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I've seen a lot of conflicting information on hybrid flower colors, and the most succinct guides often seems to be wrong. I am especially confused by the "special" hybrids that are the same color as non-hybrid colors, but that you apparently need to get some other hybrid colors. Does anyone have reliable, succinct information on how to get all the hybrid flower colors?

3 Answers 3

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Well, how familiar are you with Mendelian genetics and punnett squares?

enter image description here

Yes, really.

New Horizons' flower system uses genetic alleles to determine color. Most flowers have 3 "genes" that control color (roses have 4!), and depending on whether they have the dominant gene (denoted by uppercase), the recessive gene (denoted by lowercase), or a heterogeneous mixture, a.k.a. your "special hybrid" that looks like 1 color, but secretly carries genes for rarer flowers.

This will all make more sense with an example.

Behind the Scenes

Each flower item has a "genetic" code of 4 binary bit-pairs. Every store-bought flower has the same genome. For example, any Red Rose bag you buy from the Nooklings will have the genetic code of: 11-00-00-01. (The game treats the 10 and 01 pairs identically, and hereafter I will always use 01 to reflect a mixed dominant+recessive gene.

So, when two store-bought Red Roses breed, their children can be:

  • 11-00-00-00 (25% chance)
  • 11-00-00-01 (50% chance)
  • 11-00-00-11 (25% chance)

Unfortunately, while the genes share some similarities, the exact genetic combinations that result in particular colors is species specific. Further complicating things, there is no indication in-game as to what genotype a given phenotype (or "Color" as we lay-people might say) has.

This is why Blue Roses are so gosh-darned hard to breed -- not only do they require very specific genetics (11-11-11-00), many of the hybrids you breed along the way have ambiguous phenotypes!

If you breed two Store-bought Whites (00-00-01-00), and you get more white roses, they can be either 00-00-01-00 or the rarer 00-00-00-00 -- both of which show up as white-in game... and that extra recessive allele means that no matter how many of those white tulips breed with one another, they can only ever produce more white tulips! (Store-bought Whites breed Purple 25% of the time, normally)

The Purple Pansy

Genetics is why there's not a single-step way to reach Purple Pansies, too. Purple Pansies requires 11 alleles for both the Red and White genes. Since all store-bought seeds have only a single allele, doubling up on both alleles requires an intermediate step.

Breeding store-bought Red 11-00-00 and White 00-00-01 Pansies will give an ambiguous phenotype of either 01-00-00 or 01-00-01 (both of these will be Red). You can guarantee the appropriate genetics if you breed a blue pansy first (there are 3 genotypes, but all have the 11 White gene we want), then breed the blue pansy with a store-bought red. The result will be a either a Red (Or Orange) plant with a 01-00(01)-01 genome that can be bred with itself for that coveted purple.

So how do you breed a Blue Rose from store-bought seeds?

A blue Rose requires genetics of 11-11-11-00. The good news there is, once you get a pair, they'll always breed more blues. The bad news is, there's a bit of guess and check involved. Here's the chain:

First Generation - Initial Hybrids

Breed Store-bought Yellows (00-11-00-00) and Store-bought Whites (00-00-01-00). These give you whites (00-01-01-00) 50% of the time (discard any color not otherwise mentioned).

Breed Store-bought Whites with themselves (00-00-01-00). These give you purples (00-00-11-00) 25% of the time.

Breed Store-bought Yellows (00-11-00-00) and Store-bought Reds (11-00-00-01). This will give you Orange (01-01-00-00) 50% of the time.

Second Generation - The Hybrid Purple

To further progress, we need a Purple with Yellow genes, 00-01-11-00. This is the only part of the chain where we have to guess at genetics. Breed the Purple and White from the first generation with each other, and separate any purple offspring.

Take the purple offspring and breed them with Store-bought yellows. If the flowers result in yellow offspring, they have the appropriate genetic code. (00-01-11-00 vs. 00-00-11-00). Take this purple and breed it with the Orange from the first generation. The offspring you're looking for is also Orange 01-11-01-00, and breeds 12.5% of the time.

Generation 3 - Seeking the Blue Rose

Breed the orange from the last step with itself. This combination will rarely give the elusive blue rose itself (6.25% of the time). If you get a Red child, however, it will have a genetic code of 01-11-11-00, and when bred back with itself, has an even 25% chance of producing blue roses.

Once bred, blue roses breed true with one another, always producing more blue roses.

Flower Phenotype Charts

But enough science talk - let's see some charts! For the below, a Pale Yellow background indicates a Store-bought flower. A Pale Blue background indicates a Hybrid flower found on a Nook Miles ticket tour (such as Big Fish Island, etc.)

