Thursday, October 19, 2023

Black is the New Green: 10 Black Plants to Create Dramatic, Spooky Halloween Displays


The venerable Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen song crooned by Ol’ Blue Eyes, “That Old Black Magic has me in its spell…” speaks to the romantic enchantment of love while hinting at the tyranny of Eros. Likewise, the black magic of black plants has mesmerized me. 

I confess I have long been entranced by black plants and flowers. These cosmopolitan divas add drama and depth to elevated garden designs and container compositions.  

Looking to add some sophistication and classy style to your Halloween decor?  

Here, I share some truly elegant Black Plants to add mystery to your home ~ (in any season). 

 Vampire Orchid (dracula vampira) | Orchid seeds, Orchids ...

1. The Vampire’s Dracula Orchid, Dracula vampira is native to Peru. It’s been described as a rather sinister looking flower. There is even a ‘Bela Lugosi’ clone with even more dramatic flowers.  The plant only required cooler temperatures than most orchids, which are surprisingly easy to grow. 

2. Lenten Rose, Helleborus xhybridus, ‘Black Beauty’

Honeymoon® New York Night - Lenten Rose - Helleborus hybrid | Proven Winners

Perhaps best for the outdoor garden beds, particularly in medieval-styled apothecaries, but the Hellebores can work very well in containers. And also as an otherworldly, witchy, potted plant to be showcased on a desk or as part of theatrical tablescape. Their bloom time outdoors is Lent: late winter/early spring in well-drained, moist soil.  

The classical witchcraft plant lore associated with the Hellebore has many uses.

Mentions of the hellebore goes back to ancient Greece, and was said to have been a common prescription of Hippocrates for insanity and mania, epilepsy.  

In the Greek language its name refers directly to its poisonous nature. (helein-“to kill” and bora “food”). 

Over the centuries, the Hellebore has been used in magic including to curse a piece of land ~ common during the Witch craze. It was also a fertilizer ^:^ 

“The plant has also been used in rites of exorcism, banishment, and protection.  It can be applied in curse work, and spells of revenge.  In addition to its powers of altering perception, it has been connected with rebirth and gaining intelligence through spiritual means,” as noted in Patheos, Poisoners Apothecary. 

3. Bugbane, Black Beauty 

Cimicifuga 'Hillside Black Beauty' | Beyond the House – Beyond the House  Inc.  (Photo: Michigan Bulb Company)

‘Hillside’ Black Beauty Bugbane, Actaea simplex

Some of you may know this black beauty as Cimifuga, however, it has been reclassified as Actaea. Whatever, you might shrug. 

Native Americans called it Black Cohosh. So there!  

It’s also referred to as baneberry. 

No matter what you call it ~ so many monikers; so much beauty.  

The four-foot perennial is an easy to grow shade plant, given rich moist soil.  

Native Americans used the plant to treat snake bites, rheumatism, diuretic; to treat colds, cough, consumption, constipation, fatigue, hives, backache, and to make a baby sleep.

The perennial remains a modern herbal remedy for a variety of illnesses. 

4. Black Hollyhock, Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’ : 25 BLACK HOLLYHOCK Alcea Rosea Nigra Flower Seeds : Flowering  Plants : Patio, Lawn & Garden (Photo: Amazon)

The Black Hollyhock has captured gardener’s admiration for centuries ~ its five to eight foot plant towers in the June garden in sun.  It’s a drama queen. 

The seed, root, stem, leaf, and flower are used as medicine. Hollyhock is used for pain, stomach ulcers, wound healing, diabetes, and many other conditions,

5. Wild Ginger, Asarum maximum

This wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover.  I have to peel under the heart-shaped leaves to see the flowers seemingly hiding there, in early spring. 

You can understand why this adorable flower is often referred to as the Panda Face Ginger. 

Asarum has been demonstrated with the pharmacological effects on inflammation, CNS, respiratory regulation, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and microbial infection. 

6. ‘Black Pearl’, Capsicum

Arguably, black ornamental posh pepper plants are the sophisticated glamour puss compared to its more pedestrian vegetable cousin. 
Their shiny black foliage and their round, small black jewel-like peppers that change from lipstick red to black, these beauties grow to a little less than two feet and love the hot sun.  

