camera sofware you used in step 8?
mik3 (author)  emdarcher6 years ago
It came with the camera. Google "canon remotecapture" -- unfortunately, it doesn't work with all Canon cameras.
emdarcher mik36 years ago
can you use it with a sony cyber shot or a polaroid small camcorder
mik3 (author)  emdarcher6 years ago
Sorry, I think it's only for Canon cameras. I haven't tried it, but I you might check out gPhoto2 if you've got a linux box.
arthessa6 years ago
Amazing instructable. Congratulations :o) I love the time-lapse video. Really looking forward to making one of my own. But before I can, I have a couple of questions for you: - Is there anything more generic that I can use opposed to Mrs Stewart's Bluing? I don't thing I can get it anywhere here in Colombia. - What remote capture software did you use? Is there any way I can hook my Kodak Z612 up with that software? Does it work with any digital camera, as long as I have the usb cable to connect it to my pc?
mik3 (author)  arthessa6 years ago
Thanks! It was a fun Instructables project to make ;) Possible "laundry bluing" or "washing blue", but check the ingredients for ferric hexacyanoferrate (Prussian Blue). The software used was RemoteCapture 2.7, but it looks like it's only for Canon cameras. If you've got a linux box, I've seen some references to using gPhoto2 for doing timelapse, but I haven't played around with it. Good luck, and let me know if you try anything.
Nice work....I was wondering if ammonia and Mrs Stewart's Bluing is really needed? Since I live in the philippines (davao) and not all chemicals are that easy to find at all....
mik3 (author)  residentevil56 years ago
The ammonia helps the evaporation, and really speeds up the growth. It should work without it, but may take longer to grow the crystals. Try looking for "laundry bluing" or "washing blue" -- if it contains ferric hexacyanoferrate, or possible "Prussian Blue", it might work.
burton35166 years ago
do u have to use ammonia and Mrs Stewart's Bluing?
The ammonia and Mrs Stewart's Bluing are optional, they just speed up the process.
the instructable says the ammonia is optional...
whopoder6 years ago
Good Job! I saw this mix one time... in Beakman's World :D
lobo_pal7 years ago
Nice job, quality instructable. Got any others?
fan457 years ago
hi every one thats cool so hi guys.
Shifrin7 years ago
Hey this is awesome, I Gotta try this!
crapflinger7 years ago
"- Bowel" you probably meant bowl hehe i'll have to do this...my wife got me one of these things that you can buy for like 20 cents at the store...and it was really nifty....however i nocked it over while cleaning this weekend and ruined it
Brennn107 years ago
This is a great science experiment!
Doveman7 years ago
thats cool. I guess it hapenns when the salty water or whaterever (i havent read instructable) moves up the cardboard looking stuff and then runs down the tree branchs.
Oh wow, dang, that's freaking awesome... Looks great, I might do this. (added to favorites)