Bugbane: Dark Purplish-Black Leaves On Branched, Dark Stems

Bugbane: Dark Purplish-Black Leaves On Branched, Dark Stems

BugbaneActaea simplex ‘Black Negligee’ sometimes called Cimicifuga simplex “Black Negligee”, or ‘Black negligee’ cimicifuga. The more common name is bugbane. Bugbane is a purple leaved plant that will typically reach 4 to 6 feet in height.

It is best noted for its deeply-cut, dark purplish-black leaves on branched, dark stems (foliage emerges emerald green, maturing to a brilliant dark purple). Foliage has a lacy effect that makes an effective accent throughout the growing season. Small, numerous, creamy white (with a purple tinge), somewhat fragrant flowers appear in late summer to early fall in long.  These are bottlebrush-like, terminal racemes resembling fluffy spires (spires can reach a length of 12 plus inches). Flowering racemes appear on upright, wiry stems.

The common name of bugbane is in reference to the odoriferous insect repellent properties attributed to most plants in the genus.

How To Make Your Bugbane Thrive

Bugbane is easily grown in average, medium moisture soils, in part shade to full shade. The preference is organically rich, moisture retentive soils, and full sun. Your foliage will scorch if the soil is allowed to dry out. This plant is slow to establish.

Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. You can remove old foliage before new leaves emerge and remember to divide clumps every 2 to 3 years. This should be done in early spring

Bugbane will grow to a height of about 3 feet tall extending to 5 to 6 feet tall with the flowers.  The spread for this plant is around 3 feet. This is a leggy plant, with a typical clearance of 12 inches from the ground. It should be under planted with lower-growing perennials. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 10 years.

General Bugbane Information

Pests And Disease

There are no notable pest or disease problems, and it is resistant to slugs. It should be cut to the ground in fall once the foliage has started to die back.


Rhizome division is the fastest and most reliable method of propagation for bugbane. In spring or fall, cut rhizomes into 2 or 3 inch long vertical pieces, with one or more buds on each piece; do not remove the fibrous roots attached to the rhizomes. Plant the rhizome pieces in a prepared beds. Dig a 4  to 6 inch trench and plant the rhizomes with the buds facing up, cover the tops with 2 inches of soil.

Garden Uses

Flower spires add architectural height to shaded borders, shade gardens, woodland gardens, cottage gardens, or naturalized areas. The dark foliage provides excellent texture and color to the landscape throughout the growing season.  You can also effectively use bugbane in a containers.

Quick Facts

  •  Family: Ranunculaceae
  • Common Name: Bugbane
  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness Zones: Zone 3 to 9
  • Height: 4 to 6 feet
  • Spread: 1.5 to 2 feet
  • Flower Color: White
  • Flower Shape and Structure: Bottle brush like, fluffy spires
  • Blooms Time: August, September, October
  • Bloom Description: White with subtle purple tinge
  • Foliage: Deeply cut-lacy, dark purplish black foliage
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Resists: Deer, rabbits

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  1. Wow! Love black plants in the garden and this one looks a cracker! Thanks Charlie.

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