chart of the flower genotype / phenotype combinations

chart of the flower genotype / phenotype combinations continued

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    Fascinating answer. I'm not clear how to read that chart. For example let's say I want to breed a purple tulip. What color tulips should I put next to each other and water to get that? I know from some other research it's orange + orange tulips, but I don't see how anything on the chart would indicate that.
    – mmrobins
    Apr 24, 2020 at 20:57
  • @mmrobins Purple tulips have a genotype with maxed (11) R and Y genes, and the W gene is irrelevant. Orange tulips are always either 01-01-00-XX or 01-11-00-XX. Breeding two of the 01-11.. orange tulips gives a 25% chance at purples because of the punnett squares, but you're right that it's not super clear how to reverse-engineer breeding paths from the chart. Apr 24, 2020 at 21:15
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    @mmrobins I've added a (hopefully clear!) path for the Blue Rose. For everyone else looking for a step-by-step guide, I think your answer covers it. Apr 28, 2020 at 1:27
  • I've been trying your method for months and it's not working. I'm stuck on "Take the purple offspring and breed them with Store-bought yellows" -- they keep producing white flowers instead of yellow. Are you sure this works? Sep 24, 2020 at 20:19
  • Yup. It took me 4 months to do this myself. 50/50 odds can be a crapshoot, sometimes. I recommend having multiple patches of flowers growing at once -- the more pairs you have breeding, the better the chance of landing the right genotype. Sep 24, 2020 at 23:56
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This oversimplifies the complex Mendelian genetics involved, but is an attempt to provide the most concise answer when you really just want to know which flower colors to put next to each other to get hybrid colors. This does not include all possible combinations, just the most likely or well known combinations. This does not include mystery island flowers, so all non-special flowers listed are assumed to be something you bought or bred from seeds at the store. For a much more detailed explanation including genetic information check out this doc or other answers on this page.

Improving probability

I've included the probabilities of a color being produced from the listed combination, which can give you an idea of how difficult it might be to get that color, but there are a few things you can do to boost those probabilities including

  • watering the same flowers multiple days in a row, starts going up after 3+ consecutive days of watering
  • have people from other islands visit your island and water your flowers

Combination Guide

Note I've used "S" in front of a color's name to designate it as a "special" color that you'll need as an intermediate step to get other hybrid colors, which applies to roses and pansies. These "special" flowers look the same as their non-special, seed grown versions, so you'll need to keep track manually of which of your flowers are "special"

Roses

pink   = red    + white  50%
pink   = red    + red    25%
orange = red    + yellow 50%
orange = black  + yellow 100%
black  = red    + red    25%
purple = white  + white  25%
Sred   = white  + orange 25%
Sred   = orange + purple 25%
blue   = Sred   + Sred   1.6%
gold   = black  + gold   watering can

Hyacinth

pink   = red    + white  50%
orange = red    + yellow 50%
blue   = white  + white  25%
purple = orange + orange 6.25%
Sblue  = orange + orange 12.5%
purple = Sblue  + Sblue  25%

Tulips

pink   = red    + white  50%
orange = red    + yellow 50%
black  = red    + red    25%
purple = orange + orange 12.5%

Lilies

pink   = red + white  50%
pink   = red + red    25%
orange = red + yellow 50%
black  = red + red    25%

Cosmos

pink   = red    + white  100%
orange = red    + yellow 100%
black  = orange + orange 6.25%

Pansies

orange = red   + yellow 100%
blue   = white + white  25%
Sred   = red   + blue   100%
Spink  = pink  + blue   25%
purple = Spink + Spink  6.25%
purple = Sred  + Sred   6.25%

Windflowers

pink   = red   + orange 100%
blue   = white + white  25%
Sred   = blue  + red    100%
purple = Sred  + Sred   6.25%

Mums

pink    = red     + white   100%
purple  = white   + white   25%
Syellow = red     + yellow  100%
green   = Syellow + Syellow 6.25%
Spurple = Syellow + Syellow 25%
green   = Spurple + Spurple 25%

Summary of special hybrid required flower colors

Most flowers can be had by just watering a bunch of different colors of the same flower next to each other in a large field without thinking too much, but you can see that the flowers that require intermediate special hybrids that will require more thought and care are:

  • blue rose
  • green mums
  • purple pansy
  • purple windflower

Blue Roses are a PITA

I did not include one of the many, complex paths to blue roses. The one option I listed is very low probability, but easy to describe, so if you want to get that elusive blue rose you'll either need a lot of persistence, go read a specialized guide, or hopefully a friend gift you one.

Cloning / Duplicating Flowers

Finally, it's well worth knowing that once you've got one of the more difficult flower colors it can often be easier to rely on cloning / duplicating the color than it is to keep breeding. If a flower isn't touching any other flowers it's eligible to breed with, you can water it and it has a chance of making more of the same color. For example, once I had a few black roses, I find it easier to just put them all in a field next to each other and water with a gold watering can, which results in gold but also duplicates more blacks.

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    Given the genetics, not all "special" flowers are created equal. Luckily, outside of roses, it's not likely to matter. Apr 28, 2020 at 1:48
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The abdallah video is useful for everything except for the Blue roses. His method with the 2 "special" Reds is a 1 in 64 shot at Blue, with a 5% daily chance breeding rate if you water by yourself, tacked on with the 1/64 chance to get the Blue. It could literally take you years to get a Blue, even if you have a field of these hybrid Reds. Even if you cheated and time-travelled, this is not the way you would want to do it. If you play normal this is definitely not the way you want to go about it.

This is a some what simpler guide to Blues with a good spawn chance:

enter image description here

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  • So this would be special white = white + yellow, special purple = purple + special white, special orange = special purple + orange, extra special red = special orange + special orange, blue = extra special red + extra special red. What's the probability for this combo and how do you know?
    – mmrobins
    Apr 28, 2020 at 15:59

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