What plants can I use for natural dyeing?

When people first hear about natural dyeing for textiles, one of the first questions that come up is, “so, what plants can I use for natural dyeing?”. Well, the short answer is “loads!” No matter where you are in the world (except for Antarctica, probably), I can assure you there is a wide variety of plants waiting to be experimented with in dye pot: either in your kitchen, your garden or out in the wild. Here is a list of my recommendations. I also encourage you to explore the dyeing history in your region to discover your own local colour palette!

Common name(s)Scientific namePart used
Alder (al varieties)Alnus spp.branches, leaves, bark, cones
Alder buckthornRhamnus frangulabark
AlkanetAlkanna tinctoriaroot
AvocadoPersea americanaskins and stones
Black teaCamellia sinensisleaves
Bracken fern (all varieties)Pteridium spp.leaves
BrazilwoodHaematoxylum brasilettowood
Buckthorn / Persian berries / Avignon berriesRhamnus saxatilisberries
Bushweeds / Flueggea tinctoriaFlueggea tinctoriafruit
Butterfly bush / Buddleia (all varieties)Buddleja
CannabisCannabis spp.leaves
CarrotDaucus carotaleaves
Dahlia (all varieties)Dahlia spp.flower
Dock (all varieties)Rumex spp.seeds, leaves and roots
Dyer's chamomileCota tinctoriaflowers
Dyer's coreopsisCoreopsis tinctoriaflowers
Dyer's greenweed / Dyers Broom / WoadwaxenGenista tinctorialeaves and young shoots
Dyer's woodruffAsperula tinctoriaroots
Eucalyptus (all varieties)Eucalyptus spp.leaves, bark
Goldenrod (all varieties)Solidago spp.fresh leaves
HeatherCalluna vulgariswhole plant
HennaLawsonia inermisleaves
Ladys' bedstrawGalium verumroots
Laurel / BayLaurus nobilisleaves
LogwoodHaematoxylum campechianumwood
MadderRubia tinctorumroots
Mahonia (all varieties)Mahonia spp.roots
Marigolds / Tagetes (all varieties)Tagetes spp.flower
Palo azul / KidneywoodEysenhardtia polystachyawood
Mexican olive / White cordia / Texas wild oliveCordia boissierileaves, branches
Mule fat / Seepwillow / Water-wallyBaccharis salicifolialeaves
MulleinVerbascum thapsusleaves and flowers
Oak (all the varieties)Quercus spp.leaves, branches, bark
Old fustic / Dyer's MulberryMaclura tinctoriawood
Osage orangeMaclura pomifera
Palo santo / VerawoodBulnesia sarmientoiwood
Plume poppy / Tree poppy / Tree celandine / ParrotweedBocconia frutescensbark
Polylepis / Queñua (all varieties)Polylepis spp.bark
PomegranatePunica granatumpeels (when they're fresh they give a better colour, when they're dry they're good for pre-treating cellulose fibres)
Red quebrachoSchinopsis lorentziiwood
Red sandalwoodPterocarpus santalinuswood
RhubarbRheum rhabarbarumroots
(all varieties)
Safflower / SaffronCarthamus tinctoriuspetals
SageSalvia officinalisleaves
Saw-wortSerratula tinctoriaall except the roots
St. John’s WortHypericum perforatumflowers and leaves
Sulphur cosmosCosmos sulphureusflowers
TansyTanacetum vulgareflowers
Walnut (all varieties)Juglans spp.husks
WeldReseda luteolaflowers and leaves
Wild madderRubia peregrinaroots
Willow (all varieties)Salix spp.leaves, bark, branches
YarrowAchillea millefoliumall the plant
Yellow and red onionAllium cepaskins
Yerba mateIlex paraguariensisleaves
ZacatlaxcalliCuscuta tinctoriawhole plant

What comes next?

Now that you’ve probably found a few plants around you that can help you give colour to your clothes, what comes next? There’s a lot of information out there about natural dyeing for textiles, but it can be misleading, confusing and overwhelming, especially when you think about the other question that people usually ask me: “how do you get the colour to stay?”.  Fortunately,  I have an online workshop tailored specifically towards getting you from absolutely no knowledge to confidently coaxing colour from plants, insects and minerals like a true alchemist – from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace! Sounds enticing? Check out what it’s all about!

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