This blog, about black and near-black flowers you can grow, is the second part of the article Black Flowers for a Goth Garden which I encourage you to read as well.
Unlike black forms of the bearded iris, all complex hybrids, this smaller, more delicately flowered iris is naturally black … well, almost. In the wild, it varies from reddish violet to near black, enough to justify its common name, which is indeed black iris. Several cultivars are more reliably black than the species, including I. c. ‘Black Form’, I. c. ‘Black Beauty’, I. c. ‘Black Knight’ and I. c. ‘Kew Black’. Other naturally black-flowered irises include I. nigricans, I. atrofusca and I. atropurpurea. Full sun or partial shade in rich, well-drained soil. Zone 4.
Black Knight Butterfly Bush
(Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’)
This large shrub with arching branches (it easily reaches 10 feet [3 m] tall and 15 feet [5 m] wide if you don’t prune it back) will produce its delightfully scented spikes of deep purple flowers through much of the summer. Spectacular, especially when hordes of butterflies visit its flowers, as they usually do! Best reserved for moderate climates (it will grow, with protection and harsh pruning, in zone 5, but really only thrives in zone 7 and above). Unfortunately, it can be invasive where it is hardy due to excessive self-sowing. Check before you plant it: doing so is illegal in some jurisdictions. Full sun and fairly dry conditions are best.
(Lilium Asiatic cultivars)
Asiatic lilies seem to include quite a few very deep purple varieties that will certainly look black in the right light: ‘Black Charm’, ‘Dimension’, ‘Landini’, ‘Midnight Mystery’ and several others. All are fairly hardy bulbs (to zone 4) and easy enough to grow where there are no lily beetles. Lilium martagon cattaniae, with much smaller Turk’s cap flowers, is another deep purple lily with black overtones (zone 3). Plant lilies in full sun to partial shade in rich, well-drained soil.
(Fredclarkeara After Dark and others)
There are quite a few claimants to the title of the blackest orchid, not to mention orchids that are stained or sprayed black to improve sales, but most orchid lovers would undoubtedly claim that the blackest hybrid orchids are the various clones of Fredclarkeara After Dark, a small but highly perfumed orchid resulting from a three-way cross between the genera Catasetum, Clowesia and Monmordes. It can flower several times a year and is not hard to grow either … at least, not once you learn it needs to go through a period with no watering at all once it starts to drop its leaves. There are a few black (ish) species orchids, but the vampire orchid, Dracula vampira, with three wide fairly black sepals looking like bat wings, certainly has the most fear-inspiring name! Zone 10.
(Viola x wittrockiana cvs)
There’s no lack of choice here! There are lots of black pansies, including the following cultivars: ‘Black Accord’, ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Black Moon’, ‘Black Star’, ‘Clear Crystals Black’, and ‘Halloween II’. Black pansies are widely available and just about every garden center carries them. And of course, perhaps the best thing about pansies is that, under the right conditions, notably fairly cool temperatures, moist soil and decent light, they’ll bloom from spring right through fall. They’re sold as annuals, but are actually short-lived perennials, usually good for at least two years of bloom. Easy to grow from seed, that makes them an inexpensive choice for the garden. They self-sow … but tend to gradually revert to smaller flowers and lighter colors over time. Oh! And the flowers are edible should you need a black flower to decorate some sort of macabre Halloween meal. Pansies dislike hot climates and will not thrive there in summer, but can be grown as winter annuals in many areas of zones 8 and 9. Zone 4.
(Paeonia suffruticosa cvs)
The very darkest herbaceous peonies (P. lactiflora) really aren’t that close to black. At best, they could be said to be burgundy red. ‘Peter Brand’ and ‘Chocolate Soldier’ are probably the best-known “black” peonies, but ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Charm’ and ‘Don Richardson’ are also good choices. Tree peonies (P. suffruticosa), on the other hand, which are actually shrubs rather than trees, come in much darker shades than the herbaceous types, probably due to the addition of P. delavayi genes, whose nodding flower are naturally red brown, to the mix (P. suffruticosa is a complex hybrid with many tree peony species in its background). This has given some very dark forms that could certainly be considered very close to black, such as ‘Black Jade Paragon’ (‘Guan Shi Mo Yu’), ‘Black Panther’, ‘Black Sea’ and ‘First Crow of the Year’. All peonies prefer full sun in rich and deep soil. Zone 4.
Black Perennial Cornflower
(Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’)
A black-flowered (well, let’s say deep purple) version of a very popular blue-flowered perennial with spidery blooms. It self-sows and comes mostly true. Easy to grow in sun well-drained soil. Early summer bloom. ‘Jordy’ is similar. Zone 3.
(Petunia x atkinsiana ‘Black Velvet’ and others)
Fairly new to the gardening scene, the first black petunia, ‘Black Velvet’, was only introduced in 2010, yet there are already several other black varieties, including ‘Back to Black’ ‘Black Cat’, ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Little Black Dress’. Buy them in packs at spring planting time or sow your own in late winter: they’ll bloom from late spring until mid-fall. Full sun to partial shade. Good drainage. Annual.
(Papaver somniferum [P. paeoniflorum] cultivars)
The opium poppy is an annual with gray-green leaves that produces huge flowers, single or double, in a wide range of colors, including a very deep purple close to black. The best-known cultivar is the very double ‘Black Peony’, but there are others: ‘Black Beauty’ (double), ‘Single Black’ (single), ‘Turkish Black’ (single), etc. Opium poppies are a snap to grow: just sow them where you want them to bloom and stand back. They’ll likely self-sow and be with you for years! The seeds, by the way, are edible and can be added to breads and cakes. Of course, this is the same plant from which opium, heroin, morphine and other opiates are derived, but in most countries growing opium poppies is legal as long as you don’t harvest drugs from it. Full sun and any well-drained soil, even poor soil, will do.
