Flowering seasons will overlap, especially when the weather is variable. Research the plants you like to check that your garden can provide their growing requirements; for example, whether the plants need a sunny spot or shade, sandy or moist soil, and so on.
Black flowers for your garden
Black flowers are largely a matter of perception. It’s impossible for a flower to be truly black, but many dark purple and maroon shades come close to appearing so. Look at a plant’s variety name if it’s not in flower when buying: anything with ‘Night’, ‘Black’, ‘Schwartz’, ‘Chocolate’ or ‘Nigra’ will give you a clue.
Black flowers for a spring garden
A touch of white helps black flowers appear even darker. Closely related to our wild primrose, black-flowered Primula auricular ‘Douglas Black’ looks even darker because of its white centre; the same goes for ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Night Dance’ auriculas. The same principle is at work in Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness’, whose purple-black petals are edged with white.
Viola ‘Molly Sanderson’, a small pansy-type flower, has jet black petals with a contrasting yellow eye.
If you want white flowers to set off the black, see our suggestions for white flowers.
Black spring bulbs
Tulip ‘Queen of Night’ has convincingly black petals; again the effect can be enhanced by planting it with white flowers such as white honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora) or white forget-me-nots.
Two fritillaries in similar shades are Fritillaria camschatcensis and F. persica: both are as tall as tulips but with spires of hanging bell-shaped flowers in bruise-purple/black.
Black flowers for your summer garden
Black plants to grow from seed
The black hollyhock Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’ is best grown from seed every year to preserve its colour. Salpiglossis ‘Chocolate Royale’ has lovely trumpet-shaped flowers with tones of deep red. Old-fashioned and old favourites snapdragons also come in deep burgundy-black – look out for Antirrhinum ‘Black Prince’.
Scabious with their pincushion flowers composed of masses of tiny florets are also easy to grow from seed – look out for varieties such as ‘Black Knight’, ‘Black Pom Pom’ and ‘Black Cat’.
The truest black flower?
Breeders took four years to develop the ‘Black Velvet’ petunia. The summer bedding plant is the first black petunia and it certainly passes the test better than many other ‘black’ flowers. The flowers are truly velvety, which apparently helps disguise the fact that they are actually a very dark purple.
Old favourites that come in black
Black delphiniums ‘Black Arrow’ make a real change from blue, while the single-flowered black poppy Papaver ‘Black Beauty’ is equally worth growing.
Summer bearded irises come in combinations of black and other colours: very often it’s the ‘falls’, the lower, dropping parts of the flower, that are black. Check out ‘Back in Black’, ‘Black Flag’ and others too numerous to list here. Iris chrysographes has plain black flowers. Among hardy geraniums, the mourning widow, Geranium phaeum has purple-black flowers, while daisy-like Cosmos atrosanguineus has deep maroon-black petals with a delicious chocolate scent.
The newest ‘black’ rose is ‘Black Baccara’, which has deep maroon petals; the carmine blooms of ‘Black Prince’ can appear almost black in certain lights.
Black flowers for your autumn garden
Many dahlia variety names include the word black but in effect the flowers always have a deep red tone to them. Varieties include ‘Black Touch’ with spiky cactus-style flowers, ‘Chat Noir’, ‘Black Fire’ with small pom-pom flowers, and ‘Fidalgo Blacky’, which looks to be the blackest of all, again with small pom-pom flowers.