Black-leaved cotton—generally known by the botanical name Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’ or ‘Nigra’—produces near-black foliage and months of hibiscus-like, deep pink to pink-blushed white flowers that are followed by near-black bolls (pods) filled with white fibers. The upright, branching plants usually reach 18 to 36 inches tall. Black-leaved cotton thrives in full sun and rich soil with regular watering. Generally grown as an annual, it’s a dramatic foliage accent in the garden and fantastic in containers! Full sun for best growth.
A few people have asked me why these seeds are so expensive, and why I usually have only one packet available at a time. Here in southeastern Pennsylvania, I have a 50/50 chance of getting maybe a dozen seeds per plant to fully ripen before frost if I grow them outdoors. So, I grow my black-leaved cotton in large pots in my small greenhouse. It gives me a somewhat protected spot for six or seven plants, but it’s not heated, so cold weather can still slow seed production after mid-September. As I don’t want to sell seeds that I’m not confident are mature, my yearly supply is very limited. I would like to get these seeds into the hands of as many gardeners as possible, so I prefer to sell only one packet to each customer. If you try to place an order and it says I am sold out, feel free to contact me here on Etsy or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if I have any left.
Don’t want to spend the money on these? Consider Googling “red-foliated cotton” or “Gossypium hirsutum Red Foliated”; a few sources sell that strain. In 2018, I grew that one too, in the same conditions as ‘Nigrum’. They looked similar at first, but the ‘Red-Foliated’ plants had larger leaves and grew more quickly than ‘Nigrum’. Though they were indeed darkish—ranging from red-tinged green to dark reddish purple—the ‘Red-Foliated’ leaves were not as dark as the near-black of ‘Nigrum’. It still makes a nice show, though, so take it under consideration.
If you do grow out these seeds of Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’ and are able to harvest some next fall, I encourage you to share them with friends or seed exchanges. I have no idea why larger-scale growers have not picked up on the demand for them; it’s not as if the plants are difficult to grow, or to get seed from in warm climates. But as the seeds of this strain are so scarce, they need to be shared as widely as possible.
Speaking of seed exchanges…that’s where my original seeds came from many years ago, labeled with the name Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigra’. I have never understood why the strain name would end in “a” (a feminine suffix) when both the genus name and specific epithet are neuter gender, so I’ve drifted into using ‘Nigrum’ instead. If you want to explain to me why ‘Nigra’ is indeed correct, please do contact me; I’m all ears.
Please note that I cannot ship cotton seeds to California, Georgia, or South Carolina, per USDA regulations. It’s possible that they may also be restricted elsewhere; I encourage you to check into your state’s restrictions before ordering.
Harvested in September 2020. At least 6 seeds.