How To Dye Succulents With Food Coloring Without Killing Them

Last updated on October 2nd, 2022 at 01:10 pm

You’ve probably seen succulent in a wide range of colors in your local garden center, ranging from blues through to reds and oranges.

Colored succulents are appealing as they can add a pop of color to an otherwise ordinary-looking plant.

Not only are they fun looking, but plants have a range of health benefits, both physically and mentally.

All plants naturally purify the air and atmosphere, creating oxygen and decreasing particulates and other unwanted gases and chemicals.

I can’t imagine a home or office without plants, they are an essential components for any environment.

However, the colored succulents in shops are often painted rather than dyed, which is less than ideal.

Paints will inevitably harm plants, blocking pores and frequently introducing harmful chemicals.  This can cause the succulents to die prematurely.

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Artificial paints are harmful to succulents because they clog the areolas on the leaves of the succulents and interfere with the photosynthesis process. 

Also, the paint may fade in a couple of days because they are artificial.  Painted succulents also look very artificial, often gaudy and unnatural. 

Because spray-painted succulents do not last, it is advisable to dye your succulents with food coloring instead. Food coloring is not toxic and will not kill your plants. Also, if done properly, you can have your succulents brightly colored for a long time.

Food dyes are available in different colors and you can dye your succulents in your favorite colors.

They are also very affordable and the procedure is a simple one. If you have tried several times without succeeding, it’s not time to give up yet.

In this article, I will be showing you how you can dye your succulents without killing them. 

Dying Succulents with Food Coloring: What You Must Know

Succulents are slow growers and they are good at filtering anything toxic to them. Their stems, roots, and leaves store water to keep them for a long time. This is why they can survive a long time without water.

However, their roots can filter toxic substances in the water and this is why it is a bit difficult to get your succulents dyed in your favorite color. The procedure is common and has been used for many years.

It is impossible to skip this procedure in Biology class. Thus, if you went to High School and studied Biology as one of your subjects, you must have carried out this experiment. It simply involves allowing the succulent to take in enough food coloring solution.  The reward is a brightly and beautifully colored plant. I will explain further in the following steps. But before then, here is what you will need for this experiment.

  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Glass cup
  • Food color
  • Knife
  • Succulents

STEP 1: Stress Your Succulents

Succulents are adaptive plants. This is why they retain enough water in their roots, stems, and leaves. However, if succulents are left without water for a while, they use up the water stored in their leaves, roots, and stems.

Therefore, you should stress your succulents before dyeing them. One way of stressing your succulent is by controlling their water intake. You should leave your plants unwatered for a while. This forces them to use their stored up water. 

STEP 2: Prepare Your Dye Solution

To prepare your dye solution, measure half a cup of water and pour it into the glass cup or a transparent vase.  Add drops of food coloring to the water in the glass cup or transparent vase and stir the mixture.

STEP 3: Prepare Your Succulents

To prepare your succulents, you need to take out the roots of the succulent. You can gently cut the roots. For crowded succulents like cacti, make sure you locate the central stem and detach the roots. It is best to use a sharp knife that can slice through the succulent neatly.

Scissors can crush the stem and reduce their ability to absorb water. You want your succulent to absorb as much of the dye solution as possible so that you can get the nicely colored succulent that you desire. 

STEP 4: Put The Succulents in the Dye Solution

The next step is to insert your prepared succulents in the dye solution and allow it to absorb enough of the solution. Plants need water to survive and if they have been starved of water, they will absorb as much as they can.

This is because plants need water to keep their roots, stems, leaves, and flowers healthy as well as prevent them from drying and wilting. Also, plants absorb nutrients and other dissolved substances with the water.

The water used by succulents is gotten from the soil. This is why you water the soil and not the leaves or stems of the plant. You don’t bathe a plant. You serve the plant by watering the soil. The plant then transports the water from the soil through its roots. The water and nutrients get to the rest of the plant by this means. This process is known as capillary action. 

Thus, when you insert the stem into the dye solution, the plant stem sucks up water. It is like drinking water through a straw. The process will be faster when you have stressed your succulents for a while. The succulent will absorb as much water as it can. Remember that this is not any water but a solution to your favorite color. Also, because you removed the roots, the succulent will not be able to filter the dye out. Hence, it will absorb the dye and the water. 

