How to Turn a Carnation to Different Colors

Carnations are popular cut flowers, and you'll often see them in button holes and corsages. Not only is it possible to find all varieties of pink, red, and variegated carnations, if you start with a white one, you can easily turn it into any color you want: green for St. Patrick's day, orange for Halloween, a particular hue to match a dress or the theme of a party. This simple trick is also commonly used to show elementary school students that the stems of plants allow water to travel up to bring nutrients to the whole plant.


Step 1

Strip the carnations of the leaves that are on the stem. This will make the petals the only recipients of the colored water. Leave the stems as long as possible. Be careful not to bend them or otherwise damage them.

Step 2

Clip or slice each stem about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Use a diagonal cut. This will remove any deadened cells at the bottom of the stem.

Step 3

Decide what color you will turn the carnation. Then fill a vase with fresh water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of food coloring to the water and stir well. Remember that you can use yellow and blue food coloring to make green; red and blue to make purple; yellow red, and blue to make brown and yellow and red to make orange. Experiment with different combinations of drops to make your water lighter or darker versions of the colors.

Step 4

Place the carnations into the water. Watch the white petals absorb the color of the water and become dyed. After the petals have changed color, you can trim the stem to the length that you want for your corsage or arrangement. The petal will remain the new color for several days.

Things You'll Need

White carnations on long stems, Tall vases, Food coloring, Scissors or a sharp knife

About this Author

Lesley Barker, director of the Bolduc House Museum, authored the books "St. Louis Gateway Rail—The 1970s," published by Arcadia, and the "Eye Can Too! Read" series of three vision-related e-books. Her articles have appeared in print and online since the 1980s. Lesley holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Washington University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University.