How to Create Brilliant Color in Your Succulents With Food Coloring – 5 Easy Steps

If you own a succulent plant, you take great pride in caring for it and enjoying its vibrant, luscious appearance. If you’ve ever thought about changing up its look by introducing some color, you’ve come to the right place. 

To create brilliant color in your succulents with food coloring, prepare your plant by gently stressing it, removing its roots, and letting it drink dyed water. By taking care during this process and offering your succulent proper post-dying care, it’ll be a new focal point in your home.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info about making colorful succulents and more:

  • How the coloring process works
  • How to dye your succulents
  • How long it takes to see an effect
  • Tips for dying your succulents
  • Frequently asked questions

How Does Creating Colored Succulents Work?

Succulents generally grow relatively slowly, and they’re naturally good at filtering out anything that would be toxic to them. Since food coloring is obviously safe for humans to consume, it’s definitely nontoxic, although it is a different substance than your plant has probably ever been exposed to. 

Therefore, while your plant’s root system may try to filter out part of the dye components, in our method, we remove roots from the equation and still safely introduce colored water to your plant. Using this method, your succulent will happily drink up colored water directly through its stem just like it would with regular water, and then it gets busy effortlessly growing new roots.

The magical horticultural process of capillary action means the succulent absorbs water from its roots and sucks it up the stem (like we do through a straw) to the leaves and rest of the plant. 

After getting its fill of water and delivering it throughout the plant, the stems, leaves, and roots of a succulent plant store water to retain it for quite some time, which is the primary reason they survive for long periods of time without more water. This also means if you correctly introduce colored water, the succulent retains that colored water in all its parts for an extended period of time, meaning the color is vibrant and lasts a long time. 

When the water evaporates is when the color really pops. It leaves a residue of dye on the leaves. 

Luckily, the principal ingredient needed for creating colored succulents is regular food coloring, which is readily available in grocery stores, drug stores, and big-box stores. Food dyes are inexpensive and come in a variety of different colors. You can easily mix hues to get the exact shade you’re looking for. 

The procedure for dying your succulents is reasonably straightforward. If you’ve tried before with limited success, don’t throw in the towel. Read on for simple, concise instructions on how to successfully create colored succulents the proper way. 

How to Steps – Adding Brilliant Color to Your Succulents With Food Coloring

To achieve stunning colors in your succulent plant, you need to plan ahead. Before you sit down to work on this, it’s a good idea to stress your succulent. This means to deprive it of water, so it starts to use up its internal store of water that it’s been keeping in its roots, leaves, and stem. Think of this as draining out the plain old clear water from your plant to make way for brilliant color. 

When your succulent is a bit stressed and ready for a drink (of colored water, of course!), you’ll need to gather a few simple items:

  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Glass cup that can accommodate half a cup of water and has room to rest your succulent in
  • Food colorings – like Watkins or McCormick’s
  • Sharp knife
  • Succulent plant

Ready to get started?

Prepare Your Succulent by Removing the Roots

Gently tug your succulent out of its soil and shake out the roots. Using a sharp knife, gently cut the roots off the main stem. Don’t worry; they’ll regenerate. 

Avoid using scissors since they can crush the stem, which reduces its ability to absorb water efficiently. If you have a crowded root system, don’t be afraid to pull a bit to find where the central stem is and detach all roots from it. 

Prepare Dyed Water

Pour half a cup of water into the glass cup. Room temperature, purified or tap water works well. Add drops of food coloring according to your product’s instructions. Some products are more concentrated than others, but four to eight drops will probably be in the right range. If you’d like to mix up a special hue that’s a combination of a couple of colors, now is the time to do so. 

Give Your Succulent a Big Drink

Dip the base of your succulent in the dyed water. Give the water a gentle stir with the stem, and let it sit for about 12 hours, stirring occasionally. 

