Colors of hibiscus flowers

Are You Ready for Plants That Change Color?

Move over petunias, roses, lilies, roses, lavenders, and moonflowers. If you like roses specifically, forget about choosing between red, yellow, pink, or white. There’s more coming to your garden that is unlike anything you’re currently familiar with: flowers that change color. Not just once or over weeks, but daily. Imagine petunias that change color throughout the day. Or flowers that are purple on your kitchen table and turn pink when kept outside. As it turns out, it is more a real possibility now than science fiction.

Keira Havens and Nikolai Braun of Revolution Bioengineering (RevBio) are bringing this biological artistry to life. The duo is based in Ireland and working to make the emerging field of synthetic biology more attractive and less fear-invoking. They are funded by the Synbio axlr8r, now Indie.Bio, an accelerator program based in University College Cork. The funding is just enough to get them through to proof-of-concept. The startup is looking for other funding avenues to be able to sell its flowers. So, what kind of flowers are we looking at?

Blue, pink, or do you fancy both colors in the same flower? Image source: RevBio.

The science behind color changing flowers

RevBio is tinkering with Petunia to develop flowers that change color from red to blue and then back to red, within a day. It is making use of two features in plant biology. First, small molecules called anthocyanins that are responsible for the color in flowers. Second, there is an internal clock in plants (also found in animals and fungi) that tracks exposure to sunlight and is self-sustained based on cues from the environment. Together, these biological mechanisms drive the novelty behind RevBio’s flowers.

Anthocyanins are pigments that are responsible for the reds, purples, and blues in plant tissues, particularly the flowers. Plants synthesize them to attract pollinators, but humans have developed a profound liking for their aesthetic value. Like any other biological molecule, their properties change as their environment changes. In the case of anthocyanins, it is the change in color. Presence of metal ions, change in the pH, or interference by some other metabolite are some environmental cues that can alter anthocyanins and change the flower color.

A popular example are hydrangeas. They are pink when grown on acidic soil (sprinkle some lime) and blue when grown on basic soil (a tablet of aluminium sulfate mixed in water or steel wool buried under the bushes would do the trick). The science to make the color change with time is a bit more complex.

Another interesting aspect is the presence of an internal clock in plants. Circadian rhythms occur as a plant attunes itself to the periodic changes in light availability. This clock regulates expression of different genes throughout the day in a cyclic fashion. The plants use it to start photosynthesis when the sun comes up in the morning or to release fragrance in the evening.

In Petunia circadia, as RevBio fancies calling its flowers, the internal clock is connected to the anthocyanin production pathway to enable flowers to exhibit different colours at different times of the day. RevBio has successfully tested the connection in bacteria and is currently working on protoplasts (single, isolated plant cells) to insert the functionality in plants. As it turns out, it isn’t the only synthetic biology project concerned with beautiful plants to have captured the public’s imagination in recent years.

Nikolai Braun, Chief Scientific Officer, at work. Image source: RevBio.

Another beautiful plant

The Glowing Plant project was the first time crowdfunding was used to generate funds for a synthetic biology application. Its Kickstarter managed to raise a whooping $484,000 on the promise of a plant — Arabidopsis thaliana, more the favorite of a scientist than a hobbyist gardener — that glows in the dark. The seeds are estimated to be shipped later this year.

Though the science for the project has been in place since the 1980’s, it stirred a lot of controversy and discussion over public opinions on synthetic biology — something that turned out well for the field. However, it still begs the question: “Why is a technology long reserved for curing diseases, producing food, or generating power being used for purposes like glowing plants or color-changing flowers?”

Visualizing synthetic biology

The prices of gene sequencing and synthesis have dropped considerably, allowing such projects to be feasible. Glowing Plant, for instance, is one of the first biotech ventures to have been funded by Y Combinator. In addition, these projects should be done to dispel the fears associated with GM and synthetic organisms. “When you tell people that genetic engineering can be used to fight hunger by increasing vitamin content and reducing crop loss to insects”, says Pam Ronald, professor at UC Davis, “sometimes it just doesn’t register”. But, when people can visualize the beauty of these products, they realize that the GMOs are not as scary as are often projected.

By the end of the decade, your local florist might be selling plants produced from RevBio, Glowing Plant, or another team of garage biohackers. While initial products are more novelty than functional, future household plants could clean the air in your home or provide a steady stream of fragrances. The question is — and the future of synthetic biology consumer products may depend on the answer — will you buy them? If the successful Kickstarter project serves as any glimpse into consumer appetites, then the answer may be a resounding “yes”.

