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Colorado has a blue State Flower.

The majority of common pollinators are not impressed with blue. Otherwise, more flowers would be blue. After all, floral color appeals to pollinators. Each type of pollinator prefers specific colors. Plants customize their floral color to their preferred pollinators. If more flowers could attract more pollinators with blue, they would do so. Instead, they rely on colors that have worked well for them.

Green is actually the most common floral color. It is not obviously common because green flowers are generally ignored. They are the sort that rely on wind for pollination, so make little or no effort to draw attention. They are also the sort that produce the most and worst pollen, which gets carried farthest by the wind. Flowers that rely on pollinators produce coarser pollen that clings to things.

Of the many other colors that appeal to pollinators, most are significantly more complex than they appear. For example, what appears to be simple orange may appeal to pollinators that perceive it to be yellow, as well as those that are drawn to red, even if none are interested in orange. Different pollinators perceive different color ranges. Insects do not perceive red; but hummingbirds do.

That certainly could not explain why blue is such an uncommon color for flowers. It surely has more of a following than red, which is more common among flowers. Since most pollinators perceive blue, more flowers should utilize it. They could even add some ultraviolet or infrared to it, if that would make it more appealing. Nonetheless, true blue, without the influence of purple, is quite rare.

Lily-of-the-Nile and blue dawn flower are some of the more substantial species that provide exquisitely blue bloom. A few cultivars of butterfly bush bloom true blue too, but the color is not so clear and bright. Delphinium, bellflower, squill and grape hyacinth are smaller, but worthy perennials for the richest blues. Petunias, lobelia, nigella, cornflower and columbine are blue blooming annuals.

Many iris, sage and lupine provide exquisitely true blue bloom as well.

18 thoughts on “Blue Is The Loneliest Color

    1. Not many of us are aware that green is the most common flora color, just because green flowers are not designed to get any attention. Blue is an odd one though. It is odd that just about everyone can see it, but so many pollinators are not impressed with it. Plants that blue with true blue flowers are more likely than other plants to produce a few progeny that bloom white, or mutate to bloom white. (For example, a minor percentage of jacaranda trees bloom white, which is why it is best to see them bloom before selling them. Agapanthus sometimes mutate to bloom white; and white bloomers sometimes mutate to bloom blue.) Pollinators do not seem to distinguish between the blue and white flowers, as if the infrared or ultraviolet color (that is invisible to us) is more important to them than the blue is.

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      1. thanks _ I read that comment slowly to try and soak it up….
        nature sure is amazing – and especially this tidbit:

        Agapanthus sometimes mutate to bloom white; and white bloomers sometimes mutate to bloom blue.

        how cool

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      2. I still can not figure out how or why they do that. Both mine, blue and white, have been stable, and never exhibited mutation. I have been growing my blue agapanthus since I was a kid. I see other agapanthus do it though.

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      3. Yes. That is the quick answer. I do not know what birds like blue, and what birds prefer other colors, but there are some that collect all the blue items they can find.

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    1. Yellow certainly provides more choices, which complicates things for those of us who are no good with selection of color. Where I lived in town, the flowers in front were yellow and orange, just because that happened to be what looked best with the color of the home. Fortunately, I grew wild nasturtiums and cheap gladiolus, which dictated the choices for me. When I grew sunflowers, I got the neighbor to select them.

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    1. These posts are from the garden column, which is for the West Coast of California between San Francisco and (sort of) Los Angeles. Those recommendations are not common here. Actually, I have seen only indigo, which may be a different species.

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      1. There was that too. Both were tried separately at the farm, but ended up out in the arboretum without ever being in production. There is a third native false indigo, but I do not remember the genus. I remember it is not Amorpha californica. I have not seen that yet.

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      2. Amorpha canascens is the species that is native here . . . somewhere. I have never seen it. When I mention false indigo, that is what others think of. It took me a while to determine that it has nothing to do with the ‘three’ species (or genera) that I know of false indigo.

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