How to Use Black Flowers and Dark Foliage

Enhancing Your Garden with Dark Colors

Black is an uncommon color in the plant world, and our eyes are naturally drawn to the unexpected and unusual. This may be why so many of us are fascinated by dark-colored flowers and foliage. Learning how to use these plants in the garden will let you introduce a new level of drama and sophistication.

Few plants are dark enough to be considered truly “black.” Though they may read as black from afar, a closer look usually reveals that they are dark purple or maroon. To maximize the impact of dark-colored foliage or flowers, there are two important things to remember:

1. Dark colors are better in sun than in shade.  Dark-colored plants tend to disappear into the shadows, yet they sparkle in direct sunlight. Many have glossy surfaces that take on a silvery sheen in the sun, adding contrast and textural interest. Bright sun also intensifies most dark pigments; so the foliage of black elephant ears or a deep burgundy Heuchera is actually darker in the sun than it would be in the shade.

2. Pair dark colors with light colors. Accentuating the contrast between dark and light is the best way to maximize the impact of black flowers and foliage. Lime green and silver are particularly effective partners, as are white or cream, and pastels such as pale yellow, lavender or soft pink.


You'll find that dark maroons and deep purples are just as exciting in containers and landscape plantings as they are in a flower garden. And don’t forget about the impact they can have in cut flower arrangements. Black flowers are always in demand by high-end florists for their chic style and elegance.

In the list below, you'll find the most popular and readily available dark-leaved or dark-flowered annuals, perennials, bulbs and shrubs. Give them a try! They are an easy way to introduce a new level of magic and excitement to your garden. 



  • Coleus 'Black Dragon', 'Dark Star' or 'Dark Chocolate'
  • Cornflower ‘Black Gem’
  • Petunia 'Black Cat' or 'Black Magic'



Perennials & Biennials 

  • Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ (coral bells)
  • Alcea ‘Nigra’ (hollyhock)
  • Pansy ‘Bowles Black’
  • Viola ‘Black Magic’
  • Buddleia ‘Black Knight’ (butterfly bush)
  • Iris ‘Superstition’
  • Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ (columbine)
  • Hellebore ‘Black Diamond’ and 'Midnight Ruffles’
  • Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (black mondo grass)
  • Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopff’
  • Cosmo atrosanguineus (chocolate cosmo)


  • Cotinus coggygria ‘Black Velvet’ (smoke tree)
  • Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (ninebark)
  • Weigelia ‘Wine and Roses’
  • Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ (elderberry)

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