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22.7.11

Petunia 'Black Cat' The World's First Black Petunia

I have loved black plants since I discovered gardening. More time has been spent day dreaming of being a Victorian or Edwardian gardener than I care to admit. If last year you had given me access to a TARDIS and allowed me to go back in time and experience gardening then- I would have jumped at the chance. It's a good thing that nobody showed up with a TARDIS last year because I would've missed out on the opportunity to grow petunia 'Black Cat,' billed as "the world's very first black petunia" by W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Black Cat Petunias by Burpee Seed Company


Earlier this spring Burpee sent me a box of three free petunia 'Black Cat' plants to grow in my garden. After acclimating the plants and placing them in the container garden I noticed that they looked more purple than black when they started blooming. I chalked this up to a mistake in shipping or labeling, but was happy enough with the free plant samples. Some things had to be moved around the porch garden and I moved the petunias purported to be 'Black Cat' to a spot where they got shade from the harsh full sun of the porch garden.

Black Cat Petunia, Burpee


The subsequent blooms of petunia 'Black Cat' began to unfurl and they were black. Like, really, really black. Wow, they have indeed bred the world's first black flowering petunia.

Petunia Black Cat, black garden flower

Here's another 'Black Cat' flower produced when I moved them to get more shade. Do the hues of these two flowers look darker than the picture at the top to you? Once again I moved the plants to full sun and noticed that they were again producing blooms that looked more purple. So I contacted Burpee and asked if it was my imagination.

"I have noticed also that the color sometimes appears to be deep purple, but on my observations it happened in low light, and they are more visible on the back side of the petals," says Venelin G. Dimitrov, Buyer/Product Manager- Flower Seed W. Atlee Burpee & Co. 

I agree with Mr. Dimitrov that the purple coloring is more noticeable on the back side of the petals, but in my observation it has happened when I exposed the plants to full sun. Not a big deal really, I just find this interesting.

Petunia 'Phantom' Petunia 'Black Cat'

This week a heatwave hit Chicago and some of my 'Black Cat' petunias started to display the yellow streak in the leaves that's characteristic of petunia 'Phantom.' I guess there's some 'Phantom' in the lineage of 'Black Cat.' Also note how the underside of the leaves is a lot more purple than the pictures above.

Petunia 'Phantom'
Petunia 'Phantom' at the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show
Again I turned to Burpee for insight into the yellow streak developing in my 'Black Cat' blooms.

"We also noticed that some yellow will appear, but that happens only when the plants are stressed by heat or lack of water. Variations are common in new colors," says Dimitrov. "I will observe the plants this summer, through future selection this reverse will be avoided completely." 

I wasn't really surprised by 'Black Cat' reverting, I'd read reports by other gardeners online and was expecting it to happen with my black flowers too. Can you imagine turning into your parents when you're under stress? Genetics are a strange and wonderful thing.

Petunia 'Black Cat' certainly is the blackest flower I've ever seen in person, I have to feel bad for all those Victorian and Edwardian gardeners who dreamt of black flowers like this and never got to experience them. Whether you're a Goth gardener or are just looking for an interesting annual to add to your garden I can't recommend petunia 'Black Cat' enough. It has blended well with every color I've paired it up with in the container gardens this year. You may come across petunia 'Black Velvet' in catalogs or at the garden centers, it is the same petunia as 'Black Cat' sold by W. Atlee Burpee & Co. This batch of black petunias where developed by Jianping Ren at Ball Colegrave in the UK, which is part of the Ball Horticultural Company based in West Chicago, Illinois., by crossing various petunias until the dark color was achieved.

TL;DR Burpee's petunia 'Black Cat' really is the world's first black petunia, may revert to petunia 'Phantom' due to heat or lack of water; is the same petunia as 'Black Velvet' sold by the Ball Horticultural Company. I'll still take a ride in a TARDIS though.

11 comments:

  1. This is quite lovely - I really love black flowers, they pair perfectly with the chartreuse flowers that I tend to gravitate towards. I'll have to look for this next year as it would be quite lovely on my front porch.

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  2. Those are amazing!!!! I love them - very striking!

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  3. So very lovely! ♥

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  4. Very striking! I saw some at the Cantigny Idea garden, but not nearly as lovely as yours.

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  5. Hi MBT,

    As I have stated previously I am not a big fan of dark flowers. They put me in a situation where I don't know what to pair them with to best advantage. I have a very dark daylily and even though it looks mysterious I am on a mission to put it with another daylily that is complimentary.

    Your oranges look great with Black Cat which I did see in the Burpee catalog this year. I know I could do something with this color in my fall containers.

    Eileen

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  6. It's like black velvet - very pretty! And, yes, under stress I immediately turn into dear old ma! It's genetics.

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  7. I grew this black petunia last year...I did notice that pretty quickly it got the yellow streaks in the center. It was a pretty cool plant, but I wish it would stay truly black. I tend not to get many petunias anymore, because they don't tend to look very good if you slip on the watering, even once...not very forgiving in the looks department.

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  8. My first impression on you upon reading the "Hello" message above is that you are very friendly. Thank you for the guidelines and for the link of your other site.

    By the way, this is my first time to see a black cat flower. I'm amazed how beautiful it is. I love it.

    Lisa from video-guitar-lessons-personal-teacher

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  9. They're gorgeous! Flowers like these make me envy gardeners with full sun!

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  10. If you like black flowers in your garden, Mr. Brown Thumb, you'd probably enjoy Ophipogon planiscapus (Black Mondo Grass). I have this perennial in my urban terrace garden in New York City and have featured it in a few of my blog posts including one which you may refer to by going to this link:
    http://thelastleafgardener.blogspot.com/2011/05/monday-morning-musings-challenging.html

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  11. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Thanks. I received my free seeds today. Looking forward to watching them grow. Are yours perennial?

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