Go Green With Natural Dyes From Plants
One of the most common colors in nature is green and the plant world gives us an abundance of choices to produce varying shades of green dye to suit every taste. Since we know that yellow plus blue equals green, you can control the final results by using other plants and natural materials to create a range of green hues. As you learn how to create natural green dyes from plants for home, clothing, and craft projects, you'll discover your creativity and move on to create black, blue, orange, purple, peach or salmon, pink, brown, red, and yellow natural dyes.
Once you have extracted the color from the natural tannins in the plant material, you can use it to dye yarns and fabrics. To create the deepest and longest-lasting colors, use plenty of plant material, allow the dye bath to steep for several hours, and use appropriate mordants to set the colors in the fabric.
The artichoke that we love to eat, the globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, a perennial thistle native to Southern Europe around the Mediterranean will also create a soft green dye.
To create a green dye bath, the entire artichoke should be used. Cut the artichoke into pieces to help release the tannins when boiled with water.
The Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, is native to most of North America and makes a striking show during its summer blooming season. Cultivated for planting in gardens in most temperate zones, they are easy to grow and can be started from seed.
Gather the leaves and stems of the plant to create a bright olive/apple green dye bath when boiled with water.
In addition to a relaxing nighttime tea, Chamomile, Matricaria recutita, can also be used to create a green dye bath by boiling the leaves with water.
Chamomile can be found all over Europe and temperate Asia, North America, and Australia. The white flowers with a yellow center bloom in early to mid-summer and have a strong aromatic smell.
While coneflower petals are not green, they can produce a lovely green dye bath when the entire flower head is boiled with water.
While many plants are often called coneflowers (Echinacea, Rudbeckia, and Ratibida); this reference is for Dracopis amplexicaulis. It is native to North America and can easily be grown from seeds that are available in garden centers and online.
Foxglove, Digitalis, is native to western and southwestern Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. The flowers are produced on a tall spike and vary in color from purple to pink, white, and yellow. The flowers, when boiled with water, produce an apple green dye bath.
Foxglove is the basis for important heart medication. Dispose of any remains of the dye bath carefully to protect pets and wildlife.
Grasses, graminoids, are herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include true grasses, sedges, and rushes. Grasses are, perhaps, the most abundant plants on earth.
Most grasses will produce a yellow-green bath but different grasses will produce varying shades of green when boiled with water.
Larkspur or Delphinium
Larkspur or Delphinium is a genus of about 300 species of perennial flowering plants in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. Larkspur has an erect main flowering stem topped with many flowers varying from purple and blue to red, yellow or white. The plants flower from late spring to late summer.
Boil the entire flowering stem with water and alum to produce a bright green dye bath.
Lilac shrubs or trees, Syringa, are part of the olive family and native from southeastern Europe to eastern Asia. The woody plant produces delicate, highly scented flowers each spring that range from light purple (lilac) to white, pale yellow, and pink.
These lovely flowers, when boiled with water, produce a delicate green dye bath.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, is a plant native throughout the cool temperate areas of Asia, Europe, and the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States. It is a poisonous perennial that forms colonies through underground rhizomes. The flowers are on a stalk, bell-shaped, and sweetly scented. The entire plant is poisonous if consumed.
A light green dye can be created by boiling the leaves with water. The dye bath must be disposed of properly because both the plant and dye bath are toxic to humans and animals.
Mint, Mentha, is found in temperate areas around the world. It is an aromatic herb used for cooking, candy making, and medicinal uses. The plant is a perennial and spreads by underground and overground stolons and it can quickly overtake an area.
To create a fragrant dark khaki green dye bath, just boil the leaves with water.
Nettle, Urticaceae, is a herbaceous perennial plant with stinging hairs on the stems and leaves. It is native to Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America and is usually thought of as a nuisance plant. However, when boiled with water you'll find something good, a nice green dye bath.
Pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, is native to most of the southern half of North America. The plant is fast-growing and the leaves, stems, and seeds are edible. Like spinach and many other leafy greens, amaranth leaves also contain oxalic acid, which can be harmful to individuals with kidney problems if consumed in excess. It can also be toxic to livestock due to the nitrates in the plant.
To create a yellow-green bath, boil the entire plant with water.
Plantain, Plantago, is found all over the world, including America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and Europe. They are most often called weeds and grow in wet areas like bogs and ditches. Gather the roots to create a green dye when boiled with water.
Purple milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens, is native to the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern United States. The flowers open as pink but turn dark purple as they mature. It is also called Butterfly Weed because it attracts butterflies.
To create a lovely green dye bath, boil the leaves and flowers with water.
Queen Anne's Lace
True Queen Anne's Lace, Ammi majus, originates in the Nile River Valley and has white lace-like flower clusters. But throughout the United States, it is Daucus carota that is called Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot. This plant is native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia, and naturalized in North America and Australia.
Queen Anne's Lace flowers from June to August creating thousands of seeds that spread everywhere and it multiplies rapidly. To create a pale green dye bath, boil the entire plant (flowers, leaves, and stalk) with water.
Red Onion Skins
Red onions, sometimes called purple onions, range from medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor. The red color comes from anthocyanidins (cyanidin) which are not stable at high temperatures (They tend to lose their redness when cooked.)
This is why you can boil the red onion skins in an aluminum pot with plenty of water to get a Chartreuse green dye bath. If less water is used, the pH of the dye changes and you will get a reddish-purple dye.
Red Pine Needles
Red pine, Pinus resinosa, is native to North America in the eastern mountains. The bark is thick and gray-brown at the base of the tree, but thin, flaky and bright orange-red in the upper crown and gives the tree its name. The leaves are needle-like and dark green and snap cleanly when bent. Combine the needles with boiling water to create a forest-green dye bath.
Scotch Broom Stems
Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius, is a perennial shrub native to western and central Europe. The shrub has green shoots with small deciduous leaves, and during spring and summer are covered in profuse golden-yellow flowers. The shrub likes sunny sites and thrives in dry, sandy soils.
Boil the green stems with water to create a green dye bath.
Snapdragon, Antirrhinum, is named for the flowers' resemblance to the face of a dragon that snaps opens and closes its mouth when squeezed. Snapdragons are found in gardens in every temperate area and can have showy white, crimson or yellow flowers.
To create a green dye bath, use the flowers and boiling water.
Sorrel, Rumex acetosa, is a perennial that is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable. The leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; they have a flavor that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries.
Boiling the roots and leaves with water will produce a dark-green dye bath.
Spinach, Spinacia oleracea, is an edible plant native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant that may survive winter in temperate regions. Not only is spinach nutritious and good for Popeye, but it also makes a wonderful green dye when the leaves are boiled with water. Older leaves produce a richer, darker dye.
Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, is a perennial herb native to a wide area of the Northern Hemisphere. Tarragon is used in everything from soft drinks to sauces to vinegar.
For the best tarragon dye bath, use the entire plant (not dried herbs) with boiling water to get a range of greens hues.