The buzz around blue orchids has been pretty hot for several years now. Blue is a rare flower color in any plant and the Holy Grail of flower colors for most orchid breeders. So far, no naturally blue-flowered orchids have been discovered or bred—at least, nothing as vibrantly blue as these orchids on the right.
The blue color in these blooms is actually just a blue dye that was injected in the bud spike before the flowers developed. The plants that are most often used for this technique have naturally white flowers to make the dye more vibrant. There’s nothing unhealthy or dangerous about this technique; you just have to understand that if that plant blooms again, the flowers will be white.
How can you tell?
How does it work?
Plants send a lot of fluids and nutrients to developing blooms. By injecting the dye into the bud spike, the dye gets sent along with those nutrients and water into the flowers. If the host orchid naturally has white-colored flowers, there are no extra pigments that can contribute to the color of the flower, so the dye colors the flowers very brightly.
You may have tried something similar with carnations as a kid. I know I did. It’s even simpler than dying orchid blooms because there’s no needle required. All you do is cut a light-colored carnation flower and put the stem in some water. Add a couple drops of your favorite food dye and let the carnation go. As it takes up the water/dye over the next couple days, your flower will gradually turn the color of your dye.
Jen Schmidt is a graduate student at Cornell University who, with the help of her mother (Barb) is turning into a crazy plant lady at a young age.