Making Natural Plant Dye using Buddleia davidii

by Renee Lindstrom, GCFP – Living in Natures Love Lifestyles


Commonly called the Butterfly Bush in our #yyj region, the plant parts of the Buddleia davidii can be used to create deep shades of yellow dye for paper, wool and fabrics.  In the above photo I chose to dye 2 pieces of cotton fabric using different parts of this trees plant material. The fabric on the left is a dye made from the flowers of this tree and the fabric on the right is created from the branches and leaves.  The deeper color on the left reminds me of the vibrant colors often worn by Tibetan Buddhist Monks.

Creating plant dye naturally is fun, simple, educational and easy.  I wish they would engage kids in our classrooms in their art or science classes!  

The steps to  create the dye – you can substitute other flowers, leaves, stems and roots!  

  1. I began by picking diminishing flowers from a friends tree remembering to  cut higher up the branch to get limbs and leaves.
  2. Separating them into two batches and putting them into two large pots.  The flowers in one and the leaves and limbs in another.
  3. Filling the pots with water completely covering the plant materials and heated to a boil.  Once boiling turned down to simmer for 20 minutes and then left to sit overnight.
  4. The plant materials where then strained out leaving the liquid to infuse the material.

The dye bath created from the flowers was thicker and much deeper in color than the bath created from the leaves and limbs.

Here are some samples of the dye bath water at intervals.:  The first picture was taken immediately after adding water to the pot and covering the materials.  Each of the next photos were taken as the water came to a boil at 5 to 10 minute intervals.



The material was added to the natural dye water and brought up to a boil on the *stove and reduced to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  This was then left to sit for a number of hours (overnight).  You can leave this to sit longer.  I have left dye infusions to sit for a few days to obtain a solid colour.

*I have begun to explore with solar energy to dye by placing a glass jar of water, plant parts and material in the sun to heat and sit infusing!  Wouldn’t this be interesting for children?

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