Dye Plants for Eco Printing and Eco Dyeing

This is an “in-progress” list of plants that I have used successfully to eco print textiles and paper as described in my blog posts. The plants are garden-grown or foraged locally, with an emphasis on native plants.

The textiles and papers were mostly pre-mordanted with alum acetate or potassium aluminum suphate, and sometimes co-mordanted or post-mordanted with iron (liquor or bits). The fibres used were silk, wool, cotton and linen, and cotton rag watercolour paper.

Eco printing results vary according to many variables, such as plant part used, processing time, water quality and pH balance, mordant, processing method, fibre type (protein, cellulose or synthetic etc.) Experiments are the rule!

A photo of the plant and of a sample eco print accompanies each entry on the list.

Alder (Alnus sp. )

Apple (Malus sp.)

Crabapple leaves and blossoms, print on paper.


Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Fall blackberry leaf on paper

Black eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)



Carrot (Daucus carota)

Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa

Catmint (Nepeta)

Whole plant, print on paper:

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

Fall leaves, print on paper:

Late summer leaves, print on paper with other leaves:

Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata; C. lanceolata, C. tinctoria)

C. lanceolata:

C. verticillata, print on linen with sumac:

C. verticillata with sumac, apple slices and purple sandcherry on silk:

Creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)



Dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria)

Elder (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis)

Elder leaves on silk with coreopsis verticillata:

Eucalyptus sp.

E.globulus on wool:


Fig (Ficus carica)

Geranium (perennial)

Golden Rod (Solidago sp. )

Grape (Vitis sp. )



Blue iris blooms,petals and stamens on paper:

Iris blooms print on silk:

Japanese indigo (Polygonum persicaria)
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

Fall J. Maple leaves on paper with Sweet Gum and Smokebush:


Lilac leaves and blossoms on paper:

Maple (Acer saccharum; A. saccharinum)

Acer saccharinum with rusted iron on paper:

Oak (Quercus robur)

Oak leaf on paper with chokecherry:

Pansy (Viola sp. )

Purple cabbage ( Brassica)

Purple cabbage with coreopsis on paper:

Purple sandcherry (Prunus cistena)

Purple sandcherry leaves (L) with red coreopsis (R) on wool felt:

Red amaranth (Amaranthus)

Rooibos (tea)

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

Fall Smokebush leaves on paper:

Rose (Rosa sp. )

Rosa rugosa leaves on paper:


Sage (Salvia sp. )

Saskatoonberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea; A. laevis; A. canadensis )

Strawberry (Fragaria sp.)

Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Dried sumac berries on paper:

Sumac berry print on paper:

Sumac leaves on paper:

Sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweet gum leaves on paper with J. maple


Tansy (with elder and black eyed susans)



Violet leaves and blooms on paper:

Virginia Creeper
Walnut (Black) (Juglans nigra)


Native plants for eco printing: coreopsis, black eyed susan, maple and sumac:

19 thoughts on “Dye Plants for Eco Printing and Eco Dyeing”

  1. Thank you Wendy for this rich exposition of your dye plants and Eco-prints. I’m learning from you.

  2. Thanks
    Wendy this is a great list and photos too!!! Love that i can use my nepeta, guess I will stop cursing about it being invasive . Lol

  3. Cristina Etchegaray said:

    Very interesting! Thanks

  4. josoandsew said:

    Wow! that is really inspiring – thank you! Do you get those results on paper by boiling? I’m not getting such vivid results…

  5. Fiaz Ahmad said:

    Amazing processes
    i like it

  6. love your details and illustration on your experiments. Thanks for sharing Wendyfe

  7. Mate Bannwart said:

    Wendy, I loved your experiment – it helps me a lot. But I’m trying to eco print fabric, silk. How do I fix the printing on it? What kind of mordant shall I use and how? after printing?
    Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Mate

      Info about mordants on various fabrics is spread out over the blog so you will have to take the time to read through the various posts. I suggest you start with the plants you are using and then click on the relevant one in the “cloud” of tags. For a systematic treatment of the topic of mordants, you will get that in my book! When I write it… Meantime, check out my reference page. IOW. There is no quick answer other than “it depends”


  8. Gwen Martinuk said:

    Thanks so much for all the sharing work that you do. It is the go to place for me when I’m needing inspiration. Sure hope you write a book some day soon as there isn’t really one on the market except the one which is interesting but not really easy to follow in some ways.

  9. Thank you for that encouraging comment, Gwen. A book, you say? Hmmm….

  10. Hi, I LOVE this, and I’ve been out collecting so many plants from the land we live on and now I find there’s even more out there to get! I just wanted to ask you to give a warning about Tansy. I’m not sure what variety you’ve shown here, but Tansy grown wild in some areas can become an invasive weed that is toxic to livestock, particularly horses. Many people will plant this for using as a dye plant or an herb and find they’ve accidentally poisoned their neighbor’s land. If folks must plant it, ask them to learn how to control the spread and to check their state’s requirements first.

  11. I’ve been experimenting with ecoprinting for a few months after taking a class at an art retreat. We have lots of trees in our neighborhood, and I have been gathering fall leaves to use for printing. Can you guide me as to how to determine if a plant is too toxic to print with? For example, we have many ornamental cherries, as well as some true peach and plum trees. I have read that all species of the Prunus genius contain a compound in their leaves that can release cyanide and can be poisonous when ingested or burned (and I am assuming streamed? ?). I’m not going to eat a scarf that I print, but should I avoid using those leaves? Too go further, oak and maple are both poisonous when ingested and may cause skin irritation (again, according to my reading) so should I refrain from using those as well on clothing items? At what point are the colors obtained from plants deemed “safe”? I can’t seem to find a good resource that lists whether some common plants are good to print with. I own Eco Color by India Flint, and I have searched my state’s ag extension websites, but I am so far not satisfied with my results. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Hello there!
      I did reply at length to your message but the e-fairies spritited it all away! Here I am again. Your question deserves a full treatment – however, my answer would be a sketch only. I can only answer for my own practice. What I do is to research the plants deemed poisonous or irritating in my area (Eastern Ontario)or elsewhere and then avoid them like the plague in my dye pot. Two good examples would be Lily of thr Valley and Monkshood. As for plants that contain poisons certain
      apple seeds are an example, and the inner nuts of peaches, or others from the prunus family – well, as you said, do not eat them. I have no idea of the long term effects of any
      poisons coming from ecodyeing with these. IN my practice, I have not been concerned to avoid prunus in the dye pot, but it’s your choice. Elena Ulyanova at Th Importance of Proctastination blog often writes from her science point of view on eco dyeing so that might be a good resources for you. The old manuals on traditional dyeing will often tell you which plants to avoid of you are sensitive. I have numerous sensitivities to plants not necessarily shared by others – Ruta graveolens is one example- so, though I love the colour, I avoid it because the smell makes me naseous. Informed and cautious experimentation is your best recourse…I find that the UK dy writers in books and mags are conscientious about giving general health warnings for the use of plants in dyeing – it is required, I think. The field of eco dyeing is one of experimentation and in experiments, there can be risks. Rust is a good example of a potential health problem for evo dyers. Overall, use gloves and a mask, read widely and keep good notes. That us what I do.

  12. Gwen sedman said:

    Wonderful site, so generous of you to share. I am doing an extensive study of natural pot dyes and silks and will share results when done

    • Thank you, Gwen! And I am happy to hear about more research on dyes. Please do share what you can!


    • Thank you, Gwen. I am excited to hear about your work so when you get a chance, do share! I am so grateful to all the dyers who have reported their experiments in books and online – that us how I learned, and I am pleased to pay that forward.


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