14 White Flowers With Black Center for Dramatic Garden Design

For most of us, gardening is synonymous with color. Where else would you find so much pigmented variety without (much) human intervention? So falling back on classic neutrals like black and white can require a bit of mental re-framing.

Black and white are special because they possess more contrast than any other colour pairing in existence. Contrast is a big part of good visual design, and you can use this to your advantage when laying out your garden beds.

In this article, I want to highlight some great white flowers with black centers that will give your landscape a touch of classy elegance.

Tips for Gardening With Black and White Flowers

Of course, many gardeners pair separate black and white flowers together. This can give an outdoor space a formal aesthetic, perfectly suited for a backyard wedding or similar event.

Flowers that are white with black centers (or even the opposite) are a more subtle option. They offer inherent contrast and texture. 

When working with crisp shades like black and white, it can be tempting to steer clear of more saturated colors. On the contrary, white and black flowers pair beautifully with more vibrant specimens and you should feel free to mix and match to your heart’s content!

Types of White and Black Flowers

Before we dive any deeper into these monochromatic blooms, let’s quickly recap the common types of flowers that you might want to plant in your garden. Remember that each type has certain characteristics that make it well-suited to different spaces and landscape styles.

Annuals

Annual flowers are incredibly versatile, in part because they only live for a single year. Many tender perennials are also marketed and used as annuals in cooler climates.

I love gardening with annual flowers because you can re-imagine the space with every new year. There’s no need to commit to a specific species, color, or layout (but you can always return to proven classics!).

Herbaceous Perennials

Herbaceous perennials are the bulk of most residential gardens. These long-lived plants die back in the soil each winter but can live for many, many years.

This category contains remarkable variety in terms of size, shape, and flower habit. Hardiness is often the most important consideration when planting herbaceous perennials in a home garden.

Bulbs

While there are bulbs for every season, the most popular ones bloom in the spring. Bulbs can be annual or perennial, depending on the plant’s life cycle and how it fits into your local climate.

My favorite way to use bulbs is in a naturalized landscape. This technique involves ‘randomly’ scattering bulbs throughout a grass lawn or similar area. The naturalized area will then sprout flowers — seemingly out of nowhere — for a short time each year.

Shrubs

Shrubs are often the backbones of established gardens. Whether deciduous or evergreen, these plants retain some of their structure year-round. As a result, herbaceous perennials, bulbs, and annuals are usually planted around shrubs rather than vice-versa.

14 White Flowers With Black Centers to Grow

While I’m sure there are a few white and black flowers I’ve overlooked, this list represents all of the most popular varieties (plus a few extras you might encounter either in the wild or in more specialized garden spaces). 

There’s no denying that the flowers featured below are all charming in their own ways. But no successful garden was ever built on looks alone. If you want to design the best container or bed possible, you also need to consider which plants will thrive in the available environment!

Pay close attention to key characteristics like hardiness ratings, light requirements, and general maintenance as you work your way through the rest of this article. These traits will help you narrow down the ideal black-and-white flowers for your personal gardening projects.

1. Petunia

Petunia

Petunia hybrida

  • Type: Tender perennial
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 9 to 11

Petunias are incredibly diverse tender perennials that have been hybridized to produce interesting petal shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. There are a handful of petunias with white petals and dark centers, though the Crazytunia brand is the most common.

Though technically perennial, petunias will only survive more than one growing season in very warm climates (equivalent to USDA Zones 10 and 11). Most gardeners keep these sprawling plants in containers or hanging baskets. Petunias also work well as bedding plants for the outdoor garden.

Petunias bloom from late spring to fall, though you might notice the number of flowers fluctuate throughout the season. Full sun — at least 6 hours per day — is best in most climates. 

2. Flower-of-an-Hour

Flower-of-an-Hour

Hibiscus trionum

  • Type: Annual
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 2 to 11

Though pretty, you might want to think twice before letting flower-of-an-hour take up residence in your garden. This sprawling vine was once planted as an ornamental but is now considered invasive in parts of North America. 

Flower-of-an-hour is a type of hibiscus with creamy white petals and a center that ranges from purple to brown or black. It gets its name from the fact that each flower only lasts for a couple of hours. Flower-of-an-hour usually only blooms on sunny days.

