Glowing Petunias? Bioluminescence Technology Makes Them a Reality

People are fascinated with luminous plants, and science now reveals how to make them (even brighter).

By: THURSD. | 06-04-2024 | 7 min read
How It Works Novelties Remarkable
Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark

In recent years, biotechnology has seen remarkable advancements, which have led to radical innovations in various industries. One such revolutionary company, which is at the forefront of this movement is Light Bio. The Idaho-based startup is pioneering its bioluminescence technology, reimagining the flower and plant industry, and bringing forth a new era of floral creativity and natural beauty. 

Light Bio has, quite, gained acknowledgment for its expertise in developing and commercializing bioluminescent plants. Its efforts in research and innovation have placed it as a forerunner in the field; harnessing the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence to reveal the potential for plants to emit an ethereal luminescence that could add a touch of fairytale-like aura to surroundings.

Bioluminescence Engineering, the Technology Behind the Luminescence Magic

Light Bio's work is based on its cutting-edge bioluminescence engineering technology. Through research and development, it has successfully enhanced the natural bioluminescent pathways in plants, enabling them to emit light.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Petunia plants that glow in the dark.


This process involves introducing specially designed genetic modifications that initiate the production of light-emitting proteins, resulting in plants that glow radiantly in the dark.

A key milestone in Light Bio's journey is its collaboration and support from biotech leaders such as NFX and Ginkgo Bioworks - an organism design company - in a partnership that aims to optimize the brightness and intensity of bioluminescent plants through advanced biotechnology techniques.

The startup leverages Ginkgo Bioworks' expertise in genetic engineering and synthetic biology, to continually push the confines that define technology in plants, creating plant luminosity, and plants that are more than just fascinating.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Light Bio's Firefly Petunias glow in the dark.
Photo by


Entering the US Market with Bioluminescent Petunias

A recent announcement to introduce bioluminescent petunias into the US market clearly puts Light Bio on a successful path in its research and development. This breakthrough accomplishment was made possible through its attainment of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval, signifying the recognition of the safety and potential of these remarkable plants. 

Firefly Petunias, as they are aptly named, are definitely set to fascinate gardening enthusiasts and nature lovers with their enchanting glow. They are quite like glowing fireflies in the dark, only that they are plants. Currently, up to 50,000 of these plants are available for purchase on Light Bio’s website and can be shipped to all 48 adjoining states in the US. The number will, definitely, grow in due course.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
The petunias look just like ordinary ones only that they glow when it gets dark.
Photo by @omri_drory


The startup picked the petunia as its first product because it is one of the most popular ornamental plants anywhere across the world. These flowering plants are easy to grow and produce an abundance of flowers. The Firefly Petunia is just similar to other normal petunias, only that it gives off an otherworldly impression at night. The soft illumination of the Firefly Petunia, according to Light Bio, is quite like moonlight. Think of a garden with a green glow of plants in the dark. Quite enchanting you’d say!

From their seedling stage to when they mature, these plants glow without any special needs or treatment, creating an opportunity for plant and gardening enthusiasts to enjoy the fairylike experience of living light in their gardens. These plants are remarkably beautiful by day, and when dusk falls, they unveil their enchanting luminescence.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Firefly Petunias glowing in the dark.
Photo by @omri_drory


Light Bio:

“Its [Firefly Petunia] soothing light is produced from living energy, cultivating a deeper connection with the inner life of the plant. Your nurturing care will be rewarded with even greater brilliance.”

Science and Plant Beauty Meet, Creating Glowing Results

Light Bio’s research builds on an earlier discovery for creating continuously glowing plants by incorporating DNA isolated and obtained from different species of luminous mushrooms. The researchers noted a similarity between mushroom bioluminescence and plant metabolism, allowing for more visible light than was hitherto possible. This discovery resulted in the development of the Firefly Petunias. 


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Light Bio’s Firefly Petunias.
Photo by @AnnaMarieWagner


These petunias can be grown in pots, baskets, or gardens, and quickly attain about 8 to 10 inches in size with abundant white flowers. They are easy-to-care-for plants and thrive without the need for exceptional conditions or treatments. 

