Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 27, 2011

From: Tulsa, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Changing bloom color from Tulsa OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do you change the bloom color?

ANSWER:

How do I change the bloom color of what? In Alice in Wonderland, the gardener cards changed the white roses to red with a paint brush. It wasn't very successful and they were marked out to have their heads off, but Alice woke up so we'll never know how that came out.

We have been asked before how to change flower color. The only flower we have personal experience with changes of color is the Hydrangea. From the United States National Arboretum website on Hydrangea Questions and Answers, we found this excerpt about why the same species would be blue in one part of the country and pink in another. There are only two hydrangeas native to North America, Hydrangea arborescens (Wild hydrangea) and Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea). Only H. arborescens is native to Oklahoma.

"Flower color in H. macrophylla is dependent on cultivar and aluminum availability. Aluminum is necessary to produce the blue pigment for which bigleaf hydrangea is noted. Most garden soils have adequate aluminum, but the aluminum will not be available to the plant if the soil pH is high. For most bigleaf hydrangea cultivars, blue flowers will be produced in acidic soil (pH 5.5 and lower), whereas neutral to alkaline soils (pH 6.5 and higher) will usually produce pink flowers. Between pH 5.5 and pH 6.5, the flowers will be purple  or a mixture of blue and pink flowers will be found on the same plant."

Our experience with this was that hydrangeas came up naturally with blue flowers in the acidic soil of East Texas. In North Central Texas, with its alkaline soil, they came up pink.

From All About Gardening, here is an article on factors that influence a flower's color.

From WillTaft.com, Do Iris Flowers Change Color? From that, notice this paragraph on artificially changing bloom colors:

 "Also, you can’t change the color of an iris by changing the soil pH., or anything else in the soil. That sometimes works with hydrangeas, but not with any other plants that I know of.  The color of an iris, for example,  is a result of its genetics.  The rhizome of an iris that produces a purple flower will continue to produce that same color."

So, we still are not sure what you were asking, but we've told you about all we know about the subject. Trying to alter the soil to induce plants to bloom in an unnatural color doesn't work. Even with aluminum additives in alkaline soil, the change to blue of hydrangea blooms will not last long as the additives are absorbed and move in the soils.

We don't recommend paint.

 

From the Image Gallery


Wild hydrangea
Hydrangea arborescens

Wild hydrangea
Hydrangea arborescens

Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Brown spots on native oak trees
June 16, 2015 - Hi, My native live oak trees are declining. The leaves have small brown spots that increase in size until the leaf dies and falls off, then the branch and then the entire limb. I have not watered the...
view the full question and answer

Apparent disease in peach tree in Austin
June 12, 2008 - I have a peach tree that the leaves are "bleeding" out on. The leaves are continuing to get paler and paler. There are no peaches on the tree this year either. What can I do?
view the full question and answer

Pale leaves and brown tips on Tecoma stans in Austin
November 12, 2008 - I have a Tecoma Stans planted in a large galvanized container in a sunny spot. It has grown very fast in the last few months and flowers regularly, but the leaves are pale and the tips are turning bro...
view the full question and answer

Trouble with live oak in McKinney, TX
June 13, 2013 - We moved into a suburban home with a live oak tree with a trunk diameter of about 50". I noticed recently how yellow the leaves look compared to the other live oak in the yard. There is not a pattern...
view the full question and answer

Grey Goo Coming from red Oak in Manchaca TX
May 13, 2013 - I have a large Red Oak in my yard that appears to be weeping some sort of grey goo from parts of the trunk. What is this goo and do I need to treat it and if so how? I'm happy to come by the Wildflow...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.