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After many years I am still a beginner, not a master gardener, nor a landscape architect, nor any other qualified expert. I simply love plants—all plants, from the Redwoods in the California fog to the moss in the cracks of my stoop. That makes for a big garden! I like to watch plants. They are such super-slow motion creatures. That gives us time. These pages are some of my watchings.

Nikolas Majchrzak

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FLOWERS THAT CHANGE COLOR

Lantana

Lantana flowers have the curious habit of changing colors. A single umbel cluster can have on it yellow, orange, and red flowers. Watch for a few days and the colors will change.

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There are other color variations. They might be yellow, salmon, and pink.

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Or yellow, lavender, and violet.

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Plant breeders are coming up with even more colors. Whichever colors the plants may be, the first flowers to open up are usually yellow, sometimes such a light shade of yellow that it may look white. As more new yellow flowers open, the older ones begin to turn darker. Here’s how it looks on a yellow, orange, and red Lantana, sometimes called the “Marmalade Bush.”

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The flower umbels begin as a cluster of red butterfly shaped buds.

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The stems below the butterflies lengthen, and buds begin opening into yellow flowers around the perimeter of the umbel,

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As more flowers open toward the center, the older flowers start to turn orange.

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As still more flowers open, moving toward the center of the cluster, the new ones are yellow, the next newest are orange, and the oldest are now becoming red.

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The process continues until all the flowers are red. The most mature flowers are always the darkest until all the flowers reach the same dark color. What’s going on? Why is this happening?

The flowers begin with a yellow color. The yellow color is produced by “carotene.” Carotene is an orange pigment that is important for photosynthesis, that mysterious, magical, miraculous process by which plants can take almost nothing–air and sunlight–mix it with water and convert it into a two hundred ton Sequoia tree trunk, or a delicate, paper-light fringed Gentian flower, and everything else in between that is green and growing. Not to mention that in the process the photosynthesizing plants maintain atmospheric oxygen levels and supply all of the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life on earth.

The common carrot gets its name from the orange photosynthetic pigment carotene, which givea the carrot its color.

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Carotene also gives an orange color to other fruits and vegetables, like sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and chanterelle mushrooms.

Orange leaves in fall are showing the carotene after the masking green chlorophyll dies.

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Highchair babies with very pale skin who eat a lot of pureed carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes can get an orange glow to their complexions. That “healthy glow” is even visible in adults who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables with carotene in them.

Untouched photos of a person who ate fruits and vegetables with carotene.

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In lower concentrations carotene gives the yellow color to milk-fat and butter.

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Carotene is what give the freshly opened Lantana flowers their yellow color.

As soon as the yellow Lantana flowers get pollinated by the wind or an insect, the flower petals start to change color. Why does that happen? . Because a chemical called “anthocyanin” is produced by the fertilized flower. Anthocyanin is a pigment that produces a red, purple, or blue color, depending on the pH. . The pH difference is the cause of the pink or blue colors of the common Hydrangea. Pink flowers are produced in alkaline soil, the blue in acidic soil. Most soils are not acidic, so garden centers sell acidic treatments for soil for people who want to grow the more exotic looking blue Hydrangeas. . Pink and blue flowers on one Hydrangea indicates the soil is losing its acidity. . Anthocyanin is a water-soluble pigment that is stored in microscopic water sacs in every cell of the plant. It has the important job of acting as a “sunscreen,” protecting cells from high-light damage by absorbing blue-green and ultraviolet light. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the plant from free radicals. . This is amazing, complicated, and intricately engineered stuff. . In the fertilized yellow-orange-red Lantana it is the production of anthocyanins in the red range that cause the color changes. The flowers come out showing the yellow of their photosynthesizing carotene. Once the flowers start producing anthocyanin the red color overwhelms the yellow. As more and more red is produced, the yellow flowers first look orange, and finally red. . And that’s why Lantana flowers change colors. . Lantana plants will blossom profusely in full sun. The flowers tend to come in waves, all blooming at once, and then a slight dormancy while another wave of new flowers develop. The plant is treated as an annual except in the deep south where some varieties are perennial. It’s a shrubby plant. In its native habitat it can grow as high as three feet and more. . Because of its woody stem some people grow Lantana as a flowering bonsai. Even though the leaves are disproportionately large for bonsai, picking off all the leaves in spring will produce a crop of much smaller second-growth leaves. . Lantana can also be grown as a standard or as topiary. Like bonsai, that will take a few years and the plant will need to be brought inside for overwintering. In parts of Africa, where imported Lantana has become an invasive shrub, there are huge billboards along the highways with giant letters that sat, “Help stamp out Lantana!” But village people in Africa grow a native Lantana as a hedge.