According to Light Bio, infused with the fascination of bioluminescence, the Firefly Petunia tells a story of scientific ingenuity and natural splendor. Through careful genetic enhancement, the glow of naturally luminous mushrooms has been harnessed for flowering plants, bringing soft light to people’s homes and gardens. It's, practically, nature illuminated! 


Light Bio’s Bioluminescence Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Plants glowing in the dark.
Photo by @jrkelly


Keith Wood, the CEO of Light Bio:

“This milestone - and the magical experience we are bringing to people across the country - has been decades in the making. As part of the scientific team that discovered the bioluminescence genes from fireflies, I helped create the first glowing plant in 1986 which has inspired scientists worldwide.

In the forty-odd years since then, we have discovered a new bioluminescence technology that now allows us to bring these delightful plants to consumers. We can’t wait to see their reactions and to discover the bright future ahead for this incredible technology.”


Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Firefly Petunias glowing in the dark.
Photo by @cas_smith


Luminosity Even Beyond Aesthetics

Light Bio’s luminous plants can be used in different cases. They can be deployed in creating bioluminescent landscapes that transform outdoor landscapes into fascinating and magical environments. Imagine parks, gardens, or pathways adorned with glowing flowers and plants that create an enchanting atmosphere during the night. This application can be particularly appealing for public spaces, events, or tourist attractions, providing a unique and immersive experience for visitors.

Artists and designers can also explore the creative possibilities offered by bioluminescent plants. The natural glow of these plants can be incorporated into various art and flower installations, sculptures, or architectural designs, adding an enchanting visual element to artworks and public spaces. The interaction between light, nature, and artistic expression can, in this context, create truly extraordinary experiences.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Firefly Petunias are, definitely, set to fascinate gardening enthusiasts.
Photo by @k_sarkisyan


Still yet, in addition to their decorative and ornamental uses, Light Bio's bioluminescent plants, without a doubt, hold great potential for various applications across different other fields.

For instance, the natural glow emitted by bioluminescent plants can be a biosensor for environmental monitoring. By genetically engineering the plants to respond to specific environmental conditions or pollutants, they can act as indicators of water or air quality. Changes in the intensity or color of the bioluminescence can alert researchers or environmentalists to the presence of contaminants or changes in environmental conditions.

Additionally, these bioluminescent plants have the potential to be utilized as a sustainable lighting source. This can be done by harnessing their natural light emission, hence reducing the need for artificial lighting in indoor spaces. They could be used as eco-friendly alternatives for ambient lighting, reducing energy consumption and minimizing light pollution.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Firefly Petunias emerging from their buds.


Basically, this is achievable as Light Bio continually optimizes the genetics of bioluminescent plants to further increase brightness; working in collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks. The two companies anticipate that future plants will be at least ten times brighter, and include more varieties and colors.

What’s more, these bioluminescent plants can be an educational tool for promoting scientific understanding and environmental awareness. Such are achievable by showcasing the fascinating phenomenon of bioluminescence in a tangible and visually striking way. These plants can engage and inspire students, educators, and the general public to learn more about biology, genetics, and sustainable practices.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Firefly Petunias appear normal during the day but glow at dusk.
Photo by @sagardeo


More Ongoing Research and Development

While these plant innovations and their potential applications are exciting, further research and development are still ongoing to fully explore and utilize the capabilities of bioluminescent plants. Light Bio's ongoing efforts, alongside other scientific and industry partners, particularly Ginkgo Bioworks will, in the future, expand the possibilities of this revolutionary technology.

The ongoing research and development intends to further refine and expand these plants’ bioluminescence and optimize their brilliance, durability, and range of colors achievable in the bioluminescent plants. The institutions’ offerings will definitely continue to evolve, as they introduce new and exciting plant varieties.


Light Bio’s Bioluminescent Firefly Petunias That Glow in the Dark
Luminous Firefly Petunias


But before that, you can still recreate a scene reminiscent of the movie Avatar right in your living room or backyard garden with the enchanting Firefly Petunias. You’ll definitely love the bewitchingly dreamy experience!


Feature image by, header image by @k_sarkisyan.


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