tips for using black plants in the garden


sambucus black lace by lozwilkes via flickr cc
Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ (ornamental elderberry) by lozwilces via flickr CC 2.0.


cotinus by peganum via cc
Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (Purple Smokebush) by peganum by CC via flickr 

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.

They are useful in garden design, partly because they are curiosities. By weaving these strangely wonderful plants into our gardens, we can add interest, intrigue and sophistication.



To make the most of them follow these guidelines:


Marry dark with light.

To maximize the impact of dark-colored flowers and foliage, look for opportunities to create contrast. Interesting color partners include lime green, silver, white, cream, pale yellow, lavender and soft pink.


Don’t hide them 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. Sunlight typically intensifies deep pigments, so most of these plants are at their darkest when grown in the sun.

Central Park - Conservatory Garden, South Garden, Anemone x hybridus 'Honorine Jobert', Berberis thunbergii 'Crimson Pygmy', Panicum virgatum cv Switch Grass by k m by CC
Central Park Conservatory – South Garden. Anemone x hybridus ‘Honorine Jobert’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’, Panicum virgatum cv Switch Grass image by KM by CC via flickr

Venture beyond the garden.

Plants with dark flowers and foliage are as exciting in the landscape as they are in containers and perennial gardens. Look for shrubs such as Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ (ornamental elderberry), Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (purple smokebush) and Berberis ‘Crimson Pygmy’ (red-leaf barberry).

Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete’, Gladiolus ‘Espresso’, Allium atropurpureum
Zantedeschia ‘Night Cap’ from Longfield Gardens, Gladiolus ‘Espresso’ from Longfield Gardens ,  Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’  by jacki-dee CC via flickr

Bring them indoors, too.

High-end florists love black flowers for their chic style and elegance. Give your flower arrangements a touch of magic by growing cut flower favorites such as Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete’, Gladiolus ‘Espresso’, Allium atropurpureum, Zantedeschia ‘Night Cap’, Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ and Centaurea ‘Black Gem.’


Written by Katheen LaLiberte

Zantedeschia ‘Night Cap’, Scabiosa ‘Black Knight’ and Centaurea ‘Black Gem
Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete’ from Longfield Gardens,  Centaurea ‘Black Gem from Commonfarm Flowers and Allium atropurpureum from Longfield Gardens

3 Responses to The Strange Seduction of Black Plants – 4 Tips for Using Them In The Garden

  1. We value communication and one of our major products is not simply a beautiful paving stone, planting or water feature installation, but a highly informed client that feels well taken care of We also want to help people understand their world better at least by knowing the hows and whys for their residential or commercial project.

  2. I have several black lace elderberries and I love the foliage. People are constantly asking what it is, I think it’s great to see different foliage plants in gardens for a change. Thanks for introducing me to the Royal Purple Smokebush- a plant Im not familiar with. Im going to look into them and if it’s an option for my garden it will be the next installation toy garden.

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