Many people are drawn to dark flowers for many reasons.
Black is an unusual color for flowers to produce, and such a dark shade displayed on some of the most ornate, or even delicate blooms provides a really captivating contrast in a flower.
Black flowers hold a mystery that’s unparalleled in flowers of other colors, and the almost Gothic undertones play off exquisitely against flowers, which are so symbolic of life and the best nature can offer.
Combining this with one of the most widely-admired flowers, the idea of a black rose is irresistible.
But does the black rose really exist? Can it grow naturally, without having to be sprayed or dyed?
Read on to find out.
The Black Rose: Origin and History
In 2013, a video went viral of a seemingly back rose that grew in Halfeti, Turkey. It’s believed that these roses – which are called kara gül – start off as a deep red, and turn a velvety black because of the properties in the soil.
When others have tried to grow this rose in soil elsewhere, the bloom is red. The black color brought out in a kara gül rose is believed to come from the pH of the soil in Halfeti.
And although this is a nice story, you have to wonder where the science is.
What exactly turns these roses black? What is it about the pH that is different from the rest of the world?
Why haven’t black roses grown in other countries? Do these colors form naturally, or are they ‘made’ to be black?
It definitely raises more questions than answers.
How the Black Rose Got its Color
Unfortunately, truly black flowers are impossible in nature.
What looks to be a beautiful black bloom, and what we regularly refer to as black flowers are often very dark purple, red, or brown.
While we can create very dark roses that appear to be black, we haven’t found a way yet to grow a truly black rose, just the same as we can’t yet grow a truly blue rose (see also Blue Rose: Origins, Meanings, and Facts).
Below you’ll find a list of nearly-black roses, which are no less beautiful for not being truly black. They’re captivating all on their own.
People have also applied black dye to roses, which is also covered further on.
Black roses have always been a captivating idea, and it’s a dream held by many rose breeders and those in the floriculture industry.
They’re a gift that holds a lot of impact for any occasion, but the color is an illusion.
Through the hard work and dedication of renowned rose breeders, there have been some truly stunning varieties of roses developed that resemble black blooms, and come in shades of red and purple.
Rosa ‘Black Baccara’
Originally bred for the cut flower market, this is a special rose with velvety, chocolate-maroon flowers that fade into blood-red blooms as they mature.
It’s a hybrid tea rose, a cross created from Rosa ‘Celica’ and Rosa ‘Fuego Negro’.
Though these lovely blooms are unscented, this is a plant that will provide a lot of interest, and is perfect as a choice for a cut garden.
Rosa ‘Black Beauty’
Bred by Delbard in 1973, this rose was originally designed to be grown in rose beds as hybrid tea roses often are.
It’s not the most reliable variety of the hybrid tea rose, but it provides a stunning look to any garden. The roses themselves are a rich crimson, turning a dark, velvety black on the reverse of the petals.
It grows up to 4 feet high, and spreads to 3 feet, and needs full sun. It also has a pleasantly light scent.
Rosa ‘Black Jade’
A miniature rose, ‘Black Jade’ grows well as an indoor plant to start with. As it gets established, it will need to be moved outside, as roses fare better outside.
This one was introduced into the US by Frank Benardella in 1985.
You can recognize ‘Black Jade’ by its very dark red blooms, contrasting well against the dark green, glossy leaves.
If you have a small garden, or even a rock garden, this rose is a good choice, as it stays compact but no less beautiful than taller roses.
A hybrid tea rose, ‘Nigrette’ is also known as the ‘Black Rose of Sangerhausen’. It was bred in 1934 by Krause, which makes it one of the oldest nearly-black cultivars on this list.
The flowers are dark red, and grow to an impressive 3 inches in diameter, and carry a strong fragrance. The plant itself grows as tall as 3 feet, and it needs full sun in order to grow well.
Also known as ‘Barkarole’ and ‘Grand Chateau’ this hybrid tea rose produces dark red flowers which appear at the top of the plant, and has a light scent.
The flowers themselves grow to 5 inches in diameter, making them a perfect choice for cut flowers, and floral displays within your garden. In the right conditions, the plant can reach up to 6 feet tall.
It’s also nearly to fully thornless, which makes it a good option for somewhere you frequently walk past!
It was bred in 1988 by Evers and Tantau.
Rosa ‘Ebb Tide’
The only floribunda rose on this list, ‘Ebb Tide’ features smoky purple blooms which can appear black in the right light. The flowers themselves have an old-fashioned rose appearance, and a gorgeously spicy fragrance.
It can reach up to 3 feet high, and was introduced to the rose market in 2001.
Breeding roses is difficult, and it can yield unexpected results which have no obvious reason for them.
It takes years to get the process right, and it takes a long time to even know if the crossbreed is successful.
Conditions can affect the color of roses, and how ‘deep’ the color turns, dictated by temperature and light levels.
Many people want a shortcut to the elusive black rose, and that’s where dye comes in.
Roses have been dyed for many years, probably for as long as they’ve been grown to be sold.
Florists have mastered the art of dyeing plants, making any color they wish look as though the plant has grown that color.
Some techniques are easy enough not to require anything special, making it very easy for people to dye flowers at home with just a few ingredients.
Also known as airbrushing or spray-painting, this method doesn’t require waiting for the plant to absorb the color – it’s immediately applied.
These sprays come in a kaleidoscope of color, and though they tend to be heavy, they don’t normally harm the flowers.
Flowers can also be dip dyed, where only the flowers are submerged in a blend of food coloring and water to dye them black. After, they are hung to dry.
Instead of simply dipping white roses, the dye can also be absorbed. If you’ve ever seen celery absorb the pigment from food coloring, you’ll know what this method is!
The dye mixture is put into a container, and the freshly cut roses are put in it. The stem absorbs the water like it usually would as a cut flower, and the color seeps into the petals.
The longer you leave the stems in the water, the better the color will be.
While the darker roses aren’t always available as cut flowers, dyed black roses are available pretty much in any florist. You can also have a go at doing this yourself – there’s plenty of DIY tutorials online.
Some places do offer preserved black roses, which are colored by a conditioned alcohol-based system, which helps them to maintain their fragrance, and they can last much longer than conventionally-dyed roses.
Some people have even found a way to burn the flowers of a rose in order to turn them black, but this is a much more destructive method that will more than likely give unpredictable results, and the flowers won’t last.
The Meaning and Symbolism Behind the Black Rose
What does a black rose mean as a gift? Have you ever been given one of these black beauties?
Like the blue rose, while it’s not available as a natural flower just yet, that doesn’t mean there’s not a weighty symbolism behind its color.
In the Victorian language of flowers, the black rose has an unfortunate and grim reputation. It points to grief, hatred, or even death. It’s often a color used at funerals.
In Ancient Rome, it was a symbol of power and strength, as well as love which ends tragically.
Black roses can suggest the end of a big chapter in your life, only to make room for a new one, where there’s all the possibility that things will be much better than they are now.
In literature, television, film, and music, black roses have featured for a very long time. The most common symbolism are the darker sentiments: danger, sorrow, revenge, or death.
The black rose can also represent a very deep connection between two people, a relationship bordering on obsession.
Giving someone a black rose indicates a love so profound that you’d do anything for them, even if it went against everything you have ever believed in. It’s a solemn, weighty promise.
But like all flower symbolism, black roses leave room for interpretation.
One thing is certain – the journey of creating a truly black rose is one of devotion and maybe even obsession, adding a new wealth of meaning to the elusive black rose.