Why Do Flowers Have Different Colors?

Flowers have different colors primarily to attract pollinators. 

When insects land on a flower to drink nectar or honey, pollen sticks to their legs and is carried to the insect’s next plant; this helps the flowering plants reproduce.

  • Bees: Bees are attracted to blue, purple, and yellow flowers. 
  • Butterflies: Butterflies are attracted to red, orange, pink, and purple flowers. They have a good sense of color.
  • Birds: Birds, especially hummingbirds, are attracted to red, orange, and pink flowers. They have excellent color vision.
  • Bats: Bats are attracted to white or pale flowers that open at night. They have a strong sense of smell but rely less on color.

Flower colors indicate ripeness to seed-dispersing animals and provide camouflage from herbivores.

What Determines A Flower’s Color? 

Pigments determine the color of flowers. They are chemical compounds that absorb specific wavelengths of light and reflect others. 

The primary pigments responsible for the colors of flowers are:

  • Anthocyanins cause red, purple, and blue colors in flowers.
  • Carotenoids cause the colors yellow, orange, and red in flowers. They are responsible for the colors of many fruits and vegetables.
  • Chlorophyll causes greenish hues in some flowers.
  • Flavonoids produce a wide range of flower colors, including yellow, orange, and red.

Some flowers may appear a certain color to humans but have different colors visible to pollinators, such as bees, which can see ultraviolet light.

Fragrances In Flowers

A unique combination of chemicals evaporating into the air determines a flower’s fragrance. 

The flower produces these chemical compounds to attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. 

  • Bees: Bees are attracted to sweet, fruity, or vanilla-like fragrances. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and sunflowers produce scents that attract bees.
  • Butterflies: Like bees, butterflies are attracted to sweet and fruity floral scents. Flowers like butterfly bush and milkweed produce such scents.
  • Moths: Moths are active at night and attracted to flowers with strong, sweet fragrances released in the evening. Flowers like jasmine and yucca produce fragrances that attract moths.
  • Flies: Some flowers, like the corpse flower that flies pollinate, produce scents that mimic the smell of rotting meat or dung to attract flies.

Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about the language of flowers:

  • Around 400 chemicals determine a rose’s fragrance.
  • Hydrangea flowers can change from pink to blue depending on the soil’s acidity.
  • Some flowers, like the Himalayan blue poppy, change color based on temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the flowers to become more purple, while cooler temperatures make them more blue.
  • Anthocyanin pigments that give the flowers their vibrant hues can also help protect the plant from damage caused by UV light and pests.
  • Some species, like the “electric daisy,” have bioluminescent properties, emitting a faint glow at night.
  • Some flowers, such as morning glories, have internal clocks that control their opening and closing timing. They stay open when their pollinators, such as bees, are most active.


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about the language of flowers:

  • What is the primary reason for flowers to have different colors? Attract Pollinators
  • What can bees see that is invisible to humans? Ultraviolet Light
  • What color flowers are bats attracted to? White or Pale Colors
  • What determines a flower’s fragrance?  Chemicals that Evaporate Into the Air
  • Which pigments cause the colors yellow, orange, and red in flowers, fruits, and vegetables? Carotenoids
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