Black hued plants are a horticultural phenomenon. No wonder, because their leaves and flowers offer boldness and drama in the garden. Black plants are extraordinary when placed next to contrasting orange pumpkins and autumn decorations. Because of their recent popularity, expect to find many entrancing varieties of black plants to haunt your garden.
Gardeners drawn to the novelty of this color should look for the stunning black elder (Sambucus nigra) ‘Black Beauty’ or ‘Black Lace’ at a plant sale or local nursery. Are you wondering if black is for you? Then look at the silky petals of ‘Nigra’ the black hollyhock and you will fall for black’s magic.
Karen Platt in her book, Black Magic and Purple Passion, wrote, “Black plants are dressed to thrill and seduce. They possess a come-hither quality.” Besides for being spooky and mysterious, black is sexy. Indeed most lingerie is black. Black is a stable in closets because it sets off other colors and flatters figures. Although there is nothing to slim in the garden there are plenty of colors that black will compliment.
There are a couple of tricks to using black in the garden. The secret is to place plants where they stand out, not buried in the back of the border where their hues disappears. Black is always dramatic but such a dark color is best offset by contrasting foliage plants. Try a backdrop of bright gold, grey or chartreuse foliage. Such hues, not only highlight dark colors, but in turn their brightness is balanced by black.
For a more subdued combination team dark plants with pastel colors like lavender, pink or peach. White flowers and silver foliage contrast well with black. Even ordinary green looks it’s best when paired with black.
To add some black color in the fall without a complete garden makeover, try two wee plants in the viola family. Look for ‘Bowles Black’ Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor) and ‘Black Magic’(Viola cornuta).
The latter is a pansy, meaning it has larger flowers that are about an inch across. These flowers are truly black with a tiny yellow eye in the center. Additionally ‘Black Magic’ is more heat tolerant than most pansies so it continues to flower late in the spring. ‘Bowles Black’ has petite flowers common to all Johnny-jump-ups, also called violas. The flowers are a shiny eggplant color and grow in generous mounds.
To grow all types of violas and pansies, place them in morning sun, but out of the scorching afternoon light. Space them about six to ten inches apart in well draining soil because pansies don’t like soggy roots. Every time a pansy dries out and wilts, the plant is stressed and won’t flowers as well. Prevent this stress by regular watering, especially on hot or windy days.
Andean Silver Leaf Sage (Salvia discolor) has black flowers that bewitch. This woody shrub gets large about three feet by three feet. This shrub forms a big mound without any pruning. The leaves are beautiful all year with velvety, grayish white on the underside and a muted green top. Moreover, this plant attracts hummingbirds, tolerates poor soil and gets by with little water.
‘William Guiness’ (Aquilegia vulgaris) is a beautiful, double columbine with flowers in deep purple and white. The purple is so dark that it looks black and contrasts enchantingly with it’s white corollas. The flowers rise two feet over beautiful, bluish green, delicate foliage. Combine with yellow flowers or golden leaves for a hauntingly lovely show. These perennials benefit from fall planting in warm climates, and like pansies need morning sun and afternoon shade.
This is just a tiny sample, sort of like eating a mini Halloween candy bar, of the numerous black beauties you can grow. As Karen Platt summed up, “Black plants are sexy, fantastic, mysterious and utterly stunning with a velvety quality found in few other colors.” Turn on the black light in your garden this Halloween!
Seven Black Flowering Plants and Seven Black Leaved Plants:
(Aeonium arboreum) ‘Zwartkop’
(Euphorbia amygdaloides) ‘Purpurea’ Wood spurge
(Heuchera) ‘Chocolate Veil’ Coral bells
(Ipomoea batatas) ‘Blackie’ ornamental Sweet potato
(Ophiopogon planiscapus) ‘Nigrescens’ black Mondo grass
(Oxalis regnellii triangularis) Purple-leaved Shamrock
(Pennisetum setaceum) ‘Purpureum’ Purple fountain grass
(Alcea rosea) ‘Nigra’ hollyhock
(Aquilegia vulgaris) ‘William Guiness’ Columbine
(Canna) ‘Black Knight’
(Salvia discolor) Andean silver leaf Sage
(Scabiosa atropurpurea) ‘Ace of Spades’ Pincushion flower
(Viola cornuta) ‘Black Magic’
(Viola tricolor) ‘Bowles Black’ Johnny-jump-up