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Viola 'BlackJack'

If you've been reading my garden blog for a while you may know how much I like to start plants from seeds and how much I like black flowers and plants. At one time I wanted a completely Gothic garden, I still do actually, but that hasn't come to pass. This year I started Viola 'Blackjack' from a pack of Burpee seeds and eagerly anticipated having these beautiful "black" blooms decorate the container garden. Now, I should mention for all the budding black plants enthusiasts out there that "black" plants and flowers are usually just a deep purple or blue. Sometimes, as in the case of Viola 'Blackjack,' there will be some color in the bloom.

Viola Blackjack flower, black flowers, Gothic gardening

This week, after what seems to be an eternity, the Viola 'Blackjack' seedlings have bloomed and I'm a little more excited about flowers than one grown man should be. Not a completely black flower, but pretty close and good enough for this wannabe Gothic gardener.

Blackjack viola flower, black flowers

A closer look at the velvety dark petals of 'Blackjack.' The center of the bloom is made up of blue, white and yellow.
Burpee seed pack viola blackjack, dark flowers, black gardens

The Burpee seed pack that my Viola 'Blackjack' seeds came in. Do the blooms on the package look like the blooms pictured above? Perhaps I'm just too persnickety when it comes to black flowers and plants, but the blooms on the picture don't look like the blooms I'm growing. First, the blooms on the Burpee seed pack look a lot darker than mine. Secondly, the blooms on the seed pack look larger and the plants, overall, more compact. Now the plants being more compact doesn't really bother me, I prefer flowers that extend beyond the foliage because they're easier to photograph. If you grow plants from seeds you should expect some variance from what's pictured on the seed pack. That being said, 'Blackjack' doesn't really look like the picture at all. 'Blackjack' looks surprisingly similar to the 'Bowles Black' viola I grew from seed a couple of years ago.

An internet search for Viola 'Blackjack' will lead you to Burpee's website where this viola is no longer available so the only reference I have is the seed pack art. Cook's Garden, also owned by Burpee, has a page for Viola 'Blackjack' but the picture is obviously Viola tricolor.

Growing Viola 'Blackjack'

I sowed my viola seeds in early April because viola seeds germinate better in cool conditions. The instructions on the seed pack say to sow them in full sun to part shade and sprinkle them with 1/4" of fine soil and to keep the seeds evenly moist. Instead of covering the seeds, which are tiny, with soil I covered them with a thin layer of coconut coir, which stayed moist longer.

viola blackjack sprouts

Here is a photo of my Viola 'Blackjack' seeds after they sprouted. On the left is a lone cotyledon and on the right a row of violas showing their first set of true leaves. While the instructions say to sow the seeds in full sun, I don't think that's the best location for these seedlings as they develop. I sowed two pots of 'Blackjack' seeds and they remained pretty much as pictured above for about two months.

viola blackjack leaves

As the container garden on my deck grew this spring the seedlings found themselves shaded and all of a sudden they started to leaf out and are now in bloom.

Another photo with my index finger to provide scale so you can see how small the blooms are. Also, notice how the coloring is different than the blooms pictured above. Sometimes companies will Photoshop dark blooms to make them darker. I'm not saying that this is what Burpee did for the art on the cover of their seed packet, just a general observation. Blooms and plants will also look different depending on the amount of sunlight that is hitting a bloom or leaf. The pictures of the viola at the top of this post were taken on a sunny day while the photo of this bloom were taken on a cloudy day.

While Viola 'Blackjack' is not as dark as advertised the color is dark enough that I would recommend growing it in a garden of black plants and flowers.


  1. I really do like that color. Violas seem to last longer for me than pansies when the hot weather hits. Do you think they will be selling this in the nursery? As I type this my plant lights are out by the garbage. They were four foot ones and I do not have room to set them up in this house. I had three sets of these and used to grow a lot of plants from seed.

    I am going to have to look for a small free standing set up.


  2. While buying perfectly practical things at HD the other day, a really sweet Viola 'Black Magic' SOMEhow jumped into my cart. I just deadheaded all the blooms, so the link isn't my own photo. But the flowers really ARE black, with a tiny yellow/blue center. I can save you seeds but dunno if they'd be true to the parent.

  3. Those would look really good in my big blue porch pot. Something to remember for next year...

    Too funny about being more excited about flowers than any one grown man should be :-)

  4. In their defense, viola flowers change a lot depending on temperature. I bet they'll get bigger (and maybe even darker) when it cools down in the fall.

  5. I never completely trust cover art. Even if the photographer or artist is true to the plant they are presenting there can be alot of variation between individual plants... The packet art and the real flower do look somewhat different in this case.

    That said this viola should still be great for a gothic garden :) After all some color will sneak in somehow besides the green foliage. If there must be color then blue and purple would suit gothic much better than red or orange...well maybe a few hints of red too...

  6. Those look pretty cool!

  7. @Gatsby,

    I don't know if this one will be currently available at a nursery. From checking out the Burpee website it looks like they don't carry this viola any more and info on it that I've found is from '07.


