How to Make Rainbow Roses (Including Black Rainbow Roses)


Make a rainbow rose by getting a white rose to absorb colored dyes.
Make a rainbow rose by getting a white rose to absorb colored dyes. (photo: Laura Ockel)

Rainbow roses are real living roses that have been dyed so their petals are multicolored. Before coloring, the natural rose is white. Rainbow roses you buy are made by injecting proprietary dyes into the stems of the flowers. However, you can make homemade rainbow roses. Here are two methods for making rainbow roses, with tips for success. You can also make black rainbow roses!

Make Florist-Quality Rainbow Roses

You make rainbow roses in much the same way as you dye carnations or daisies. Basically, you add dye to the water and the flower petals absorb the color. To get a rainbow effect, you need to split the base of the flower stem into three sections and dye each section with its own color. If you use yellow, blue, and red, you’ll get the full rainbow (yellow + blue = green; red + blue = purple). Yellow, cyan, and magenta dyes work too.

  • Choose white or cream rose buds. If can get them, the best cultivars to absorb dye are called “Vendela,” “La Belle,” and “Avalanche.” Otherwise, choose healthy, pale-colored flowers.
  • Use buds that have not fully opened. The dyeing process can take a few days, so an open bloom won’t last long enough.
  • Let the flowers go about 3 hours without water before dyeing them. This will ensure they’ll drink the colored water.
  • You can use food coloring for this project, but it usually results in a pastel rainbow. For vivid colors, use professional floral dyes, such as Design Master’s “Absorbit.” Whatever dye you use, make sure it is water-soluble.
  • If you want your rainbow rose to glow under black light, use tonic water instead of regular water!
  1. Cut the end off the stem of a white or cream rosebud.
  2. Use a sharp blade to cut up the stem vertically about 3 inches and divide it into 3 sections.
  3. Add dye and water to three plastic baggies. You want deeply colored liquid.
  4. Carefully separate each section of stem and place it in its own bag of dyed water.
  5. Use a rubber band to secure the bags to the rose. Place the flower in a glass or bud vase to keep it upright.
  6. Place the flower in a cool location, out of direct sunlight. The petals will begin to change color within a couple of hours, but it may take a few days to achieve the best color. During this time, make certain the flower doesn’t run out of liquid. You may need to add more dyed water.
  7. Once you achieve the desired effect, cut the stem above the split section and place the rainbow rose in a vase with water and floral preservative.

Easy Way to Make a Rainbow Rose

A faster way to get a rainbow rose is to spray the flower. Don’t whip out a rainbow of Krylon colors and expect great results! You can get beautiful colored flowers using spray paint meant for blooms, such as Design Master’s “Colortool” line. You can find the spray online or can have a florist help you order it.

  1. Prepare your work space. Spraying is messy, so put down newspapers or a drop cloth.
  2. Select your flowers. The results are immediate, so the blooms can be open, but the sprayed colors will show up on pale blooms better than deeply colored roses.
  3. Choose one color and spray it from a distance of 1-2 feet away.
  4. Select another color, change your angle, and spray the flower.
  5. Continue changing colors until you have the desired effect.
  6. Like other fresh flowers, keep the sprayed rainbow roses in water with floral preservative. They will last longest in a cool location.

Black Rainbow Roses

Black is not a natural rose color, although they do occur in deep red, purple, and maroon. There are three ways to make black roses and black rainbow roses:

Dye Black Roses

Black rainbow roses are also dyed.
Black rainbow roses are also dyed.

While food coloring may work for regular rainbow roses, it probably not ideal for black roses or black rainbow roses. The reason is that food-safe dye tends to be a mix of colored dyes. It’s best to use a professional dye made for flowers, such as Design Master’s “Absorbit.” You’ll probably need to do some experimentation. You can dye deeply colored flowers so they’ll be darker or else start with white flowers. You may get a rainbow effect just from the dispersion of the pigments in black dye (single vase), but the most colorful rainbow results from slicing into four parts, with one part in the black dye and the other parts in red, blue, and yellow dyes (to get the whole rainbow).

