Are Blue Orchids Real? Here's What to Know

Blue Flowered Phalaenopsis

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There is little debate that orchids produce some of the most beautiful, unique flowers in the plant world. The blue-flowered orchid found in the floral department of your local shop, though, is not likely one that a serious orchid grower would buy.

The orchid, itself, is real. Unfortunately, the blue color of the blossom is not. While several species of rare, blue-flowered orchids do exist, common phalaenopsis and dendrobium orchids do not produce blue flowers and have been altered with dye.

Before you buy, here's everything you should know about blue orchids, and blue flowers, in general.

Creating the Blue-Flowered Phalaenopsis

The artificially blue-flowered phalaenopsis was first introduced in 2011 and is the common white flowered orchid, P. amabilis, in this genus. Several companies produce these altered orchids, injecting patented dye solutions into the spike after the flowers have opened to create the electric blue tint. Depth of color is affected when dye is injected before the flowers fully open and will result in lighter blue hues if the flower is still in bud stage.

Blue is not a common color for flowers, with fewer than ten percent of recognized blooming plants achieving the blue spectrum on the color wheel. Even with plants described as having blue flowers, blooms more often appear in shades of purple or lavender.

Attempts by botanists and horticulturists to genetically modify plants to produce blue blooms have largely been unsuccessful. However, several blue-flowered phalaenopsis orchids did make an appearance during an orchid show in Japan in 2013. These orchids are reported to have been genetically modified and patented, but they have yet to become available on the orchid market, and they are not the same blue phalaenopsis sold at your local retailer.

How to Care For the Blue-Dyed Orchid

Phalaenopsis orchids come in a wide range of natural colors and are an easy care variety appropriate for beginners. If you love the eye-opening blue-dyed flowers, this is an orchid that you can probably keep alive to rebloom with white flowers as the blue-dyed flowers are a one-off.

Dye is transported to the flowers via water through the xylem of the stem. Water-based dyes are not fixed, which means they can run and stain material they contact. Be sure to keep the flowers from getting wet if you purchase a blue phalaenopsis orchid.

Dye formulas are proprietary and patented, which makes it impossible to know exactly what is contained in the dye and whether it could be harmful or toxic. To be on the safe side, keep the plant out of reach from small hands and paws.

Hygiene, along with the use of sterile tools and practices, is an important part of orchid care. Opening a wound in the flower spike could potentially lead to bacterial or fungal infections, disease, and invading pests. Even if you plan to discard the plant after it blooms, if problems do crop up, they can impact other plants in your collection. Watch for signs and isolate the orchid, if necessary.

Everything You Need to Know About Blue Flowers

Several rare species do exist that naturally produce flowers in shades of blue or with blue tints. They are native to countries in Asia, Africa and South America, are difficult to obtain, and hard to grow. Here are a few known species.

  • Vanda coerulea: The most recognized and having the truest blue flowers. This cool-growing epiphyte, found in China and India, produces 4-inch violet-blue to purple-blue flowers in winter. Several hybrids have been successfully cultivated from this species.
  • Thelymitra crinite: A "true blue" orchid found in southwest Australia and New Zealand, this stunning, bright blue orchid is also known as Queen Orchid, Lily Orchid, and Blue Lady Orchid. It blooms in early morning, with flowers closing by late afternoon.
  • Dendrobium cyanocentrum 'Black-Blue Spurred Dendrobium': A miniature epiphyte found in New Guinea with small star-shaped, lightly fragrant flowers in shades of lavender-blue in late winter and spring.
  • Boella coelestis: A blue orchid from South America's Andes region, this is an orchid for expert growers. Each blossom grows 6-12 leaves, with flowers reaching 4 inches in diameter. The orchid prefers low light and extremely high humidity--80-100%, which is nearly impossible to achieve for home growers without a greenhouse.
  • Acacallis cyanea 'Dark Blue Acacallis': a small, hot-growing epiphyte native to South America and often found partly submerged in rivers. Fragrant, showy flowers appear from late winter to summer with blue and purple-tinted, white petals and a yellow and plum-colored lip.
  • Disa Graminifolia 'Ker Gawl. ex Spreng., syn. Herschelianthe graminifolia': native to the mountains of Capetown, South Africa, this orchid has grass-like leaves and fragrant flowers with mauve-purple and green petals, bright blue to violet-purple sepals and a purple-violet streaked lip. Blooms appear in winter.
  • Are there orchid flowers dyed in other colors?

    Yes, the market for common orchids with dyed flowers is expanding to include multi-colored blooms and more shades in the blue and purple spectrums.

  • Are dyed flowers on orchids rare?

    No, the process was first introduced in 2011 and has continued to grow. Artificially-dyed orchids are widely available at grocery outlets, big box stores, garden centers, and online.

  • Are artificially dyed orchids toxic?

    Dyes are water-based and while some growers use food grade coloring, there is no way to know the full ingredient list used in the dyes.

Article Sources
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  1. Why is the colour blue so rare in nature? University of Adelaide

  2. Not Just in Our Fridge : Genetically Modified Orchids in our houses? Ohio State University