    OMG!!!! Viola 'Black Magic' is beautiful! Try to save seeds and see what happens. I've been wanting to pollinate Viola 'Blackjack' but I don't have a brush small enough.


    Check your local Lowes because that's where I bought my Viola 'Blackjack' seeds. :0)


    True, I'm wondering how they'll look later this fall or how they would look if I moved them to a shadier spot than they are in now.

    @Mary C,

    I usually don't mind some variance in the real bloom to the cover art of seed packets because I know things like lighting, angles and cameras represent colors differently. For example; in the first photo if you look at the viola in the background you'll see the center looks a lot bluer than the one in the foreground. I didn't do anything to the bloom in the foreground to make it look "darker."


    Don't they? They're my favorite flower right now.

  8. Don't forget - the more sun the flowers get, the blacker they go. It could be that the ones on the packet had almost constant sunshine, hence the blackness of the black. :)

  9. Thats a gorgeous flower! I love the deep purple/black flowers myself, and try to introduce them where I can. They make for great contrast plantings! I love the idea of a Gothic garden... Hey my hair was black once ;)

  10. They're pretty! I've never tried growing them from seeds. We have Johnny jump-ups seeding themselves around our garden. They're sweet, (and tiny,) but I really love the striking color of 'Blackjack.'

  11. MBT - I like these violas a lot, but that's not why I am writing.

    On your advice - sort of - I planted some Four O'Clock seeds and I have five or six plants coming up. I did everything wrong. Planted them straight in the ground and then pretty much ignored them and let nature take her course.

    So excited! I've not ever even seen them live - only pictures. Will keep you posted.

  12. This is one gorgeous dark bloom, Mr. GT!!! Just about as perfect as they come!!! Awesome!

  13. Violas are sweet little flowers, even when the color tends toward the gothy side. The one you've grown just begs to be touched.

  14. What an incredible blossom. I am not at all familiar with this plant, but it sounds like one I would like to get to know better.

  15. Very good looking flowers!
    I'll try to see if I can found any of the 'Black' familly here in the portuguese garden centers!!

    The idea of a Gothic Garden with black flowers is great!!

  16. Beautiful! I planted some this year (not by seed) and I really love their little faces smiling at me while I water. Noticed the little seed pods too after bloom died - thinking about planting by seed with them. Yours are lovely.

  17. Very nice Mr. BT! You know, I bet you could get them to look like the package if you set up soem lighting differently, or airbrushed the photo, or just talked to them and told them how hot and lovely and perfect they were....

  18. Today at Matthaei, I noticed some black (really dark purple) Viola, which they labeled 'Black Magic'--the thing is, they look like your 'Black Jack,' not my 'Black Magic'! Will call and ask them. (Um, about their label, not your plant, lol.)

  19. @Georgy,

    That's true but now that I have 'Blackjack' viola are blooming they're pretty much in full sun. Haven't noticed much of a difference in color.


    Thanks. I wish I was better at picking colors because I've plant some nice combos. But I seem to stick to darker blooms.


    I need to plant some Johnny jump-ups. As a matter of fact I left a bare square in the garden just for them but have forgotten to plant or buy any. I'll have to fix that soon.


    That's funny, I have some growing, too! Good thing too because the spot I used to collect them at has been paved over and turned into a parking lot. Now I have some growing!


    Glad you liked it.


    That they do. They look so velvety that I often find myself just touching the blooms.

    @Ann Flowers,

    You should, the blooms are really charming.

    @Jose Santos,

    I hope you can find some, every gardener should grow a black flower or two.

    @And Sow My Garden Grows,

    I hope mine develop seed pods too! Hope you manage to collect seeds from your violas.


    LOL! Funny I had sort of the same idea the other day. I was reading The Secret Life of Plants and wondered if I could coax them into looking darker by talking or threatening them.


    Please let me know what they say. I'm curious.

  20. I asked the horticulturist who told me she was too busy to look into it (ah, Matthaei). But based on the fact that your seed packet looks like your flowers, and my plant tag looks like my flowers, I'll assume the Matthaei one was mislabeled and really is a Black Jack.

  21. Crikey, is there an award for most comments on one post?! I head back from someone else at Matthaei--she says they did at one point plant 'Black Magic' but all violas there now are self sown seedlings she thinks may have cross bred with other violas, but she didn't say which ones. I guess it makes sense the centers get bigger if they crossbred, or even if they're not true to one of their parents, which was likely 'Black Jack.'

  22. This is a wonderful shot... It is a trick to get the black to look it's true best when taking photos. YOU DID a great job capturing. MY SEEDs didn't come up in the spring. I am going to try this variety again. YOUR image inspires me!

  23. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Hi let me first say I am an amature. :) I have heard many different things about the violas being annual vs perennial. Can you give me any info on the blackjacks? I am having a hard time finding black perenials. Oh I am in zone 8. Thanks!

  24. Anonymous, There's a lot of conflicting info on the web so I can see how you'd be confused. Violas are suppose to be closer to perennials than the others in the Viola genus. In your Zone they'd probably be perennials if they can survive the summer heat, but in my Zone (Z5) they're an annual.



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