Creating a Dyer's Garden

Now that my raised beds are a bit too shaded for tomatoes and peppers each summer I'm seriously considering converting them to a dyer's garden. There is still plenty of sun to support the plants I'm aiming to put there.

Here's a list of great plants for natural dyeing of fibers and fabrics:

Marigold, Calendula officinalis, is a well known garden plant which not only acts as a great companion for tomatoes and peppers, but gives beautiful yellow gold colors to fibers and fabrics. Alum mordanted fibers will be lighter and iron mordanted ones will be darker. The flowers and the leaves can be used but the strongest colors will come from the flowers.

Marigold, Geranium, and Cosmos in my garden.

Marigold, Geranium, and Cosmos in my garden.



Chamomile, Turmeric, Weld and Yarrow will also deliver pretty light to bright yellows to fibers and fabrics.

Yarrow and Lamb's Ears in my garden.

Yarrow and Lamb's Ears in my garden.



Bloodroot, Carrot, Orange Dahlia flowers, Onion skins and paprika will yield shades of orange depending on the mordants used.

Amaranth, raspberry, rose, fig leaves, avocado pit, and lavender flowers can give pinks to corals to peach colors.



Rosemary, sage, walnut (wear gloves) can all produce browns. You can also get browns from overheating certain other plants like marigold and weld.

Woad and Indigo can give you blues and purples. These are my favorites! Woad and weld are illegal to grow in some states as they are considered invasive species. So check with your local Master Gardener extension office FIRST! You can grow Indigo because it's a beautiful plant but there are a million steps to take to get you from pretty plant to beautiful blue fabric or fiber. Frankly I'll grow the plant because it's lovely but I'll purchase instant indigo power for my dyeing projects.

I get my greens from top dyeing with indigo over yellow.

So late this summer, when I'm contemplating spring planting and fall cover crops, I'm going to consider a handful of these plants. I already have lavender, rose, rosemary, raspberry, chamomile and yarrow growing. But I'm very interested in getting hold of madder, weld, woad and indigo.