No other color looks quite as striking in a garden as black!
Black is not a real color; rather it is the lack or absence of light. It gives people something to talk about, shows off their sophistication, and makes the garden feel more luxurious.
Black plants create contrast and interest. Place them in light areas. Don’t hide them in the shade because they can get swamped by the darkness easily. Instead, make an effort to place them where they’re visible to the eye so they can really stand out.
To create a beautiful combination of dark-foliaged and bright-colored plants, pair them with white, pink, red, orange, and yellow plants. Black does go with everything.
Are There Any Truly Black Trees?
There are very few truly black-foliaged trees, but there are some trees that are dark purple, reddish, and nearly black. Here are some of our favorite black-foliaged plants.
Leaf color changes from green to yellow to red to purple to white to gray to black. The colors are due to pigments called anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are found in plants such as blueberries, grapes, plums, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, eggplant, cranberries, and even some vegetables.
Types of Trees with Black or Dark Purple Leaves
Below is a list of both trees and plants that have dark purple and black leaves, perfect for adding a gothic touch to any garden!
1. Norway Maple
The Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is a deciduous tree with stunning almost black leaves. they are such a dark purple that they look black in many lights!
The Norway maple is native to North America and grows best in moist soil. It is often planted near ponds because it loves water.
Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) grow throughout eastern North America and are one of the most popular fruit trees.
The chokecherry has very dark leaves and produces small fruits about the size of a cherry. The fruits are sweet and juicy and contain lots of vitamin C. The leaves are edible and taste like apples.
3. Black Lace Elderberry
Sambucus nigra, or ‘Black Lace’ has intense purple-black foliage that is finely cut. Has an appearance vaguely similar to a Japanese Maple. Creamy pink flowers appear in spring. Very cold, hardy and easy to grow. Prefers sun to part shade. Grows to 6ft tall and wide.
4. Sambucus ‘Black Tower’
With its richly colored, black-tinged leaves, this plant makes an excellent contrast plant with any other plants in your yard that are green, gold, or pink. Flowers bloom with bunches of pink blossoms throughout the summer. It also makes a great standalone plant.
Black Tower gets its name from its vertical or columnar growth habit making it ideal in more curated smaller spaces. This plant loves the full sun. Grows 6-10 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide.
5. Japanese Maple
Some Japanese maples (Acer palmate) are among the most popular ornamental trees in the world and some of them have super dark purple and black-looking leaves.
They’re extremely versatile and adaptable for a wide range of growing conditions. Japanese maples prefer well-drained soils, but they can grow in almost any type of soil. Once they’re established, they’re drought tolerant.
6. Black Mondo Grass
This extremely well-known ornamental grass has dark black, strap-like leaves that form in slow-spreading clumps. This brilliantly pigmented grass makes a wonderful centerpiece, as a ground cover for growing vegetables, or as a back border plant for shade.
7. Black Scallop Ajuga
It has dark burgundy, almost-black leaves with scalloped edges and grows up to 6 inches tall. Many small spikes of dark greenish-blue flowers bloom in late Spring and early Summer.
8. Dark Horse Weigelia
This is a lovely evergreen shrub native to Florida that has dark bronze foliage with green veins combined with purple tubular flowers to create an eye-catching statement in the garden.
Dark Horse Weigelia is a perfect accent plant for the shrub border. It has dark green foliage and beautiful flower varieties.
9. Fine Wine Weigela
A third Weigela on our list, this Fine Wine variety, is a compact shrub with abundant hot pink flowers and colorful purple foliage all year round. It is smaller than most other varieties and has a nice growth habit.
There are a variety of ninebark trees that are dark foliaged. Most plants don’t actually turn completely black, but they still provide good contrast and foliage for the landscape. Dark varieties include ‘Diablos’, ‘Centers Glow’ and ‘Tiny Wine’.
11. Brunette Snakeroot
This stunning-looking dark-leaved tree has deeply cut, serrate foliage that appears emerald-green, maturing to brilliant, rich, deep purple.
