The Q&A Archives: Plants To Grow For Tie Dye Colors

Question: For my son's senior project he is going to grow plants specifically for natural dye. He is then going to use the the dye to tie dye various projects. Can you recommend which plants would produce vivid colors such as blue, red and yellow, which could then be mixed for various others.

Answer: Usually the plant part isn't the same color as the dye it produces. The plants also need to be mixed with a "mordant," an agent that helps "fix" the dye color. Typical mordants are alum or cream of tartar. There are many herbal dye books available. I suggest that your son gets one from the library as it will be useful. Here are a few color ideas:

onion skins, orange; marigold petals, pale yellow; chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) flowers, bright yellow; heather (Calluna vulgaris) fresh branches, green; madder (Rubia tinctorum) roots, rich tomato red. Mixing the colors doesn't work as well as mixing paints, for example!

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