Actaea simplex ‘Black Negligee’


Flowers: August-October. Plant in moist part shade. HxS 2mx1m

A very dark, almost black-leaved form with pink budded, white flowers in late summer as other plants are fading. It can grow to 2m in flower, given ideal conditions, and provides a great vertical accent in rich fertile soil. Scent is just an added bonus! Organically grown in peat free compost. Pest and disease resistant and does not require staking. Formerly a member of the Cimicifuga family but now moved into Actaea. Most of the Actaea simplex hybrids are slow growing and take a few years to reach maturity. They are best ordered in spring as they are a devil to ship in late summer and we have to cut them back.

Care & Maintenance.

Divide with care in spring as the plants are not too tolerant of disturbance. Easy to grow and maintenance free. *CAUTION: Poisonous if ingested.

Categories: A – Z Perennial Plants, Shade and Woodland Plants Tags: disease resistant, perennial plant, pest resistant, pollinator plant, scented plant, shade plant, woodland plant

Black Negligee Bugbane foliage

Black Negligee Bugbane foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Black Negligee Bugbane

Black Negligee Bugbane

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Plant Height: 3 feet

Flower Height: 5 feet

Spread: 3 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4a

Other Names: Black Snakeroot, Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa

Ornamental Features

Black Negligee Bugbane features bold spikes of fragrant white flowers with shell pink overtones rising above the foliage from mid to late summer. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its attractive deeply cut ferny compound leaves emerge dark green in spring, turning deep purple in color throughout the season. The brown fruits are carried on spikes from late summer to late winter. The deep purple stems are very colorful and add to the overall interest of the plant.

Landscape Attributes

Black Negligee Bugbane is an herbaceous perennial with tall flower stalks held atop a low mound of foliage. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Black Negligee Bugbane is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Black Negligee Bugbane will grow to be about 3 feet tall at maturity extending to 5 feet tall with the flowers, with a spread of 3 feet. It tends to be leggy, with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and should be underplanted with lower-growing perennials. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This plant performs well in both full sun and full shade. It prefers to grow in moist to wet soil, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This is a selection of a native North American species. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Black Negligee Bugbane is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a ‘thriller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Call it bugbane or call it actaea, Black Negligee is one sexy plant with dark foliage and late summer flowers. Credit: Terra Nova Nurseries

Some plants – some very garden-worthy plants – cry out for a public relations team. While they include any number of handsome species, the worts and banes are a case in point.

Worts are generally believed to be beneficial (woundwort, lungwort) and banes are generally repellent or downright poisonous (wolfbane, henbane). The plant known as bugbane does have insect repellant properties, but is mostly grown for its striking foliage and fragrant, wand-like flower appearing in August and September.

In proper Latin nomenclature, this is the plant formerly known as Cimicifuga, more recently transferred to the genus Actaea. I ask you – are the taxonomists doing us any favors here? Stick with bugbane and look for purple-leaf types like Black Negligee, which has especially fine and lacy foliage.

This is a plant that makes a substantial clump up to 48 inches tall and 60 inches wide and can take full sun providing soil is kept moist. The flowers smell like grape soda, for what that’s worth. And perhaps needless to say, the bugs don’t bother it. Black Negligee was bred by Terra Nova Nurseries, an Oregon wholesaler; find retail and mail order sources on the website,

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