How Do Freezing Temperatures Affect Plants?
Introduction | Puzzle |Article | Experiments
Most plants contain more than 85% water. The water in the living parts of
plant cells contains dissolved salts, sugars, and other substances that act
like anti-freeze. Conduct two cool experiments to explore what happens when water freezes and how plants react to freezing temperatures.

Experiment 1: What Happens When Water Freezes?

Before digging into frozen plants, let's take a closer look at water. What do you think happens when water freezes? Let's explore!


  • two plastic cups or glass jars
  • sugar
  • spoon
  • two pieces of masking tape
  • Data sheet 1: What happens when water freezes?

Add water to each cup or jar until it's half full. Mark the water level with a piece of masking tape, so the water is even with the top of the tape.


  • Cup #1: Leave the water as is.
  • Cup #2: Add two large teaspoons of sugar to the water. Stir to dissolve it.

Record predictions on your data sheet.

Place both containers in the freezer overnight. Summarize what you see when you take them out of the freezer.

data sheet
Data Sheet 1
Experiment 2: What Happens When a Leaf Freezes?

Not all plants react to freezing temperatures the same way.


  • select several leaves - choose a variety of leaves from the garden plus a tropical houseplant leaf
  • plastic bags
  • Data sheet 2: What happens when plants freeze?


  • Place each leaf in a plastic bag and place in the freezer overnight.

Record predictions on your data sheet.

Summarize what you see the next day, after you take the leaves out of the freezer.

data sheet
Data Sheet 2

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