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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: Halloween calls for planting black plants

These three black perennials are perfect to plant

These three black perennials are perfect to plant for Halloween. Photo Credit: Walter's Gardens

Halloween is coming, and you'll likely have a stockpile of candy waiting by the door and a jack-o'-lantern on the porch, but is your garden ready?

It's interesting how in March we can't wait to greet pastel tulips and brightly hued daffodils after a long, dreary winter leaves us feeling deprived of warmth and desperate for color. But come October, we'll have none of it. It's rust-colored mums and burgundy sedums we crave. And now that the spookiest of days is approaching, nothing would make the garden more appealing to visiting treat-seekers than the addition of some black plants. The best part is you don't need to overhaul the whole garden to be seasonally correct. Adding just a few showstopping eye-catchers will do the trick.

Here are five of my favorite black plants for beds and containers.

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens')

Small ornamental grass that grows one foot tall and wide. Performs best in full sun to part shade, and works in containers, beds and, when planted en masse, as a ground cover.

Coral bells (Heuchera 'Obsidian')

Perennial with maroon stems and nearly black leaves. Grows 1-2 feet tall with a 1-foot spread. Can tolerate full sun to part shade, but for the best color, plant in sunny spots with some partial afternoon shade.

Orange and black pansies (Violax wittrockiana)

Plant individually or in combination for a dramatic holiday presentation. Good for beds as well as containers. Grows 6-8 inches tall with a similar spread. Best in full sun to partial shade, and will bloom in fall and return in spring.

Black snakeroot (Cimicifuga ramosa 'James Compton')

Also known as black bugbane, this perennial grows 3 feet tall with a 2-foot spread. Plant in full sun for the deepest color. As a bonus, "snake" flowers bloom in autumn, just when you need them most.

Black rose (Aeonium 'Zwartkop')

Succulent treated as an annual in New York. Can grow up to 10 inches tall and wide in a rosette shape. Thrives in full sun to part shade.

For more suggestions, pick up "Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden," by Paul Bonin (Timber Press/$14.95).

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