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How to Dye Fresh Flowers and Foliage

Roses, Carnations, and even Daisies Can Be Dyed in Multiple Colors to Resemble a Rainbow of Petals.
 

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How to Make Rainbow Flowers With Floral Absorption Dyes

I don't like food color, it can work on some flowers like Queen Anne's Lace or Carnations, but over all it just doesn't do a good job. Roses don't come out good with food color. Also you would need a lot of it so it can be expensive. (30-40 drops of each color per cup of water)

Dip dying won't work well to make rainbow roses. It's hard to control which petals are colored different colors, and as the dye dries there will be color transfer from petal to petal. This will mess up your colors.

I would only recommend Absorbit floral absorption dye. It's made specifically for flowers and works very well.

To make a rainbow rose, you should leave your roses out of water for a couple hours so they're thirsty. Then you would  prepare your dye solutions in warm water with cut flower food. Use water that's almost as warm as bath water.

Cut a couple inches from the bottom of the stem and then cut the stem lengthwise so you can put each cut stem section in a different dye solution. Make your cuts under water (a cheap box cutter is great for this) then transfer them to the vases. There will be a portion of cut stem between the dye and the stem that's intact. You need to wrap that in wet paper towel or cotton balls right away so they don't dry out and prevent the absorption of the dye.

It should take a 2-4 hours average to dye, once your roses are dyed, make another cut above the split portion of the stem and put the roses in your vase of warm water and cut flower food. Use a vase that's large enough to avoid crowding the flowers, they're alive and need to breathe and have room to open.

If you don't have cut flower food you can make your own. Use a half teaspoon of sugar and 3-4 drops of bleach. The sugar feeds the roses and the bleach acts as a bacteriostat to keep the water clean. Roses should have the water change every 3 days using cut flower food. If you do this your roses will last longer. This also prevents premature wilting.

I buy my fresh flowers from a wholesale florist (Nordlie) and they sell rainbow roses that have already been professionally dyed at the flower farm. If you need a lot, you could probably have your florist order them for you. You can also do this with Carnations :)

You are right about the problem of looking for this kind of information online. I see tons of bad information but I rarely see good information, if at all. To me, it looks like the people who write it never actually tried doing it, and then others take that bad advice and repeat it over and over until it ends up being everywhere, even though it doesn't work. I have read that you can use Kool-Aid but it sounded weird to me and I never tried it because I don't trust flower information I read online, but if you have it you could try it. If you do, please let me know how it works out for you.

The instructions I see on-line never bother to say to wrap the exposed stem with wet cotton or paper towel. This allows the exposed stem to dry and prevents the rose from taking up the water and dye. This is the reason your roses are wilting. Roses are fussy about dry stems, this is why we cut them under water.

If you want to play around with this method, I'd be happy to send you a little absorption dye so you don't have to go out and buy it. There's a lot in the jars and if you don't get the result you want you'd be out about $30 if you buy 3 colors. Seems high for an experiment. Just send me your address and I'll get that right out for you, no charge.

This is easy to achieve. Use up to 4 bud vases filled with different colored dyes, split your stem into 3-4 sections, then place each section in a vase of it's own.

Using Floral Absorption Dye

Absorbit by Design Master is a nice systemic floral dye. This will color your fresh flowers by absorbing the dye through the stem then out to the blossom. It's fun to watch.

  • Before pressing your flowers,  condition your ferns, foliage, and flowers  as usual, but add the dye to the warm water solution... your dye is added while you're conditioning. 

  • Because you'll be pressing the botanical materials, it's best to mix the dye solution weaker than recommended for a more natural look.

  • Put the freshly cut stems in the warm water/dye solution and let them sit a few hours before pressing.

  • Avoid putting your flowers in water before you dye them. A thirsty flower will drink up dye much better then a well hydrated flower. If your flowers are already in water, take them out to sit, then make fresh cuts and start dying.


Even Roses Maintain a Natural Look When Dyed Properly

Dyed Fresh Roses Using Floral Dyes

The roses shown here were all the same white color before dying. The pink and purple roses were treated for about a 8 hours... I love the results! If I had taken them out earlier the colors would have been lighter shades of pink and lavender.

Process:
  • Strip leaves from the portion of the stem to be submersed.
  • Prepare dye solution of:
       - Very warm water, but not too hot.
       - Cut flower preservative (Chrysal or Floralife)
       - Systemic floral dye. Design Master sells this.
  • Pour 2" of Floralife's Quick Dip Instant Hydration Pretreatment into a plastic cup if you have it. (optional) then cut off several inches of stem under water, then dip stems ends in hydration solution.
  • Immediately place flowers in the warm dye/preservative solution.


  Make your own cut flower food:

Mix together

  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon bleach

Obtaining Floral Absorption Dye

Design Master has a store locator to help you find a source for Absorbit near you. It's much easier to find the floral sprays made by Design Master, you may even prefer it over the absorption method. We all have our preferences.

LO Florist Supplies sells Absorbit and lots of other floral supplies online.

DirectFloral.com sells Absorbit at a pretty reasonable price online.

There's a good tutorial on using Design Master's DipIt on the Pennock Floral Blog so I won't get into it here. I don't need to, they've done a great job.  <smile>


Warning

Hate to say this, but I'm surprised by all bad "articles" and "tutorials" on dyeing rainbow flowers across the web. Those instructions range from incomplete to incorrect. Problem is, it's clear that they've been written by persons who have never actually dyed a flower.

I've been dyeing flowers over 20 years so I know a little on the topic. Articles parroting these ideas are clearly written by content writers whose purpose is to bring traffic to the website, sell advertising, or simply by well-meaning people who repeat what they've read without actually testing it. Don't make the mistake of following those instructions.

Common mistakes in choosing flower dye:

  • Fabric dye like Rit involves boiling water and harsh chemicals. This will ruin both fresh flowers and dried flowers.

  • Food color will give you some color, but never vibrant and your color will be short lived. Food coloring is neither permanent or light-fast. To get decent color, you will need to use a lot of the coloring, perhaps as much as 3 bottles, so the cost is high.

  • Ink contains alcohol, which is never good for fresh flowers. And this could get costly.

  • Kool-Aid may or may not work, I've never tried it. If you try this, get the kind that needs to have sugar added, not presweetened. Presweetened uses chemicals that aren't good for flowers. Adding your own sugar will provide some food for the flowers. I will try this soon and update my opinion of this method. If you try this, I would love to hear about your results and would love to see pictures. Just send to my email.

Exception

What you read about using food color can be partially true, but partially false... it depends on you're purpose. If you're helping your child with a science project or just playing around, food coloring can be fine.

Real floral dyes can get messy, food coloring... not so much. The colors will be subtle and short lived rather than vibrant and lasting. 

If the flowers will be pressed or dried, stay away from food colors, they will fade quickly.

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