How and Why Do Plants Get Their Color?

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How and Why Do Plants Get Their Color?

spring flowers. tulips, snowdrops and narcissus blooms

Because there are processes involved in plant coloration, it is a topic of debate. Pigments usually color plants in their leaves and flowers. Several other factors create color in indoor and outdoor plants. First, let’s understand pigments.

What Are Pigments?

Pigments are substances that absorb specific wavelengths of light and reverse others. Plants have different cells in their outermost layer (epidermis), which contain pigments. These cells are usually thick, a factor that contributes to the color of a plant. The pigments in these cells also affect the coloring of the plant; they greatly influence the color we see.

Pigments That Color Plants Explained

1. Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll, the green coloring matter in plants, is the introductory class of coloring pigment; it colors the plant green. Plant color is determined by the light quality absorbed by the plant’s pigments. The natural source of light for plants, sunlight, comprises different wavelengths, which are referred to as the visible spectrum.

The spectrum has several colors, but chlorophyll usually absorbs the outer periphery of the spectrum, the oranges, reds, violets, and blues. The yellow and green wavelengths are not absorbed; they are reflected away. It is what makes the plants appear green to humans.

2. Anthocyanins

Plants have different colored pigments. Those that contain anthocyanins are usually colored purple or red. The anthocyanin pigment usually absorbs other colors of the spectrum, such as yellow, green, and orange, and reflects red and purple, which makes the plant appear reddish or purplish when seen by the human eye.

3. Flavonoids

Flavonoids’ pigment usually reflects a yellow color. It is common in grapes, oranges, and lemons. It is featured in many flowers, in their cytoplasm and plastids.

4. Anthoxanthins and carotenoids

Anthoxanthin is a plant pigment that reflects the yellow color of the spectrum to make plants appear yellowish. Carotenoids are pigments that reflect red, orange, and yellow light.

Why do plants change color in different seasons?

During autumn, plants generally change color because of the mixture of these pigments. Chlorophyll is the dominant pigment in a significant percentage of plants. As winter arrives, chlorophyll habitually decomposes, so light reflected by other pigments, such as anthocyanin, can be seen. Several leaves change from green to orange, yellow, or red during the fall.

Why do flowers have more colors than other parts of plants?

Most flowers have pigments that reflect beautiful colors, such as anthocyanin. Other pigments can reflect colors, including white, black, brown, yellow, and purple. The carotenoid pigment usually makes plants appear to have yellow, orange, and red colors. Some flowers have one coloring pigment, while others have a mixture.


Plants usually get colored when their pigments absorb spectrum wavelengths and reflect others. The reflected light is what we see as the color of the plant. Plants contain several coloring pigments, including chlorophyll, anthocyanin, and carotenoids. Most plants are green because the pigment that reflects the green color, chlorophyll, is the dominant pigment in most plants.