January 27, 2016

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Have you ever dyed fabric with flowers + plants? If you’ve ever had the Mexican drink, Jamaica (hah-mai-kah), or sipped on hot hibiscus tea, you’re familiar with the Hibiscus sabdariffa flower petals.  Their rich red color makes for a beautiful natural dye!

Hibiscus tea

Here’s how:

Pour water into a pot + cover the surface of the water with Hibiscus flower petals.

Bring to a boil + then lower the heat + let simmer until the water is dark red.

dyeing with tea

Dip your fabric into the pot and leave it in the red tea while it simmers. If you want a light pink, less time is needed; if you want a darker pink or a deep bluish red leave the fabric in the tea for longer.

botanical dye

This time I dyed a white silk pillowcase, making a gradient by dipping only one end of the pillowcase, and then leaving the very edge in the dye the longest (I actually left it overnight, pinning the white edge upright with clothespins, so the dye wouldn’t spread to the white area).

hibiscus tea dye

It is said that natural fabrics will retain the good vibes of flower essences. So if you have a natural fabric like cotton, linen or silk, add a dropperful of your flower elixir of choice. I added Joy Juice, to infuse the fabric with joyful vibes to induce laughter + fun.

After you’ve achieved the color you want (or a little darker than you want, because natural dyes may lighten a bit in the wash), remove your fabric from the pot, rinse with cold water and then soak in a bowl of sea salt water (dump a bunch of sea salt into water + swish around until it dissolves). The salt will help the fabric retain the color (if you skip this step, all the color will be lost during the first time you wash it).

silk pillow case

I love working with natural floral + botanical dyes, because it reminds me of the vast beauty + rich abundance that exists in this world we live in. In the past, I’ve also used coffee (brown), clove (gold), chlorophyll (green), turmeric (bright yellow) and more. Floral + botanical dyes are complex, unpredictable + full of surprises.

Watch the how-to video here:

And when you need a short creative fix, or want to express yourself through color, it’s easy to do this quick project without a lot of prep or cleanup. I love sharing ways to seamlessly weave exquisite experiences into your daily life that reconnect you with nature + inspire you.

What creative projects do you love?

Love + flower petals,





Can you use this for food as well?



You can definitely use the flower elixirs in your recipes! As for the hibiscus petals, it is actually a tea – so that is safe too! 😀



As a child I remember my friends or family making this hibiscus tea to drink when I grew up in the Caribbean. It’s still one of my most favorite teas to drink and this is a lovely idea to have natural dyed fabrics that are easy and fun to make! Thank you for this article!



Hi Marinna, Hibiscus tea – yum! And yes, it makes such a lovely dye. You can even do a sun tea version of a fabric dye. ; )



Do you used dried petals or freshly picked?



Hi Olivia! I used dried petals! ; )



My Nana always used to cook boiled eggs in onions skins at Easter which gave them an orange/brown colour, as in those days eggs were white. We would then roll them down the hill on Easter Sunday until they cracked, once cracked we could eat them! Far cry from the chocolate ones of today. But onions skins are cheap and effective for dyeing.



What a fun tradition, Suzy! Red onion skins do make great yellow-to-brown colors ~ thank you for sharing your story!


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