These plants tolerate a range of growing conditions, including poor-quality soils, which explains why flower-of-an-hour has weedy tendencies. It frequently self-sows in recently disturbed areas.

3. Oriental Poppy

Oriental Poppy

Papaver orientale

  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 3 to 9

Oriental poppies come in a number of colors, most commonly orange and red. However, there are some popular varieties with white petals, such as ‘Perry’s White’.

Varieties like Perry’s White have white petals that converge in a black center. I think they look great alone or intermixed with other oriental poppy colors. The flowers usually open in late spring or early summer and can grow up to three feet tall.

If this is your first time growing oriental poppies, be careful not to mistake the young plants for weeds. The foliage is very rough and bristly — often compared to that of a thistle. You’d never guess that a collection of charming, papery flowers would follow shortly after.

4. Windflower

Windflower

Anemone coronaria

  • Type: Bulb
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 7 to 10

Aptly known as poppy anemone by some, the windflower is an easy-to-grow spring bulb with delicate petals accented by dark centers. Many colors are available, including white and various shades of off-white.

Windflowers have a relaxed growth habit and aesthetic — perfect for a cottage-style garden — and will happily naturalize in warmer climates. Planting several different colors will produce the most organic-looking landscape if that’s your goal.

Though not overly fussy, keep in mind that windflowers prefer loose, sandy soils and full sun. Each plant normally flowers for up to four weeks. I recommend staggering your plantings to prolong the bloom season.

5. Pansy

Pansy

Viola x wittrockiana

  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 3 to 8

The garden pansy is a small but mighty flower closely related to wild violets and other members of the Viola genus. Most varieties sold today are hybrids bred to produce interesting color combinations or particularly large blooms.

Pansies are easily identified by their distinctive face-like markings. A white pansy with black or dark purple blotches will stand out beautifully in any garden or container arrangement.

Pansies like cool weather, so spring and fall are when you’re most likely to see potted arrangements and individual nursery cells for sale. You can also start your own from seed. For extra-large flowers, look for varieties with ‘Giant’ in their names.

6. Netty’s Pride Asiatic Lily

Netty’s Pride Asiatic Lily

Lilium x ‘Netty’s Pride’

  • Type: Bulb
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 4 to 8

On a recent garden tour, I encountered several unique Asiatic lilies with almost watercolor-like variations in their petals. The array of specimens ranged from bright orange lilies to dusty pink, but perhaps the most striking was the black-and-white ‘Netty’s Pride’ cultivar.

While most of the flowers on this list are predominantly white, Netty’s Pride is the complete opposite. Its reddish-black center is only partially bordered by splotches of crisp white at the tips of the petals.

In my experience, Asiatic lilies are generally unproblematic once established. The only issue I sometimes have is a lack of light causing the stems to stretch (though this doesn’t seem to impede flower production).

7. Amethyst Hibiscus

Amethyst Hibiscus

Hibiscus cannabinus ‘Amethyst’

  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 6 to 12

Also known as kenaf, this hardy hibiscus gets its Latin name from its close resemblance to cannabis. In areas where cannabis is illegal, some unwitting gardeners are actually alarmed by the leaves, thinking they’ve accidentally harbored an illicit plant!

Although this plant is 100% free of THC or any other cannabinoids, it has historically been used for fiber production (similar to industrial hemp). Varieties like ‘Amethyst’, however, are grown for their attractive flowers.

Amethyst hibiscus flowers measure up to 4 inches across and boast creamy white petals with purplish-black throats. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are just a few of the pollinators drawn to this plant.

8. Sappho Rhododendron

Sappho Rhododendron

Rhododendron x ‘Sappho’

  • Type: Evergreen shrub
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 5 to 8

The Sappho rhododendron is a hybrid of unknown origin. It has evergreen foliage and typically grows to about 6 feet tall at maturity, though this can take up to 10 years even in ideal conditions.

Rhododendron flowers can vary quite a bit from one variety to another. This plant has attractive, open blooms with white, slightly ruffled petals. Where the petals all meet is stained by a blotch of dark purple or black.

Sappho rhododendrons are more sun-tolerant than some varieties but also like light shade. Routine pruning is necessary to achieve a good overall shape, so be prepared for annual maintenance. According to Oregon State University, ‘Calsap’ is a new cultivar derived from this variety that has a better form and hardiness rating.

9. Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily

Calochortus spp.

