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Cimicifuga

Actaea racemosa

Cimicifuga takes center stage in late summer shade gardens when it debuts long candlelike spikes of airy white flowers in concert with its dark-green leaves. This plant—foliage plus flower spikes—reaches 4 to 6 feet tall, and sometimes 8 feet tall in optimum conditions. The flower stalks, which are actually clusters of thin stamens, last for more than three weeks.

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Light:

Part Sun, Shade

Type:

Height:

3 to 8 feet

Width:

2 to 4 feet

Flower Color:

Seasonal Features:

Problem Solvers:

Zones:

3-8

Propagation

garden plans for Cimicifuga

Shade Partners

Also called bugbane and black cohosh, cimicifuga is a long-lived woodland plant. Grow it with other woodland perennials, such as phlox, tall species of fern, astilbe, and angelica. Cimicifuga is especially eye-catching when it rises high above a hosta grouping. Cluster three to five cimicifuga plants together for an impressive show over a large area.

Follow this woodland garden plan for a lush shade garden.

Cimicfuga Care Must-Knows

Cimicifuga grows best in moist soil that is rich in organic matter and part shade to full shade. In Zones 7 and above, full shade is essential; too much sun will burn the plant's leaves and create bedraggled looking specimens. If your garden soil is dry or crumbly, incorporate a large amount of well-decomposed compost into the dirt before planting. Continue incorporating compost annually until the soil develops the consistency of light, humusy woodland soil.

Here's how to make your own compost.

Plant cimicifuga where it is sheltered from strong winds and has room to expand. It's a slow grower, but will eventually reach 4 to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Water it regularly during the first year after planting to maintain moist soil and encourage root growth. Stake tall flower stalks as needed by sinking a sturdy twig or bamboo stake into the ground alongside the plant. Use garden twine to loosely tie the flower stalk to the stake. 

Troubleshooting Tips

If cimicifuga's leaf margins or whole leaves begin to turn brown, the plant is receiving too much sun or not enough water. If the plant is suffering from intense afternoon shade, move it to a lower-light location. Supplement natural rainfall by watering regularly. Blanket the soil around cimicifuga with a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to prevent soil moisture from evaporating. 

More Varieties of Cimicifuga

'Atropurpurea' Cimicifuga

This variety of Actaea racemosa is the tallest of the purple leaf cultivars at 5 to 7 feet. Zones 3-8

'Brunette' Cimicifuga

Actaea racemosa 'Brunette' has dark purple foliage that contrasts beautifully with white (sometimes pink) flowers. Zones 3-8

Plant Cimicifuga With:

Yellow wax-bells
Yellow wax-bells offer a stunning change of pace for fall gardens. The plant's dramatic dark stems are clothed with handsome 8-inch lobed leaves. From late summer into fall, nodding clusters of pale yellow, waxy bell flowers arise. Provide a sheltered position out of the wind where the soil is high in humus and retains moisture.
Hydrangea
Hydrangea, a shade-loving beauty, offers huge bouquets of clustered flowers, in various arrangements from mophead to lacecap, from summer through fall. Varieties of hydrangea differ in size of plant and flower panicle, flower color, and blooming time. PeeGee hydrangeas grow into small trees; the flowers turn russet and cling into winter. Oakleaf hydrangeas have the most handsome foliage, which reddens dramatically in fall. Some of the newer hydrangeas feature huge flowers on compact plants, ideal for containers and small gardens. Hydrangeas thrive in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil in partial to full shade. If you're seeking blue hydrangea flowers, check your soil's pH level and apply aluminum sulfate in spring to lower pH to the 5.2-5.5 range. The change in hydrangea flower color results from lower pH and higher aluminum content in the soil. Get tips on pruning hydrangeas for more blooms. Learn more on how to care for hydrangeas.
Hosta
This plant hardly grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. But hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners -- it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall.Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged -- the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
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