actaea

In spring, while pastel colored ephemerals dominate gardens around the city, Actaeas are beginning to emerge from dormancy. Varieties with jet black foliage provide excellent color contrast for other early blooming shade beauties.

In May and June, many gardens have reached their peak of bloom, while Acteas have filled in with lacy foliage in the background. Then in July, when it is becoming difficult to find flowers in shady areas, long spikes of fragrant white flowers which glow shockingly bright and seem to float in midair. The return of cool weather brings drying seed heads, their spiky outline still visible.

Black foliaged varieties are even darker when grown in full sun (with adequate water). Into the fall their foliage, black, and reliable as ever, lends beauty to late season interest plants such as Fuchsias, Aconitum, and grasses.

Green foliage varieties are less tolerant of hot sun, but continue to add height and texture to shade gardens until November. They combine well with hostas, calla lilies and black mondo grass.

Did you know? Bugbanes have recently been reclassified from Cimicifuga to Actaea. However they have been classified, they have been admired for many decades. Native Americans used Actaea racemosa (Black Cohosh) for snake bites, and it continues to be used in modern herbal medicine for a variety of ailments.

A few varieties you can find at Portland Nursery:

Actaea racemosa 'Atropurpurea'

Actaea racemosa Black Cohosh

White flower spikes July-August, grows 5-7’ tall by 24” wide. Zones 3-8.

Actaea racemosa 'Atropurpurea'

Actaea racemosa 'Atropurpurea'

Of the purple leaf cultivars, this is the least purple (more like bronze) and the tallest at 5-6'.

Actaea racemosa 'Brunette'

Actaea racemosa 'Brunette'

Darker foliage than ‘Atropurpurea’ but not as dark as ‘Hillside Black Beauty.’It still provides stunning foliage contrast. Occasional pink flowers instead of the usual white. 4-6’ tall.


Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'

Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'

The darkest-leaf and shortest selection of A. racemosa, one plant is a feature with glowing white blooms atop black leaves. Grows 3-5’ tall.


Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee'

Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee' - Black Bugbane

Selections of A. spicata have more pleasantly fragrant flowers. Aside from fragrance, ‘Black Negligée’ is very similar to ‘Hillside Black Beauty.’ Grows 4-5’ tall.


Actaea simplex 'Pink Spike'

A newer variety with fragrant pink flowers in late summer to early fall. Stunning dark foliage contrasts well with flower spikes and other plants in the garden. Grows 3-5' tall 24" wide in part sun. Hardy to zone 4.

Actaea matsumurae 'White Pearl'

Actaea matsumurae 'White Pearl'

Very free flowering green leafed white flowered selection. Decorative (but very poisonous) black berries follow the flowers. A. simplex ‘White Pearl’ was recently reclassifed as A. matsumurae ‘White Pearl’.

Actaea elata 'Western Bugbane'

Actaea elata 'Western Bugbane'

Vigorous and more tolerant of drought than other species, green leaf, white flower, grows 3-7’ tall and 3’ wide. See our feature on this native Actaea

Acataea pachypoda
Actaea pachypoda 'Doll’s Eyes' (Bloom with berries shown in inset)

Actaea pachypoda 'Doll’s Eyes'

Bizarre white berries with one black dot that resemble eyeballs hang on the flowering stems from summer through fall and into winter. Flowers are in compact balls rather than the showier long spikes of other species. Grows 30” tall and wide.

Find the Best Perennials for your Garden

We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.

Perennials

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Native Actaea: Bugbane

Perennials

Agastache: Hyssop

Perennials

Anemone: Windflower

Perennials

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Native Aquilegia: Columbine

Perennials

Artemisia

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Perennials

Aster

Perennials

Astilbe: False Spirea

Perennials

Bellium: Miniature Daisy

Perennials

Bergenia: Pigsqueak

Perennials

Brunnera: Bugloss

Perennials

Canna Lily

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Perennials

Chrysanthemum

Perennials

Coreopsis: Tickweed

Perennials

Corydalis

Perennials

Cyclamen

Bulbs

Dahlia

Bulbs

Delosperma: Ice Plant

Perennials

Delphinium: Larkspur

Perennials

Dianthus: Carnation

Perennials

Dicentra: Bleeding Heart

Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Perennials

Echinacea: Coneflower

Perennials

Epimedium

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Perennials

Erodium: Alpine Geranium

Perennials

Eupatorium: Joe-Pye Weed

Perennials

Euphorbia: Spurge

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Bulbs

Fritillaria

Perennials

Hardy Fuchsia

Perennials

Hardy Geranium

Perennials

Geum: Avens

Perennials

Helenium: Sneezeweed

Perennials

Hellebore

Perennials

Hellebore: Gold Collection

Perennials

Hellebore: Winter Jewel

Perennials

Heuchera: Coral Bells

Perennials

Hosta: Plantain Lily

Perennials

Iberis: Candytuft

Bulbs

Iris

Natives

Native Iris

Perennials

Kniphofia: Red Hot Poker

Perennials

Leptinella

Perennials

Leucanthemum: Shasta Daisy

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Perennials

Ligularia

Perennials

Monarda: Bee Balm

Perennials

Moss

Bulbs

Narcissus: Daffodil

Perennials

Paeonia: Peony

Perennials

Papaver: Poppy

Perennials

Parahebe

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Perennials

Perovskia: Russian Sage

Perennials

Primula: Primrose

Perennials

Rudbeckia: Black-eyed Susan

Perennials

Salvia

Perennials

Santolina: Lavender Cotton

Perennials

Sedum

Perennials

Evergreen Sedum

Natives

Native Sedum: Stonecrop

Perennials

Sempervivum: Hen & Chicks

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Perennials

Top Shade Perennials

Perennials

Top Sun Perennials

Perennials

Tricyrtis: Toad Lily

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Bulbs

Tulip

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Perennials

Vinca: Periwinkle

Perennials

Viola: Violet

Natives

Native Viola: Violet

Perennials

Zantedeschia: Calla Lily