Why Has My Orchid Changed Color? (The 4 Reasons Why and How)
Orchids are undoubtedly one of the prettiest blooms to own. But is it normal for them to suddenly change colors? Is this natural or is this a result of something else? The answer is, it depends!
Orchids can change in color because of aging, seasonal changes, natural mutation, and dyeing. For the most part, however, orchid flowers retain the same color throughout their life. Orchids are typically pink, purple, red, and white.
In most cases, it can be quite normal for orchids to change colors. However, if you’ve ever bought a vibrant blue orchid from the store and brought it back home, you might be in for a surprise!
Orchid flowers will naturally fade to paler colors at the end of their life cycle. Most orchid flowers stay in bloom for an average of four weeks and eventually fade to lighter colors before wilting completely.
Long-lasting floral displays are one of the reasons why orchids are so popular. Paphiopedilums orchids can remain in bloom for over ten weeks!
For a majority of houseplant orchids, the flowers will gradually start to fade and wilt after three to four weeks.
Older and wilted flowers will remain on the spike, but the petals will no longer be stiff and will fold back easily.
It’s common for Cattleyas to bloom in very rich colors and eventually become very pale towards the end of their life. The Bc Makai is a good example of this.
Changes in seasons can cause orchids to produce different colored flowers than the previous blooms. As a result of the changing levels of sun exposure and temperature in the new season, orchid plants will produce altered amounts of pigments.
There are thousands of different types of orchids, with some of them able to produce flowers even during the winter!
Cattleya orchids, some of the most common orchids, will flower during the spring or fall. But one of the interesting things about orchids is the fact that their blooms will sometimes change color according to the season.
It is not uncommon for orchids to bloom purple orchids in the summer and have red flowers in cooler months—both of which are produced by the pigment called anthocyanin.
This color change according to the season is due to the change in light and temperature in across different months. In other words, with widely different heat and light, orchids will generate blooms with different amounts of pigments.
3. Natural Mutation
Some orchids can naturally change color mid-bloom. Foxtail orchids will initially open purple flowers and will eventually become orange at the end of the life cycle. This is normal and typically not a cause for concern.
It’s not so surprising to hear that orchids eventually lose pigment as they age. But what if your orchid changes completely to a different color?
It might be surprising, this is totally normal for some varieties of orchids!
The Rhynchostylis foxtail orchid is known for its beautiful purple flowers. But at the end of their long lifespan, they will appear more orange rather than purple.
You can tell an orchid will change color when its blooms gradually start to transition into another color, so keep an eye out for those flowers after the first week!
For more vibrant flowers, check out our article on the 45 most colorful daisies.
Orchids that have been injected with dye will only produce dyed flowers for one bloom. Then, they will naturally revert to producing flowers with their original color. Dyed orchids will only retain their artificial coloration for one season.
Last but not least, we have color-enhanced orchids.
It’s not uncommon for vivid blue orchids to be sold in grocery stores, but did you know that in most cases these colors are not natural?
Many of these dyed orchids are actually white orchids that have been loaded with dye in a special process.
While they are beautiful, what’s unfortunate is that unsuspecting buyers are made to believe they’re buying a naturally blue orchid, which is oftentimes not the case.
You can tell if an orchid has been dyed when it has:
- A hidden puncture mark on the lower part of the flower spike
- Colored leaves and roots
- An unnaturally bright color
If you’ve chosen to keep your orchid and take care of it, you might be puzzled to see the next blooms are now white rather than blue. I would certainly be confused.
This is because the dye is only absorbed for that singular bloom and does not carry on to the next generation of flowers.
How are Orchid Flowers Dyed?
People can dye orchid flowers by 1) selecting a white orchid, 2) allowing it to form spikes and buds, 3) puncturing the flower spike, and then 4) inserting the dye.
Although there are some varieties of blue orchids that can be found, they’re very rare. The Thelymitra crinita, or the blue lady orchid, would be a good example.
Even then, their blooms are not as bright and vibrant as artificially colored orchids.
So how are these color-enhanced orchids created then?
The exact procedure and dye used for artificially coloring orchid flowers are not common knowledge, nor is it available to the public. But orchid experts have come up with a general idea of how it is done.
1. Selecting The Orchid
White orchids are the most commonly used orchids for dying purposes.
White orchids are the most commonly dyed orchids. Their lack of other colors and pigments makes it ideal for this purpose.
Orchids of other colors can also be dyed but their natural color will only compete and mingle with the dye afterward.
2. Allow the Orchid to Form Flower Spikes and Buds
Orchids are dyed while their flower buds and spikes are premature to ensure fully colored orchids.
This dying process is done when the flower spikes and buds have already started to form.
Since the flowers have not yet bloomed and have not yet developed their true pigments, this is the perfect time for commercial growers to dye them.
3. Puncture the Flower Spike
Punctures are made on the bottom of orchid flower spikes where the plant is more stable and where customers cannot find them.
When the flower spike has grown, a puncture can then be made to access the sap-transporting vessels inside the plant tissue.
This is done at the bottom of the spike, so it is less likely to be noticed by buyers. This placement is also ideal as the base of the spike is thicker and more structurally sound.
4. Insert the Dye
After the orchids have been punctured, they are injected or filled with dye. Over time, the orchid sap will transport the dye to the flower buds and will create newly-colored blooms.
After the flower spike has been punctured and the plant vessels are exposed, a special dye is inserted into the cut.
In just a few days, the sap of the orchid will help carry the dye up to the flower buds and will replace their natural pigments.
It’s unknown what tools are used by commercial growers but this can be done at home by dipping cotton balls in food dye and taping the cotton over the cut.
The dye will be fully absorbed by orchids and shown off in its floral display until the bloom dies. The next flowers that open will be the original color of the orchid and will not be the same color as the dyed blossoms.
With a bit of time and dedication, this process can easily be replicated at home.
What are the Other Effects of Dyeing Orchid Flowers?
Dyeing orchid flowers can damage the flower spike and prevent it from blooming entirely. If the tools are not sterile, or if the surrounding environment of the orchid is not clean, the orchid plant could even be infected with plant diseases.
So be careful if you plan to try dyeing your orchids at home!
Personally, I find the natural color of orchids much more attractive.
But if the vibrant artificial colors are something you fancy, and you’d rather not risk hurting your orchids, you could easily buy some more when you see them in a flower shop.
Just keep in mind that this dyed color is not permanent and will only leave you with another white orchid!
Why are my orchid leaves changing colors?
There are multiple causes of discolored orchid leaves. Yellow orchid leaves can be a symptom of overwatering, fungal diseases, or sunburn. Healthy orchid foliage should be light green with yellow undertones.
Will colored water dye orchids?
If orchids are watered with food dye, the dye will affect all parts of the plant, including the roots and leaves. To ensure that only the blooms are affected, the orchid flower spikes must be injected or filled with dye.
Summary of Why Orchids Change Colors
Orchids are usually white, pink, purple, and red. Orchids will sometimes change color due to age, natural mutation, or the changing seasons. Blue orchids, however, are frequently dyed and will revert to their original color in the next bloom.
Dyed orchids are generally created by using white orchids with premature flower buds and spikes and filling a puncture in the flower spike with dye. This dye will color the bloom and will only last that one season.
- “Orchids” by n/a in Clemson University
- “Orchids” by Amy Gibbs and Brian Hudelson in University of Wisconsin