Red, White and Blooming!

By Jocelyn Bonesteel

Add a burst of color to your 4th of July garden!!

What makes a plant red, white or blue? The color that we see in flowers is the light being reflected from plant pigments. The three groups of pigments are known as anthocyanins, carotenoids, and betalains. They exist to attract birds, insects, and animals as pollinators and for seed dispersal methods. We view the color of flowers aesthetically, gravitating toward various plants based on our own tastes.

Anthocyanins occur in a vast number, ranging in colors from orange and red to blue and violet. They are a flavonoid compound that is often colorless to us but will be seen by insects as a cue for pollination of certain flowers.

Carotenoids is a term people are often familiar with, as it is the type of chemical responsible for the orange color of carrots. It is also responsible for yellows as well as the red color found in tomatoes. This group can also act as sunscreen, absorbing some wavelengths of lights that chloroplasts are unable to.

Betalains are not as commonly found in plants as anthocyanins or carotenoids. They are also responsible for the colors of reddish to violet and yellow to orange in cacti, beets, and dianthus.

White flowers are caused by a reduction, or at times even an absence of, anthocyanins. This means they are unable to accumulate blue or red pigmentation and therefore express themselves as white.

Below is a list of perennials and shrubs found in Indiana landscape that feature red, white and blue color.

Cardinal Flower/Lobelia
Coneflower/Echinacea (Sangrita, Salsa Red, Baja Burgundy, Cheyenne Spirit)
Hibiscus (Annual/Tropical, Dinner Plate/Perennial – Midnight Marvel; Vintage Wine)
Coral Bells/Heuchera (Fire Alarm, Fire Chief, Forever Red)
Daylily/Hemerocallis (Pardon Me, Double Pardon Me, Red Hot Returns)
Hydrangea (Quickfire)


Sage/Salvia (White Hill)
Coneflower/Echinacea (Pow Wow White)
Rose of Sharon/Hibiscus (White Chiffon)
Hibsicus (Dinner Plate/Perennial – Ballet Slippers)
Hosta (Blue Elegans: white bloom)
Rose (Drift Popcorn)
Hydrangea (Incrediball, Blushing Bride, Bobo, Quickfire)


Sage/Salvia (Blue Marvel, May Night)
Catmint/Nepeta (Walker’s Low)
Cardinal Flower/Lobelia
Hosta (Halcyon, Blue Elegens)
Juniper (Blue Star)
Globe Blue Spruce
Ajuga (Black Scallop)
Sedge (Blue Zinger, Blue Bunny)


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