Thursday, February 4, 2010

List: Houseplants With Totally or Mostly Black Leaves

I don't think there are actually any plants that are genuinely black black, but quite a few of them can come close, usually as very dark greens, reds, or purples.
There are also a couple very dark grays out there, but they're few and far.

As a group, these don't photograph terribly well. Too much light and they no longer look black; too little light and you can't see them against a dark background.

As always, I am aware that I've left things out, because there's no way not to. So I'm open to suggestions if anybody wants to leave some.

Alocasia 'Polly.' (African mask plant) More of a really dark gray-purple than a black.

Alworthia 'Black Gem.' I know it doesn't look like it in this photo. That's because it's not. Grown in bright light, though, this will turn a very dark green-black.

Begonia rex-cultorum 'Harmony's Red Robin,' and other Begonia cvv. to greater or lesser degrees. This is not a good example, since the leaves are mostly red, but the solid-color, darker plant I have, which is 'Texas Coffee Star,' 'Gladys Meyer,' 'Black Coffee,' or something like that, photographs weirdly.

Calathea NOID, possibly 'Medallion.' Also some other Calathea cvv. Usually just very dark green, though the leaves usually have a red or purple back to them which makes them look a little darker.

Ficus elastica 'Burgundy.' (rubber plant) The exact color depends on how the light hits it and growing conditions, but this is also a very good approximation of black.

Ludisia discolor. (jewel orchid; Ludisia discolor) Very dark red.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Niger.' (black mondo grass) Very dark green. Not much of a houseplant, really: it doesn't do a lot indoors. But it can be grown there. And it's very, very dark. So.

Pellionia pulchra. (watermelon plant) Very dark gray with even darker veins. This picture makes it look greener than it appears under normal circumstances.

Schefflera (Dizygotheca) elegantissima (false aralia) I still prefer calling it Dizygotheca, partly because it seems more appropriate for a plant with such dark green leaves to have a name containing the word "goth."

Zingiber malaysianum. (midnight ginger) Very dark red, sometimes verging on dark orange. Older leaves may be more green than red, especially in lower light.

If I had to choose just three, Alworthia 'Black Gem' would definitely make the cut, as would Zingiber malaysianum and probably Schefflera elegantissima. Though there are others in the above list I like, too. Alworthia 'Black Gem' is definitely the easiest of the above, and it self-propagates well, which are both endearing qualities as far as I'm concerned. Zingiber malaysianum is much harder (somewhere around a 6.1 on the difficulty scale), but the color of the leaves is fun (especially when light is shining from behind them), and the plant also has a light, spicy, gingery scent, which is only appropriate since it's a ginger.

Schefflera elegantissima, which I am still calling Dizygotheca in my head, is also kind of a pain, mostly with regard to pests, but the color and shape are either unique or very uncommon, and at least one of my plants is growing very well for me. (I had three others at one point in the past, which did not.)

Not pictured:

  • Aechmea 'Black Chantinii'
  • Aeonium 'Zwartkop'
  • Alocasia 'Frydek?'
  • Aloe variegata (in bright light)
  • Anoectochilus chapaensis (jewel orchid) (strongly resembles Ludisia discolor)
  • Anoectochilus formosanus (Taiwan jewel orchid)
  • Anthurium x 'Marie'
  • Aphelandra squarrosa (zebra plant)
  • Codiaeum variegatum, some cvv. (croton)
  • Colocasia cvv., some cvv. (elephant ear)
  • Cordyline fruticosa, some cvv. (ti plant)
  • Cryptanthus cvv. (some cvv. like 'Black Mystic')
  • Cyclopogon elatus (jewel orchid) (strongly resembles Tradescantia zebrina in the davesgarden photo)
  • Dossinodes Indra's Net (jewel orchid)
  • some Episcia varieties (flame violet) have dark gray or brown leaves
  • Ficus benjamina 'Midnight' ('Midnight' ficus tree)
  • Ficus microcarpa (at least some cvv.; the one I have cuttings of is very very dark, except for new growth)
  • Goodyera reticulata (jewel orchid)
  • Haworthia attenuata (zebra plant)
  • Haworthia limiifolia var. limiifolia (fairy washboard)
  • Haworthia pumila
  • Macodes petola (jewel orchid)
  • Maranta leuconeura 'Marisela,' other M. l. cvv. to some degree or another (prayer plant)
  • Nematanthus cvv., some cvv. (guppy plant)
  • Neoregelia cvv., some cvv.
  • Peperomia caperata, some cvv. (Emerald Ripple, ripple peperomia)
  • Philodendron 'Black Cardinal'
  • Philodendron 'Imperial Red'
  • Philodendron 'Pink Princess'
  • Pilea involucrata 'Norfolk'
  • Pilea 'Silver Tree'
  • Sansevieria trifasciata, some cvv. (snake plant, mother-in-law's tongue)
  • Solenostemon scutellarioides, some cvv. (coleus)
  • Syngonium wendlandii?
  • Tradescantia zebrina (wandering Jew)
  • Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi
  • Vriesea splendens (flaming sword)


Joseph said...

Ooh... I love the ginger! I want me some of that. Thank you for another excellent list.

Unknown said...

I read this and went into the other room to look at the plants. The only one I have with even close to black leaves is a black leafed aeonium, and it's pale this winter from lack of sunlight, I suspect. (gee. In Nova Scotia winter. Imagine that). I think I like black plants better when they're outdoors, though.

BernieH said...

One of my plants is very close to black ... it's dark indeed! It's the Cordyline fruticosa 'Caruba Black', but that would be the only one that fits the bill.

Liza said...

I really appreciate these lists you are making. It seems like a ton of work, but it's so useful. Thank you!

D said...

One of my favorite plants is Ophiopogon japonicus nigra, slow growing in the outdoors and lovely when accompanied by pastel colors.

Ivynettle said...

You know/have so many cool plants - many longing sighs as I read through the lists. My wishlist is already much too long as it is! But I think I can allow myself to buy a new plant tomorrow or next week.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Sub, those are all wonderful. I have read that the only true black leaved plant is the black mondo, Ophiopogon planiscapus. It grows well here, outside and spreads by underground runners. It does need a lighter companion or it totally disappears in the garden. Yellow acorus is good, or even white alyssum. Just thought you would like to know. :-) And saying Hi.

Andrea said...

Hi mr subjunctive, i am glad i clicked your link. I have the photo of the Alocasia but dont know the species. I think i got the real color without that reflection in yours. You certainly have a lot of unusual plant collection there. I will be here more often. thanks.

Mitch said...

That Ginger is sweet. We have that in our shop here in YS Ohio. We also have a killer Philo Black Cardinal that is catching everyone's eye the last few days. There's also a few Collosia that are wicked black we normally see in the spring.

lisa said...

VERY comprehensive list!

Paul said...

The upper surface of Ludisia (aka Haemaria) leaves tends to be very close to black (the underside is red) if given the proper amount of light. Too high light intensity tends to bleach out the leaves leaving them red or orangy.

Kenneth Moore said...

The Alocasia "Polly" leaves come in darker at first and then kind of fade into that grey-purple you mentioned. I just gave mine a shower (spider mites) and worms started crawling out of the wet soil. Guess the worm castings I gave my plants a few months ago had little worm babies in it!

Alternanthera dentata can get close to black-looking, but really they only get purple-looking in my living room. Maybe with more light...?