  1. Stress the flowers slightly by leaving them out of water for about 3 hours. This will ensure they’ll drink the dyed water.
  2. Mix the dye into water. If you’re using food coloring, you want a very dark solution of dye in water. For Absorbit, you want about 2-3 teaspoons of dye per quart of water. Use warm (not hot) water, to help the flower absorb the liquid.
  3. Split the stems (if desired) and cut the stem segment at an angle. Place the stem(s) in dye and let them absorb the liquid for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Remove the flowers from the liquid and rinse the stems.
  5. Transfer the flowers to a vase containing water and floral preservative.

Dip Black Roses

Dipping flowers immediately colors them, plus it’s easier than dyeing them. It’s best to use a product made for florals, such as Design Master’s “Dipit.” You’ll get the best effect if you select fully open bloom because the full surface of each petal is exposed.

  1. Pour liquid dye into a bucket large enough to accommodate the flower head.
  2. Dip each flower into the dye and keep it immersed for a couple of seconds.
  3. Shake excess dye back into the container.
  4. Rinse the flower under running water to remove excess dye.
  5. If the color isn’t deep enough, shake off any excess water and repeat the dipping process.

While it’s easy to dye roses black, you’ll probably need to apply a spray to add rainbow colors.

Spray Black Roses

The easiest way to make a black rose or a black rainbow rose is to spray the flower with color. This is the best method if you want a vivid rainbow effect because the rainbow rests on top of the black.

  1. Get a can of black spray paint. If you want a rainbow, select additional colors. You’ll get the best effect with a product designed to color flowers, such as Design Master’s “Colortool” line. Regular spray paint may be too heavy for fresh flowers.
  2. Choose a well-ventilated space and cover your work area with a drop cloth or newspapers. Ideally, work on a dry day, as humidity can prevent the paint from sticking to the flowers.
  3. Shake the can before use and between uses.
  4. Spray the bloom from a distance of 15 to 18 inches. Either move around the flower or else turn it.
  5. For a black rose, you may need to apply 2 coats of paint. For a black rainbow rose, first apply the black paint. Then, apply rainbow color highlights.

Natural Colorful Roses

Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora' is a natural green rose.
Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’ is a natural green rose. (photo: Dean Wiles)

Roses come in many beautiful colors, but rainbow rose seeds are a scam! Similarly, true black and true blue roses don’t exist. Natural “black” roses are deep red. Blue roses are more dusty mauve than blue. Real rose colors include white, yellow, orange, pink, red, and green (although green rose “petals” are actually green sepals). However, there are three ways to get multicolored roses.

One way to get a multicolored rose bush is to graft different colored roses onto a root stock. You’ll get different colored roses on one bush, but each flower will be one color. Grafting involves cutting year-old stems above the bud eye and inserting them into a T-shaped cut in the stem of the root stock rose. The process takes a season, but the results can be spectacular.

Roses get their colors from anthocyanins, which are natural pH indicators. The pigment molecules change color according to pH. It’s possible to change the color of the flower (accidentally or on purpose) by adjusting soil chemistry. The same technique changes colored hydrangeas from pink (alkaline soil) to purple (nearly neutral) to blue (acidic soil). Make soil more acidic by mixing in elemental sulfur and aluminum sulfate (sold in garden centers as “blue hydrangea powder”). Make soil more alkaline by adding garden lime. Changing the pH affects the color of roses, but obviously the colors you get depend on the pigment in the flower.

Some natural roses display a rainbow of color, except for blue and black.
Some natural roses display a rainbow of color, except for blue and black. (photo: Simone Dalmeri)

The best way to get natural multicolored roses is to grow phototropic or thermotropic hybrids. These are roses that change color in response to variations in light or temperature. Examples include “Double Delight,” which changes from creamy white to cherry red, depending on sunlight, and “Agnes,” which changes from butter yellow in heat to deep apricot in cooler weather. “Joseph’s Coat” is another popular hybrid. Its petals range from cream at the center through yellow, apricot, and pink, moving out toward the edge of the flower.

References

  • Monteiro, António A.; Lopez, Roberto; Janick, Jules (2008). “Gilding the Lilies: Rainbow Roses and Confetti Poinsettias“. Chronica Horticulturae Vol. 48, No. 1. International Society for Horticultural Science.
  • Zheng-yi, Wu; Raven, Peter H. (ed.) (2003). Flora of China. Science Press and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Beijing and St. Louis. ISBN 1-930723-14-8.

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