Black Pussy Willow
(Salix gracistyla melanostachys)
This is a non-invasive, shrubby willow that with red winter stems spotted with black scales, followed in early spring by fuzzy black male catkins enhanced by stamens that are initially brick-red, then yellow. The oblong leaves are very dark green. For a sunny location in rather moist soil. Excellent cut flower. Zone 5.
You can sometimes find roses dyed black in florist shops, but you’ll need a bit of imagination to see black in garden roses. They’re usually at best very deep red with black highlights. About the blackest is the hybrid tea rose ‘Baccara’ and, with over 25 million plants sold since it was launched by the French rose hybridizers, Meilland, in 1954, it’s undoubtedly the most widely grown as well. Others worth trying are ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Black Lady’, ‘Black Pearl’, ‘Night’ (‘Lady Sackville’), ‘Nigrette’ (‘Louis XIV’), ‘Taboo’ (‘Barkarole’) and ‘Twilight Zone’. Most of these are hybrid teas and will only be solidly hardy in zone 7 and above, but you can try them in zone 5 with proper winter protection. Full sun, rich, well-drained soil.
(Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’)
This is an easy-to-grow annual with pincushion flowers, with burgundy-red or darker flowers dotted with white stamens. It makes a great cut flower and butterflies love it. ‘Black Cat’ is very similar. Full sun, well-drained soil.
(Streptocarpus x hybridus cultivars)
This popular houseplant, also called Cape primrose, comes in some pretty dark shades. I happen to like ‘Black Panther’ because of its two yellow “eyes,” but ‘Black Magic’, ‘Black Gardenia’, ‘Dimetris’ and ‘Morion’ are just as black if not blacker. Easy to grow in moderate light. Try it too in the outdoor garden in partial shade. Zone 9.
Black Sweet William
(Dianthus barbatus ‘Nigrescens’)
There are several deep purple to near black sweet Williams around, apparently all derived from ‘Nigrescens’, an old-fashioned variety, and all have purplish leaves and a sweet fragrance to boot. These include ‘Sooty’ and ‘Black Adder’. They’re usually biennials or short-lived perennials, but will survive in gardens for decades by self-sowing. Zone 3.
When French author Alexandre Dumas wrote the novel “La Tulipe Noire” in 1850, there were no black tulips. But there are now! The best known is the single late tulip ‘Queen of Night’, launched in 1945, and it’s widely available, but experts say there are darker tulips than that, including a few currently under development and not yet released or even named. In the meantime, ‘Paul Scherer’, a Triumph tulip launched in 1997, is considered the blackest of commercial tulips, a few shades darker than ‘Queen of Night’. And you’ll also find other black tulips like single late varieties ‘La Tulipe Noire’, ‘Café Noir’ and ‘Black Beauty’, double late black tulips, like ‘Black Hero’ and ‘Uncle Tom’, and even parrot tulips like ‘Black Parrot’ and ‘Frozen Night’. All are easy to grow in full spring sun and well-drained soil. Zone 3.
(Viola x hybrida, syn. V. cornuta, various cultivars)
Like smaller-flowered, more perennial pansies, garden violas come in all shades of the rainbow, and indeed many more shades than the best rainbow can muster, including black. In fact, they are among the blackest flowers you can grow. There are many black varieties, including ‘Black Magic’, ‘Blackout’, ‘Highland Black’ and ‘Molly Sanderson’. Note that some of the older black varieties, like ‘Bowles Black’, are distinctly more purple than the varieties cited. An easy to grow, long-blooming perennial for sun (in cooler climates) to partial shade (warmer ones). Zone 3.
Mourning Widow Geranium
This popular perennial is also called dusky crane’s bill and black widow geranium. It blooms abundantly in early summer, with nodding flowers whose dark purple petals arch somewhat backwards while its stamens project forward. The somber nodding flowers are said to look like a widow sobbing and gave the plant is common names. The leaves of many cultivars, like the popular ‘Samobor’, are splotched purple black. A snap to grow in full sun or partial shade, it can however become a bit invasive through aggressive self-seeding. Zone 3.
You may also know this plant as silver-leaf geranium, but it was moved to the genus Pelargonium over 200 years ago. It’s a small plant with silvery leaves and airy clusters of small dark purple flowers that appear sporadically throughout the year. Treat it like any other pelargonium, that is, by giving it a sunny location in well-drained soil and watering as needed. Grow it indoors over the winter (it’s not very hardy: zone 9) and, if possible, outdoors in the summer. This pelargonium also has interesting medicinal properties, especially in the treatment of bronchitis.
Other Black Flowers
Here are few other plants that offer black or near-black flowers: black anthurium (Anthurium [several cultivars]), black gladiolus (Gladiolus ‘Black Star’), black jade vine (Mucuna nigricans) and black sunflower (Heliantbus annuus ‘Black Magic’), plus quite a few also-rans (plants that are said to be black, but which, from my point of view, just aren’t black enough to make the grade): black carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus ‘King of the Blacks’), black daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Jungle Beauty’), Black Prince snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus ‘Black Prince’), chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), chocolate lily (Fritillaria camschatcensis) and Persian lily (Fritillaria persica).
And there you go! Enough black flowers to fill even the largest garden with gloom.