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Bugged by Bugbane or How a Perennial Has Made me Feel Like a Newbie Gardener. I placed an opening order last season with my supplier, I asked him to include two pots of any perennial that was new to the market. My only criterion was that it be tall. He sent me Bugbane! [How I hate that name!] This part – shade perennial was once called Cimicifuga in Latin. Now, high tech genealogical studies have convinced botanists to rename it Actaea.

The cultivar I received, Actaea ramosa Pink Spike, is a part-shade perennial. What makes it different from the other Actaea, which I had eschewed for many years, is its color. It blooms in pale pink rather than in white and I expect that in a full shade garden, its pale coloration will improve. This plant grows to an impressive height of 48 inches, and provides subtle color to the autumn garden, especially at a time when summer perennials have waned. I find fascinating about this plant is how rarely I see it used in partial - shade gardens. Could it be that it is shunned because it is a magnet for flies or other bugs? Actaea are clump – forming architectural plants with broad, textural leaves that produce bottle - brush type blooms. Online research indicates that the blooms remain upright when they flower but bend like a swan’s neck as they age. The bronze - purple color of this variety’s foliage helps to both enhance the pale pink shade of the flower and to provide polite drama for the flower bed. Because the perennial is a magnet for bugs, hence its name, it is best to plant it as far away as possible from doors and from windows that remain open.

actaea ramosa pink spike bloms bulbs.comPink Spike will make a substantial statement on its own, even when newly planted, because its height, shape, form, texture, and leaf coloration are impressive. Nevertheless, I would prefer not to grow it as a specimen. I like it best in a composition of several of the same plant or placed among other partial – shade perennials that have ceased blooming. The interplay between its foliage and that of other plants adds visual interest to the garden. was a mistake to allow the two Actaea plants I received to remain in their pots for as long as they did. By the time they were planted, they were spent. The one in my garden appeared to be alive in autumn, but the other one, planted in a client’s garden, will have to be replaced. When it died last September, I imagined that it might have become dehydrated by remaining pot – bound for so long or that it might have gone dormant early. I will only have a true explanation in a few weeks from now when most perennials revive. At this moment, I have not yet accumulated any understanding about the plant’s characteristics. In that respect I am a newbie; growing Bugbane is a new learning experience.

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Reader Comments (4)

Our native Cimicifuga (I refuse to switch to Actaea) racemosa has the common name black cohosh. C. ramosa also has the common name black snakeroot, which is preferable to bugbane. You don't see them much because they are hard to find and expensive when you do find them.

I had this plant at my last home under the old name. I love the dark leaves of this one with the pinkish flowers.


April 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

DON'T DIG THEM OUT IF THEY APPEAR DEAD! I don't seem to have a green thumb for several flora so tho not surprised the snakeroots I planted in their optimum prep and conditions both at my daughter's house and my own they struggled several weeks then disappeared. To our joy the second year they resurrected!

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

Butterflies like it but bugbane's smell is said to repel bugs, not attract. The clue is in the definition of the word 'bane.'

June 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

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