  • Type: Bulb
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: Varies

The mariposa lily is a tulip- or goblet-shaped flower native to parts of western North America. There are about 40 species within the Calochortus genus, each with its own unique habitat, appearance, and growth form. 

Mariposa lilies are most commonly seen growing as wildflowers, though a few species are in cultivation. The most well-known example is the sego lily (C. nuttallii). The species most likely to have white flowers with black centers are the plain mariposa lily (C. invenustus).

While mariposa lilies will overwinter in warmer climates, cool-climate gardeners may need to dig up and store the bulbs in the fall. These plants require very similar maintenance to other spring bulbs.

10. White Swan Coneflower

White Swan Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea ‘Alba’

  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 3 to 9

The common coneflower is a rich shade of violet purple but many man-made cultivars and natural varieties have also appeared on the market. One such example is the White Swan coneflower, which boasts striking white petals.

The center of each coneflower usually starts out a shade of ochre yellow but gradually darkens as the seeds develop. Toward the end of the season, your coneflowers will have black centers surrounded by drooping white petals.

This unique coneflower is a wonderful companion plant and will add contrast to a pollinator garden or naturalized meadow. Butterflies and other insects love the flowers during the peak season, and small birds feed on the seeds from fall into winter.

11. Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera jamesonii

  • Type: Tender perennial
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 8 to 10

Gerbera daisies often boast colors so vibrant they almost look fake. Though bright shades of red, orange, and violet are most popular, you can also choose from more subdued hues like yellow or white.

This is one flower I like to use as filler because it is so easy to grow. You can easily start a whole bed of Gerbera daisies from seed but small transplants are also widely available and more or less affordable. Gerbera daisies range from annuals to short-lived perennials depending on the climate.

Most varieties of Gerbera daisy hit their peak in late summer and early fall. Use these flowers to extend your garden’s beauty (and feed local pollinators) well into the autumn months.

12. Obscure Morning Glory

Obscure Morning Glory

Ipomoea obscura

  • Type: Tender perennial
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 10 to 12

You’re unlikely to come across this morning glory species outside of tropical parts of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. Though far less common than other members of the family, the obscure morning glory is distinct with its shining white petals and purple or black throats.

The dark centers of the trumpet-shaped flowers are sometimes hard to see. You need to stare almost directly down the middle of a blossom to spot the black dot hiding at the bottom. 

Like other morning glories, this is a sprawling vine that will climb if given a trellis or other support. Obscure morning glories have been introduced to some areas as ornamentals but, at this time, are pretty rare outside of their natural habitats.

13. Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Black-Eyed Susan Vine

Thunbergia alata

  • Type: Tender perennial
  • Light Needs: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Range: 10 to 11

Not to be mistaken for the North American native also known as black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), this is a tropical vine commonly grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is a wonderful choice for a hanging basket or if you’re in need of a fast-growing vine to cover a trellis or porch railing.

The most popular variety of black-eyed Susan Vine has sunny yellow flowers with black centers. However, there are many other colors available, including a white version.

Black-eyed Susan vines can be kept as perennials in tropical and subtropical regions but typically only live a couple of years. The good news is that this flower readily self-sows its seeds and will happily take over a small garden bed.

14. White Buttercup

White Buttercup

Turnera subulata

  • Type: Tender perennial
  • Light Needs: Full sun
  • Hardiness Range: 9 to 11

Sometimes called white alder, this is not a buttercup at all but rather a relative of the passionflower (the tropical vine responsible for yummy passionfruit). 

White buttercups have white petals that transition to bright yellow toward the middle of the flower. The very center of each blossom is dark brown or black. Each plant produces two types of flowers — a trait known as floral polymorphism — but the only visible difference is the size of the styles (part of the female reproductive structure).

As white buttercups grow in popularity, you might see them featured in hanging baskets or loose border beds. Many pollinators are attracted to the high-contrast flowers as well.

FAQs

What type of flower is black and white?

The pansy is one of the most common plants with black and white flowers, although this is just one color combination pansies come in. Other popular black and white flowers you might come across include daisies, lilies, windflowers, and poppies.

Is there a true black flower?

Flowers can produce countless natural pigments. However, none of these pigments are true black. Instead, black flowers are actually very dark shades of purple or red that appear nearly black to the human eye. These undertones sometimes become more visible in certain light conditions.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.