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Cimicifuga (cim-eh-SIFF-you-gah, cim-eh-siff-YOU-gah)

Common Name:  Bugbane, black snakeroot

Light:  - Part shade to full shade

Soil:  Humus-rich, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Consistently moist in growth, slightly dry while dormant

Blooms:  Late summer and fall

Zones:  (3) 4 - 8


Cimicifuga atropurpurea (cimicifuga)
Cimicifuga 'Atropurpurea'
cimicifuga brunette (cimicifuga)
Cimicifuga 'Brunette'

Cimicifuga Description and Cultural Information

In recent years it was determined that Cimicifuga and Actaea plants share the same genetic structure and Cimicifuga was combined into the genus Actaea. However, because the two plants vary in their bloom structure, flowering time, and type of seed capsule we have decided to keep them separate to easier distinguish between the two plants.

Cimicifuga acerina, bugbane. 3 - 4'. This plant has handsome, maple-like leaves and pure-white bottle-brush flowers on upright or arching spikes. Zones 4 - 8.

Cimicifuga racemosa, black snakeroot. 5 - 7'. This regal plant has beautiful divided foliage with very tall, branching spikes of creamy bottle-brush flowers in summer. Zones 3 - 8.

Cimicifuga simplex, Kamchatka bugbane. 3 - 6'. This species is one of the last to bloom late in the fall. The variety 'White Pearl' has pale green, palm-shaped leaves and 3 - 4' white flower spikes. The good thing about these late flowering plants is that they are not affected by light frost that is common in October and November and continue to bloom until a hard freeze. Zones 4 - 8.

Cimicifuga simplex var. ramosa, black snakeroot. 4 - 5'. This variety blooms in September. It has large, divided leaves forming an impressive mound above which arise tall, branching, white or creamy white flower spikes. 'Hillside Black Beauty' PP#9988 has very dark purplish-black foliage and white flowers with a tinge of pink, however it tends to be somewhat slow growing. 'Atropurpurea' has attractive purple tinted foliage in the spring turning green later with dark stems and ivory white flowers in late summer. 'Brunette' is often listed as being identical to 'Atropurpurea' but actually has darker foliage that stays dark most of the season. Zones 4 - 8.

How to Grow:  Bugbane prefers moist, deeply rich, humusy soil in part to full shade. Plants will tolerate some sun if grown in a cool location with plenty of moisture but may wilt often. When planting crowns they should be completely buried about 1 to 2" below the soil and mulched lightly. Dormant plants prefer to be rather dry but then they like frequent water after they are fully leafed out and actively growing. The crowns multiply somewhat slowly so it is usually best to plant them in small groups for the best effect. Propagate in fall by division, keeping them dry after replanting, or by sowing fresh seed outdoors. Propagation could also be done in early spring but they emerge very early so divide just as the soil warms and be careful not to damage the new shoots.

Landscape uses:  Bugbane provides a beautiful vertical accent in the partially shaded garden along with hostas, ferns, grasses, and shrubs. Other attractive flowering companions include Actonium (monkshood), Tricyrtis (toad lilies), Japanese anemones, and Dendranthema (hardy mums).

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