There are other plants besides Lantana that change flower colors. the most common being Tritoma, the Red Hot Poker.

Lantana is an easy flower to grow, It is hardy, loves heat, is drought tolerant, and attracts butterflies like a magnet. All that plus the changing flower colors to charm kids and adults alike. What more can you ask from carotene and anthocyanin?

Changing the Color of Hydrangeas

Many people find themselves asking, “How can I change the color of my hydrangeas?” Hydrangeas are fascinating in that, unlike most other plants, the color of their flowers can change dramatically.

It would be nice if one could change the color of hydrangeas as easily as it changes in this little picture. But for most of us, it is not easy. The people who have the most control over the color of their hydrangeas are those who grow them in containers. It is much easier to control or alter the pH of the soil in a container than it is in the ground.

On the other hand, hydrangeas often change color on their own when they are planted or transplanted. They are adjusting to the new environment. It is not unusual to see several different colors on one shrub the next year after planting.

It is much easier to change a hydrangea from pink to blue than it is from blue to pink. Changing a hydrangea from pink to blue entails adding aluminum to the soil. Changing from blue to pink means subtracting aluminum from the soil or taking it out of reach of the hydrangea.

That said, we’ll give the best information that I have on this subject and let you take it from there.

*Commercial growers of greenhouse hydrangeas (and others interested in this subject), see the two notes at the bottom of this page.

Change Hydrangea Color to Pink

For hydrangea blooms to be pink, the plants must not take up aluminum from the soil. If the soil naturally contains aluminum, one must try to keep it away from the hydrangea’s system. Following are a few tricks that might work:
Add dolomitic lime several times a year. This will help to raise the pH. Shoot for a pH of about 6.0 to 6.2 (If it goes above 6.4 hydrangeas may experience an iron deficiency). Since hydrangeas take up aluminum best at lower pH levels, raising the pH will help to keep the bluing effect of aluminum out of the hydrangea’s system.

Use a fertilizer with high levels of phosphorus. Phosphorus helps to prevent aluminum from creeping into the system of the hydrangea. Choose a fertilizer close to the ratio of 25/10/10 (Phosphorus is the middle number).

In areas that naturally produce blue hydrangeas (soils with aluminum), consider growing pink hydrangeas in large pots. If hydrangeas are grown in pots, it would be best to use soil-less mixtures, since these mixes would probably not have aluminum in them. In a pot, it will be much easier to control the requirements for growing pink hydrangeas.

Change Hydrangea Color to Blue

To obtain a blue hydrangea, aluminum must be present in the soil. To ensure that aluminum is present, aluminum sulfate may be added to the soil around the hydrangeas.

Authorities recommend that a solution of 1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) aluminum sulfate per gallon of water be applied to plants (which are at least 2-3 years old) throughout the growing season. Important: Water plants well in advance of application and put solution on cautiously, as too much can burn the roots.

To make the aluminum available to the plant, the pH of the soil should be low (5.2-5.5). Adding aluminum sulfate will tend to lower the pH of the soil. Another method for lowering the pH is to add organic matter to the soil such as coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, grass clippings etc.

If the soil naturally contains aluminum and is acid (low pH) the color of the hydrangea will automatically tend toward shades of blue and/or purple.

The choice of fertilzer will also affect the color change. A fertilizer low in phosphorus and high in potassium is helpful in producing a good blue color(25/5/30 is good. Potassium is the last number). Superphosphates and bone meal should be avoided when trying to produce blue.

After stating this with much certainty, I hasten to add that it is virtually impossible to turn a hydrangea blue for any length of time if it is planted in soil with no aluminum and that is highly alkaline (chalky). One would have to be very diligent in keeping the soil properly conditioned as stated above.

Perhaps the best idea for growing blue hydrangeas in an area with alkaline soil would be to grow them in very large pots using lots of compost to bring the pH down. The above suggestions for bluing would also work for a potted plant. Reduce the strength of the Aluminum sulfate to 1/4 oz per gallon of water. In a pot, it will be much easier to control the requirements for bluing.

One last suggestions for those who are serious about this process. It is important to have your water tested so that it will not “contaminate” the soil that you have so rigorously balanced. The pH of the water should not be higher than 5.6.

Planting hydrangeas near a concrete foundation or sidewalk will often affect the color since the pH of the soil may be raised considerably by lime leaching out of these structures, making it difficult to obtain blue.