Towered white bottlebrush flowers are fragranced as well as foliage. A standout among the shaded borders, woodlands, or cottages. It likes full sun and well-drained soil and can grow to be up to 2 feet tall and wide with flower spires reaching 6-8 feet.
12. Purple Copper Beech
This upright growing tree has flossy, veiny, dark purple leaves that become coppery red in autumn. Very good specimen tree. Prefers full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained soil. It grows to a height of 25 feet and 15 feet across.
13. Dark Leaved Dahlia
Dahlias are one the best flowering perennials to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The bright colors attract bees and butterflies and the large blooms stay fresh for weeks. Dahlias are easy-to-grow flowers that don’t need much attention.
14. Hellmond Pillar
The columnar shape of these evergreen shrubs makes them ideal for use in foundation plantings or edging. It has glossy dark green leaves which turn dark purple and reddish in autumn. Red berries appear in autumn and winter.
15. Cherry Plum Tree
Cherry plums are native to China and Japan where they are grown commercially for their fruit. In North America, they are grown primarily for their ornamental value as they have rich dark leaves and beautiful blossoms. These trees are very hardy and easy to grow.
16. Purple-leaf Sand Cherry
This variety of cherry trees has dark green, shiny leaves and produces clusters of white flowers in spring. This variety grows to be about 30 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
17. Royal Purple Smoke Tree
This is a dramatic, loose-spreading shrub or small tree that bears pinkish-purple foliage in the summer and scarlet-red leaves in the fall. It’s primarily used to create large accents in landscapes.
18. Chaste Tree
Chaste trees are deciduous trees that produce yellow flowers in late spring followed by red fruits. They are known for their changing leaf colors and their ability to withstand drought conditions.
19. Purple Pony Cherry
This variety of cherries is a dwarf tree that produces dark purple fruits. It also has good disease resistance.
20. Black Scallop
Black scallops are a type of succulent plant that has dark blue leaves. They are often found in desert areas because they need less water than other plants.
21. Black Coral
Black coral is a genus of Elephant’s Ear plant with its origins in East Asia. This amazing-looking plant has incredibly striking deep black leaves.
22. Eucomis Dark Star
Eucomis is an attractive group of annuals that bloom from mid-summer through fall. They come in many different varieties but all have similar characteristics. They are a large deep succulent that enjoys areas with less moisture/
Kokuryu is a hardy perennial shrub to 20cm tall, forming dense clumps of arching, narrow strap-shaped, dark green leaves 20-30cm long.
24. Crimson King Maple
A weeping maple with crimson-colored bark and deeply lobed leaves. The leaves are usually bronze-brown in color but can turn red in autumn.
Rot and Other Causes of Black and Purple Leaves
Black and dark purple leaves are a common feature in many trees. They may be found on the same tree, but they can also be found on different trees.
The most common type of disease that can cause a plant to have black leaves is called “purple blotch”. Purple blotch is usually seen on apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, cherry trees, and almond trees. It appears as small spots on the leaves.
The spots are caused by a fungal disease called Alternaria blotch.
Other types of black leaves include:
- Purple spot – A fungal disease that affects apples, pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and almonds. It produces a large purple spot on the leaves.
- Bud rot – Buds appear brownish-black. This is caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas syringae.
- Canker – Cankers are dark lesions that develop on branches and trunks. They can be caused by fungi like Botrytis cinerea.
There are not many truly black leafed trees out there, many have a deep purple hue, but the most popular purple and black-toned trees are the Japanese maples, purple-leaf plum, black elderberry, purple-leaf sand cherry, crimson king maple, purple-leaf acacia, purple smoke tree, and copper beach.
These are your best bets for a black-ish tree at the moment, but in the future, who knows? The green-thumbed geniuses out there could be working on cultivating a truly black tree as we speak.
If that is indeed the case, let’s hope they make some significant progress soon, because black trees can really add that little something special to almost any yard!