After you put the succulent in the solution, stir the solution with the stem for a while to ensure that it is properly mixed. Keep the stem in the solution for 12 hours and stir occasionally.

STEP 5: Repot or Replant The Succulents

After allowing the succulents to absorb as much of the dye solution as it can, the next step is to repot or replant the succulents. Repotting the succulents entails planting the succulents in a new soil mix. You should get a freshly prepared soil for the succulents and put them in a new plant pot. Then, you can transfer the succulents from the glass cup to the pot. 

You can either buy an already mixed soil for succulents or you can make yours. The best potting soil for succulents is a well-drained potting mix to prevent excess moisture and rotting of your succulents. Making your succulent soil is cheaper and you control the ingredients and modify it until you get your a great mix 

Making your potting soil is also quite easy. You need potting soil for indoor plants to work as the base, pumice and coarse sand. The potting soil that you should use should be light and porous. Do not use heavy garden soils as they normally contain moisture control ingredients that retain water and succulents need well-draining potting soil. 

The next step is to add the coarse sand to the potting soil and mix them together. Mixing is quite easy. Dump everything into your mixing container and stir it together until the ingredients are evenly mixed.

After mixing the base soil and coarse sand, you can add pumice or perlite to the mixture. This is a lightweight organic soil amendment. It retains very little moisture and this is why it is great for a succulent soil mix. It also prevents soil compaction and helps add better drainage for succulents. 

After you add the perlite, mix the soil again until it is evenly distributed. That’s it,! Your succulent soil is ready. It is a very simple and easy process and the reward is that you get the perfect succulent soil mix. 

Just in case you are wondering, this is the measurement for the ingredients. 

3 parts potting soil

2 parts coarse sand (turface or poultry grit)

1 part perlite (or pumice)

You can mix and store your succulents soil in airtight containers for subsequent uses. 

Finally, put a portion of the succulent soil in a pot with drainage. Remove the succulent from the water and plant it in the pot. 

STEP 6: Stress your Succulents Again

After replanting the succulents, you should stress your succulents again to allow coloration to take effect. 

While the plant was in the dye solution, the water was pulled up to the stems and leaves of the plant. If you leave your succulents for a while without watering it, the plant will continue to make use of the absorbed water.

Once the ant is replanted or removed from the solution, the natural process of transpiration takes place. The water from the leaves and flower petals evaporates and leaves the dye behind. The dye stays on the leaves to color the leaves. You will notice faster if the Succulents is a flowering succulent. You will see that the flower will begin to change to the color of the dye. 

Water loss through transpiration generates low water pressure in the leaves,  causing more colored water to be pulled through the stem. This is how the succulents become colored.

However, succulents tend to store water. Thus, you should quicken the process by stressing your succulents so that they do not have other sources of water. This way, they will be forced to make use of the stored water.

You can stress your succulents by keeping them under the sun. However, they should not be exposed to too much sunlight so that they don’t end up being damaged. You can putt the succulents under the morning sun and take them back in the afternoon. This way, you control the sunlight exposure. 

Plants adapt to the environment by using up the water stored. They try to limit evaporation and this gives enough time for the dye to settle and color their leaves.  Also, their leaves turn to vibrant colors.

When you water the plants and feed them with fertilizer, they may turn green for a while. You will also notice new growth occasionally since your plant has just been replanted with the stem only, They will have to grow new roots and pop out new leaves too.

However, with the right exposure to sunlight occasionally, the succulents will maintain their new vibrant colors.  You should continue exposing them to sunlight until you are satisfied with the color and outcome of your experiment

Final Step

The last step is to sit back and admire your newly colored plant and probably repeat the same process for your other succulents. It is a simple process and you will be amazed by the results.

The Best part about it is that food coloring is not toxic and so your plants will not die it wither. You also get a natural and vibrant looking succulent and not the artificial-looking painted succulents sold in most garden shops. 

With proper care, the succulents can maintain their vibrant colors for a while and you get to enjoy your colored succulents for a while.