Limitations to Hydrangea Color Change

WHITE HYDRANGEAS can NOT be changed to pink or blue by the grower. (The Almighty sometimes adds pink and red to blooms as they age).

If you live in a hot climate, it is unlikely you will ever see a “true red” hydrangea. No matter how convincing those pictures in the catalogs are or how much lime is added to the soil, one can only achieve a very deep or dark pink, but not a true red (at least here in the South. I’d love to hear from you if you have a different experience).

One can rarely change the intensity of a color (how strong or pale the color is). The intensity develops for a number of reasons: the heredity of a particular hydrangea variety, weather conditions (hot or cold, humid or dry), health of the plant, and possibly other natural factors. Fertilizing hydrangeas once or twice a year may result in a little more saturated color simply because the health of the plant may be improved.

A few varieties of hydrangeas tend more toward the pink or the blue range of colors, but will not retain even this color if soil conditions are not right.

*NOTE TO COMMERCIAL GROWERS:

Douglas Bailey of the University of Georgia is an expert in floraculture. His Commercial Hydrangea Forcing presents information on hydrangeas for commercial growers in a readable, concise form. It includes a section on controlling flower color for the industry.
TED STEPHENS, horticulturist and owner of Nurseries Caroliniana, in South Carolina, wrote:

“Generally, an acidic or low pH will induce ‘blueness’; whereas, a higher or alkaline pH will induce ‘pinkness or redness’. Work in England seems to indicate that higher aluminum content influences blueness more than pH levels.

We gave Dr. Jim Midcap of the U. of GA a number of plants on which to run “color changing” experiments. By applying aluminum sulphate at the rate of 2 ounces in a 3 gallon container, he was able to change ‘Masja’, which is normally a red, to a brilliant blue. This application was made as soon as flower buds were evident in the new shoots in the spring, about 6 weeks before flower maturity.”

Shop Hydrangeas By Color:

Blue Hydrangeas

Green Hydrangeas

Pink Hydrangeas

Purple Hydrangeas

Red Hydrangeas

White Hydrangeas

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Can Hibiscus Change Color: Reasons For Hibiscus Turning A Different Color

Can hibiscus change color? The Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) is famous for its dramatic color changes, with flowers that can go from white to pink to deep red within one day. But almost all hibiscus varieties produce flowers that can change colors under certain circumstances. Read on to learn more.

Reasons for Color Changing in Hibiscus

If you’ve ever noticed the flowers on your hibiscus turning a different color, you’ve probably wondered what was behind the change. To understand why this happens, we need to look at what creates flower colors in the first place.

Three groups of pigments create the vibrant color displays of hibiscus flowers. Anthocyanins produce blue, purple, red, and pink colors, depending on the individual pigment molecule and the pH it is exposed to. Flavonols are responsible for pale yellow or white colors. Carotenoids create colors on the “warm” side of the spectrum – yellows, oranges, and reds.

Each hibiscus variety has its own genetics that determine what pigments, and what range of colors it can produce. However, within that range, temperature, sunlight, pH, and nutrition can all affect the levels of different pigments in a flower and what color they appear.

The blue- and red-colored anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments carried in plant sap. Meanwhile, the red, orange and yellow carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments created and stored in the plastids (compartments in plant cells similar to the chloroplasts that carry out photosynthesis). Therefore, anthocyanins are less protected and more sensitive to environmental changes, while carotenoids are more stable. This difference helps explain the color changes in hibiscus.

Anthocyanins exposed to hot conditions will often break down, causing flower colors to fade, while carotenoid-based colors hold up well in the heat. High temperatures and bright sunlight also enhance carotenoid production, leading to bright reds and oranges.

On the other hand, plants produce more anthocyanins in cold weather, and the anthocyanins they produce tend to be more red- and pink-colored as opposed to blue or purple. For this reason, some anthocyanin dependent hibiscus flowers will produce brilliant color displays during cool weather or in partial shade, but will fade in bright, hot sunlight.

Similarly, flavonols exposed to high temperatures will fade from yellow to white, while cold weather will cause an increase in production and a deepening of yellow flower colors.

Other Factors in Hibiscus Color Change

Some anthocyanin pigments will change color depending on the pH they’re exposed to within the flower. The pH doesn’t usually change over time within a hibiscus flower because it is determined genetically, but patches of different pH levels can lead to multiple colors occurring within one flower.

Nutrition is also a factor in color changes. Adequate sugar and protein in the sap are required for anthocyanin production. Making sure your plant has enough fertility and nutrients is important for vibrant colors in anthocyanin dependent flowers.

