How to use the Seductive Qualities of Black Flowers in your Garden

January 30, 2024

Plants with black flowers and dark foliage are uncommon and defy our expectations of nature. It is their very difference that makes them so appealing, as we humans seem to be drawn to anomalies.
Black flowers are useful in garden design, partly because they are curiosities. By weaving these strangely wonderful plants and flowers into our gardens, we can add interest, intrigue, and sophistication.

black plants for your garden
Black flowers for the garden are a unique addition, adding a touch of mystery and elegance. Some popular options include Black Velvet Petunias and Black Magic Hollyhocks. Planting these dark blooms alongside vibrant flowers can create a stunning contrast in your garden.
Black flower and plant inspiration – Top image (clockwise)
Black Beauty Gladiolus – Photo by Margaret Jaszowska. Queen of the Night Tulips image by Job Vermeulen. (also consider Black Parrot Tulips). Acalphya wilkesiana – Copperleaf photo by Emmanuel Ben-Paul . Jack Spratt New Zealand Flax – Phormium Photo by laura adai. Photo by Andrew Neel for similar large black leaves try Black Coral Elephant Ear. Aeonium Arboreum Schwarzkopf image by

To Make the Most of Black Flowers and Plants in your Garden Follow these Guidelines:

1) Marry dark with light.

To maximize the impact of dark-colored foliage and black flowers, look for opportunities to create contrast. Interesting color partners include lime green, silver, white, cream, pale yellow, lavender, and soft pink. Black foliage can serve as a backdrop to these shades so that it enhances the vibrancy of adjacent colors. Use black plants to make neighboring plants pop.

As you lay out your planting plants, try to create a dramatic contrast with adjacent or backdrop plants. Black plants will disappear unless you set them against lighter-colored foliage, flowers, or garden structures, drawing the eye and adding visual interest.

Black plants are also really great if your house color is lighter – the black will stand out better than with a darker-colored house.

Think about depth and balance. The deep, inky hues of black blooms, such as those found in varieties like Black Velvet Petunias or the leaves of Black Mondo Grass, create a striking focal point amidst a sea of lighter, ethereal tones. This interplay of dark and light not only adds a touch of drama to the garden but also lends a sense of depth and balance.

I you need some planting ideas for pairing dark plants with other things you might have in your garden, I have put together some exciting combos for you to try in this post.

Cotinus coggygria - dark purple leaved shrub
Cotinus coggygria is one of my favorite dark purple-leaved shrubs (though in my garden, it insists on being a small tree). Its pink, frothy, cloud-like blooms are as beautiful as a single flower arrangement.
Image By simona

2) Don’t hide black flowers in the shadows.

Dark-colored plants are difficult to see in the shade. Planting them in a sunny spot is far more effective. Dark, glossy petals and shiny black leaves take on a silvery sheen in the sun, adding another level of visual interest.

Also, sunlight typically intensifies deep pigments, so most the dark-leaved and black-flowered plants are at their darkest when grown in the sun.

Chocolate cosmos - red or  dark burgundy brown flowers
Chocolate cosmos are actually red or sometimes appear as a dark burgundy brown – but they are considered a black flowered plant (True black flowers don’t really exist – they are actually all shades of dark red, blue, purple or green)

3) Venture beyond the black garden flowers and perennials – Try Black Leaved Trees and Shrubs As Well

To make a bigger statement, look for black-leaved shrubs and trees.

Any medium to large-sized yard will benefit from at least one dark-leaved tree and a handful of dark-leaved shrubs. These larger masses of deeply colored foliage will add depth to your planting design.

Most plants have green leaves, so creating a garden scheme where all the plants don’t visually turn into just one giant sea of greenness can be a trick.

Varying texture helps – and so does varying foliage color. Black and dark-leaved shrubs will break up the expanses of other foliage so that all the plants, trees, and shrubs that you have chosen to grow can make a more distinct impression on your eye as you take in the whole beautiful scene.

Black coleus in orange urn
Black coleus in orange urn – An experiment in what color the urn should seem like a disaster (too orange?) until I added the black leaved coleus and could see how the orange became more natural (and exciting) against the dramatic foliage color.

4) Keep Containers of Black Leaved Plants to Move Around and Experiment with in your Garden.

There is nothing better than trying something on to tell if you love it or hate it. The same goes in the garden.

If you have purchased a dark-leaved shrub, move it around your garden and set it in different beds to see how it changes the bed and your view of the wider landscape. There is nothing better than some experimentation to teach yourself how to design.

What you will find is that in some places, the black shrub might take on the job of being a focal point. In other cases, it will add depth, and in other cases, it will push other plants or features forward.

You can see how this works in the image above and below where I played with Coleus ‘Black Magic’ in a couple of different container garden settings. Plants with dark flowers and foliage are as exciting in the landscape as they are in containers and perennial gardens.

A shady Container Garden by Rochelle Greayer
A shady container garden collection set against my black house might seem like the wrong place to use black plants. You’d think they would disappear against the backdrop (at least, that is what I expected until I tried it). The same dark-leaved coleus as above sets the mood here and lends a surprising amount of detailed texture to the collection. The black-on-black setting makes all the greens – especially the edges of the Coleus ‘Black Magic leaves’- pop and look fresher.
black garden plants and flowers
More Black flower and plant inspiration – Clockwise from top left: Verones Obsidian Dahlia from Brecks. Pepper joe black prink seeds image by Laura Ockel. Barbara King Dubai Nights Calla Lily – image by Kalden Swart. Queen of the Night Tulips – also consider Black Parrot Tulips image by HS Spender. Polarnacht rhododendron has dark purple flowers. Rhododendron Black Hat has purple leaves. Photo by Krišjānis Kazaks. Red Fire Hydrange – image by Joanna Kosinska .

5) Use Black Plants strategically to create a Mood and to Add elegance and Sophistication to Your Plantings.

They can set the mood and atmosphere in the garden, whether it’s a romantic, mysterious, or modern ambiance you’re aiming for.

Black plants bring an element of elegance and sophistication to garden spaces, evoking a sense of luxury and style.

Black plants often maintain their dark color throughout the growing season, providing year-round visual appeal and structure.

By incorporating black plants into your garden design, you can achieve a wide range of aesthetic effects and elevate the overall visual impact of your outdoor space.

black scabiosa flowers for the garden
Black scabiosa (pincushion) flower in the garden.

6) Bring them indoors in Garden Fresh Floral Arrangements too.

High-end florists love black flowers for their chic style and elegance. You can grow many of their favorite varieties in your own garden to make beautiful and elegant garden bouquets.

Give your flower arrangements a touch of magic by growing cut flower favorites such as Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete,’ Gladiolus ‘Espressso,’ Allium atropurpureum, Zantedeschia ‘Night Cap,’ Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ Chocolate cosmos, and Centaurea ‘Black Gem.’

You might also like posts about black plants and using black in garden design:

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How to make the most of black plants and flowers in your garden
Discover the allure of dark seductive flowers.
Black plants and flowers:  Bring out the light by going dark
Real black flowers are rare, but a few varieties appear dark and almost black in color. These unique flowers can add a touch of mystery and elegance to any garden or floral arrangement.”

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