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How to Grow Actaea Plants

Here are some easy tips on how to grow Actaea plants: This native perennial plant likes average, medium moist soil. It grows best in full shade or brief morning sun. Actaea (ACK-tea-uh or ack-TEA-uh) needs to be kept cool and moist; it likes woods and stream banks.

Actaea Plant in Bloom

Common Name(s): Black Cohosh, Bugbane, Fairy Candles

Propagation: Two ways: root division (early spring or late fall) or by seed (collected in fall and planted right away). This is a slow-growing plant

Description: These upright perennial plants can reach 4 to 8 ft. tall and spread 2 to 4 ft. wide.  Flowery spikes are creamy white and fragrant; they bloom late summer to early fall. The stems of Black Cohosh plants are an attractive, deep green. Actaea is called Bugbane because the plant gives off a smell that chases away bugs.

Origin of Name: Algonquin (N. American Indian) word for “rough”; it refers to the stem.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8

Companion Plants: Joe Pye Weed, Columbine

Fertilizer Needs: Actaea plants need organic soil, rich in compost. No other fertilizer needed.

Maintenance: Low, but in Zones 6-8, it is very important to keep Actaea plants shaded, mulched and watered. No serious insect or disease problems. If soil is not kept moist, leaves may scorch around the edges, and the plant may stop growing. Plants may need staking if very tall.

Herbal/Medicinal Uses:  In Native American medicine, used for snakebites and to keep biting bugs away. Today, used for women’s health.

Wildlife Value: Attracts the Spring Azure butterfly and many insects good for the garden.

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