By now, your plant has been starved for water (and the other nutrients that are dissolved in water), so when you insert your rootless succulent into the prepared dyed water, it’ll be anxious to drink up as much as it can. There’s no need to bathe your plant or apply the dye solution to the leaves. 

Repot the Succulent

After letting your plant absorb the dyed water for about 12 hours, it’s absorbed as much as it can. It’s now time to replant the succulent in new, nutritious soil.

Fill a planter with a well-drained potting mix, which keeps excess moisture away, so your succulent doesn’t rot. Remove your plant from the glass cup and replant it in the new pot. 

Stress Your Succulent Again

Now it’s time for the magic to begin. After it’s replanted, stress your succulent again to allow the coloration effect to set in. You may consider placing your succulent in a bright, sunny window in the morning and removing them from the sun in the afternoon.

Let that colored water pull up into the stems and leaves to where you may begin to see it, depending on your plant. Avoid giving it more clear water, so it uses the colored water it has stored. 

The natural process of transpiration will also begin to occur, and here’s where it gets fun. Transpiration is when water from the leaves evaporates and leaves only the dye behind. The dye clings to the leaves to color them. This also creates low water pressure in the leaves, which encourages the plant to pull more colored water from the internal stores and up through the stem. 

How Long Does It Take to See the Coloring Effect?

If your succulent has flowers, you’ll likely see color first in the flower petals. As they drink up the water, you’ll see it fairly quickly in their petals.

For the rest of your succulent plant, wait a few days to allow time for the transpiration process to be underway. You’ll be seeing colors soon. 

Tips to Take Great Care of Your Succulent During the Coloring Process

If you follow our steps to a tee, you should see great success in your endeavor. 

You mustn’t leave your succulent in the dyed water for more than about 12 hours. Otherwise, you may cause rotting to occur on the stem. 

Additionally, once your plant is repotted, continue exposing it to the right amount of sunlight, so it maintains its new, vibrant colors.

What Are Other Natural Ways to Make Your Succulents More Vibrant and Colorful?

Succulents respond to how they’re cared for by changing colors. If it receives proper sunlight, an excellent balance of watering, and a boost of fertilizer here and there, it will be a vibrant bright green color. 

One interesting way to give your succulent a natural pop of brighter color is to turn down the temperature on the water you give it—most succulents like water at about room temperature, or around 70°F (21°C). If you want to shock your plant into a bit more intense colors, drop the temperature down lower while staying above 40°F (4°C). This introduces just a bit of stress to your plant, and it boots its colors. 

Avoid Harmful Colors for Your Succulents

While you may sometimes see colored succulent plants in stores that catch your eye with their bright colors, many of these are actually spray painted. Once you look closely, you may notice they look unnatural and a bit tacky. Acrylic paint and other paint or coloring products can be harmful to your succulent, so we recommend staying away from paint. 

When applied to the plant’s surface, a harsh product like paint seeps into the pores, introducing chemicals into it and ultimately blocking the pores. As a result, the photosynthesis process is disrupted, and the succulent may die sooner than it should.

For these reasons, using the food coloring method above is a much wiser, healthier, and more efficient way to get long-lasting color for your succulent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are succulents colorful naturally?

Most succulents are a vibrant green when well-cared for. Some varieties will produce shades of red, purple, or pink when stressed, which could be when they lack water, sunlight, have too much water, or have poor soil. 

What are variegated succulents?

Variegated succulents are those with streaks, stripes, or striations in the leaves. Their chlorophyll and other pigments are unevenly distributed. They are visually beautiful and add variety to your plant collection. 

Here is a four-minute YouTube video sharing information about what variegation means in succulents, as well as favored types of variegated succulents:

Is it harmful to dye your succulents with food coloring?

No, your succulent will not be harmed if you dye it using this method of non-toxic food coloring. 


We hope you’re inspired to give food coloring a try with your succulent. If you follow the steps outlined in this article and take care of your plant, you’ll soon be enjoying brilliant colors as a result of your hard work. 


Learn even more about succulents!

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