Black Pearl looks sophisticated as the “Thriller” paired in a container with a “Filler” of Mexican Daisy or Mexican Sunflower ~ in pink, red, and/or yellow; snapdragon, and/or pansies.  Or the adorable fall-blooming, pink ‘Curtain Call’ pink anemone that I’ve been trialing for the Michigan Bulb Company.  

The “Spiller” choices are equally abundant; consider gold Creeping Jenny. 

GOLDEN CREEPING JENNY - Foothills Nurseries

7. Moudry Fountain Grass ~ Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’

moudry black fountain grass from  (Photo: Heritage Perennials)

Moudry ornamental grass boasts deep black, foxtail-like plumes on arching green foliage. 

Compact ~ at 2-3’ Moudry makes a great cut addition to autumn floral designs. 

I can see this on a fall tablescape, accenting a seasonal vibe.  Plant enthusiasts will love the artful way the autumn sun backlit this pretty perennial. 

8. Black Mondo Grass ~ Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

I’ve used this ebony-colored, low-growing beauty forever in my garden designs.  Decades ago it was so very exotic I had to search outside of my local nurseries to source the ornamental grass.  While it’s still not all that easy to get, I swear it’s worth it.  It’s an evergreen charmer with dense, arching clumps that curl, “with a ribbon-like quality.”  It grows in full sun or shade.  In early summer, small white flowers peek out, and later there are glossy black pearl berries.  

At my home, I used it to line a walkway out to the grillscape garden.  

You can also cut the foliage and use it as a dramatic centerpiece for table decor.

9. Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ alumroot

Heuchera 'Obsidian' - Muddy Trowel

This dark, rich Heuchera, or Coral Bells, is so luscious ~ made more so topped  by its starry white flowers that bloom in early summer. But you grow this award-winning star for its bodacious, curvy foliage. Best grown in light shade, its sculptural leaves pair with Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra, ‘All Gold’ ~ in the garden bed or in containers. or with Astilbe:

Or as I have, with native ginger. 

10. Voodoo Lily ~ Dracunculus vulgaris

Often referred to as the Devil’s Tongue, it’s been said that “Voodoo Lilies are sinister but fascinating.” Indeed, these Mediterranean native have haunted gardens with a cool attitude. Grown from bulbs, the plant produces a big, leafy stalk that soon bows out to reveal a short-lived/fleeting spath and spandex similar to a calla lily.  But you can claim bragging rights! 

I can’t stop at just 10 arresting black plans ~ and you won’t be able to either 😆

Karma Choc | Swan Dahlias   (Photo: Swan Island)

Consider that diva that is Dahlia ~ specifically the ‘Karma Chocolate’ Dahlia 

And ‘Chocolate’ Delphinium

3 Milk Chocolate Delphinium Blossoms 3 Blossom Layers - Etsy

And Chocolate Sunflowers

Chocolate - Sunflower Seed | Johnny's Selected Seeds (Photo: Johnny’s Selected Seeds) 

In fact, I could design a delicious-looking Chocolate Garden with any number of these apt-named sweet plants! 🍫 

(I once designed a Zoo Garden for a client, utilizing the beautiful plants with an animal reference: think Zebra Grass, Lion’s Tail, Goat’s Beard…

And the extra credit/fun and spooky plant: the dried Snapdragon that looks like a skull!  Perfect for adding to a Halloween arrangement, don’t you think?

Nature never fails to put on an astounding show. 

I started my research for this post by sourcing a favorite book (I keep it out on my black velvet daybed/fainting couch) that was gifted to me by a dear garden design client.  “Uncle Bob” and I shared many afternoons talking about plants: growing them, finding the exotic ones, and enjoying their beauty.   

It’s a great book, and I think of him when looking up an eligible ebony star.  Plants make memories…

I hope you enjoy exploring the inky world of Black Plants and add some to your garden designs.  They help create a glamorous garden.  And I’m not advocating black just because I’m a Gotham Girl. 😉

Questions?  Just ask me.


  1. A great timely article backed up by a considerable amount of research. Thank

    1. Wow! Thank you for your considered feedback and recognition. It’s my pleasure to do the “heavy lifting” in order to bring you curated recommendations, tips, and guidance. Happy Gardening. And Boo to you! Enjoy the spooky black plants.

  2. I find it fascinating to read about plants and colors I have never seen. Thanks for all information you give us. I appreciate your knowledge.

    1. I appreciate your feedback. And thrilled that you find learning & discovering new plants so enthralling. Mother Nature is the consummate performance artist. Enjoy your spooky black plants!