So, depending on its variety, your hibiscus changed color because of some combination of temperature, sunlight, nutrition, or pH has taken place. Can gardeners control this hibiscus color change? Yes, indirectly – by controlling the plant’s environment: shade or sun, good fertility, and protection from hot or cold weather.

Do you know that flowers can drink up water and change their own colors into the color of the water they drink?

Active Time: 15 minutes Additional Time: 1 days Total Time: 1 days 15 minutes

White flowers are great for doing this color changing experiment.

They change colors almost overnight. Other types of flowers such as daisies can take a lot longer (more than 10 days).

Materials

  • white/light-colored flowers such as daisies or white roses
  • food coloring

Tools

  • several glasses, vases or test tubes
  • adult supervision

Instructions

  1. Fill each glass with fresh water from the tap. Put 2-5 drops of food coloring into it, one color each. You can also mix the colors (e.g. blue + yellow = green) to get all the rainbow colors.
  2. Trim at least half an inch of stem off the flowers before putting each into the glass and each time you change the water.
  3. Add flower food if it is provided.
  4. Keep them in a cool place overnight.
  5. Observe the change in colors in the petals.
  6. If you use flowers such as daisies that take longer to do this experiment, change the water entirely every 2-3 days to keep the flowers fresh for longer.
  7. Try this bonus experiment: cut along the stem into two halves and stop before reaching the flower. Insert each half into a different colored water. Observe how the petals change color.
  8. After a few days, the white flowers will change into the colors the flowers were immersed in.

Flowers and plants drink water through their roots.

In cut flowers, since there are no roots, water travels from the cut directly into the stems and travels to the petals and other parts of the plant.

Three factors contribute to the transportation of water:

  1. Capillary action Inside the stem, there are tube-like transport tissue, called xylem, that brings water and nutrient to different parts of the plant. Water molecules are attracted to the surface of the xylem cells by weak electrical attractions. This sticky property is called adhesion. Water automatically moves up the xylem due to adhesion and the resulting movement is called capillary action​1​.
  2. Cohesion Water molecules are not only attracted to the surface of xylem (adhesion), but they are also attracted to one another. This property is called cohesion. Because of cohesion, water molecules fill the column in the xylem as they move up and act as a continuous stream of water​2​.
  3. Transpiration Water evaporates from the plant through transpiration. As water evaporates in the petals or any part of the plant exposed to air, a negative pressure is created in the xylem, resulting in suction pulling the water upward just like you draw water upward when you suck on a straw​3​.

Through these three properties, color water is transported to the petals and the color shows up in the xylem cells on the petals.

Learn More About Water Properties

  • A Drop Of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder
  • The Emerging Science of Water
  • 4M Clean Water Science

The Hibiscus Flower: It’s Meanings and Symbolism

Do you want to have more success and joy in your life? The best way to do this is by learning more about your name through numerology. It is a 4,000 year-old science that can help you learn the meaning of your name, because your name was no accident! All it takes is your name and date of birth,

Hibiscus Flower Color Meanings

Hibiscuses come in a floral rainbow of colors. Color meanings differ from culture to culture, but they do have some common associations. Some hibiscuses are a mixture of colors, but one color will predominate.

  • White stands for purity, beauty and the female.
  • Yellow is associated with happiness, sunshine and good luck.
  • Pink is not only the favorite color of many little girls. It also stands for friendship and all kinds of love, not just romantic love.
  • Purple is associated with mystery, knowledge and the higher classes.
  • Red is a symbol of love and passion.

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Hibiscus Flower

Hibiscuses have been cherished not only for their beauty, but for their medicinal effects and their taste.

  • Hibiscus flowers often add flavor and color to many herbal teas.
  • Some species are not only edible, but contain vitamin C. However, never eat any plant that cannot be easily identified.
  • Hibiscus tea, tinctures, dried petals or flowers are traditionally thought to help everything from heart disease to the common cold. Unfortunately, there is little evidence for these claims.
  • WebMD reports that there hibiscus tea has been known to help reduce blood pressure.
  • Do not ingest any products with hibiscus tea when taking acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol.) These two drugs interact badly.
  • Pregnant and lactating women should avoid hibiscus teas, foods or other herbal preparations.

The Hibiscus Flower’s Message

Youth, fame and beauty are very much like hibiscus flowers, which have short lives. Although the flowers may die, they do grow back as long as their bush or tree is cared for. Enjoy beautiful moments while they last.

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