Hillside Black Beauty Snakeroot

Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’

Description & Overview

This dark, lustrous shade-tolerant native cultivar is a great addition to a partial or full shade garden. As almost-black leaved plants are more reveled at, let drought-tolerant Hillside Black Beauty speak for itself. Its clump-forming habit allows for dense low mounds of deep purple foliage to be 1-2’ tall which give way to late summer emerging flower stalks reaching up to 4-6’ in height, bearing astilbe-like creamy white with hints of blush spikes. May also be known as Bugbane.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Variety of North American Native
Mature Height: 4-6 feet
Mature Spread: 2-4 feet
Growth Rate: Slow
Growth Form: Low mounding up right foliage, emerging flower stalks
Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade
Site Requirements: Average, well-drained soil, drought-tolerant
Flower: Tall creamy white, fragrant spikes
Bloom Period: August to October
Foliage: Deep purple fern-like foliage
Fall Color: Copper tones added
Fruit Notes: Star-shaped clustered brown follicles

Suggested Uses:

A unique and improved variety of the original plant species, this variety can be planted in a range of soil and light conditions. Adding Hillside Black Beauty to a perennial garden brings in dark tones and allows other, bright-colored plants to pop against it. Playing with the fine, fern-like leaf texture of this plant against broadleaf shade tolerant perennials creates a happy balance. Choose a location with moist, well-drained soil and partial shade to allow this plant to thrive.

Hillside Black Beauty makes a great perennial addition but isn’t limited to just that. Use outdoor pots and containers as the “thriller”.

Wildlife Value:

The tall flower spikes that appear in late summer provide an attraction for butterflies and pollinators after many main flower sources for them have been spent for the season.

Maintenance Tips:

Like the parent plant Actaea racemose, Hillside Black Beauty prefers to grow in soils with ample moisture in order to perform best, however it is drought tolerant. In deep shade the flower spikes will reach toward the sun, but it does not affect the flowering capabilities of this perennial. If drought occurs for an extended period, water thoroughly. Foliage can scorch if the soil is too dry for too long. Prune spent stalks back after flowering and/or fruiting occurs.


Resistant to most diseases and has no insect pests to note currently, leaving it relatively maintenance-free and versatile. Also known to be deer and rabbit resistant.
Rust and leaf spot may occur occasionally in persistently moist conditions, the best course of action is to allow the surrounding soil to dry out slightly. Commonly, the flower spikes will grow in the direction in which they receive the most light.

Leaf Lore:

Formerly listed as Cimicifuga simplex. Also known as a Black Cohosh. Interchangeable with the common names baneberry or bugbane. All plants under genus Cimicifuga have recently been transferred to Actaea.

This cultivar allows for more versatile use in a different range of garden designs, from cottage feel to stately. Its smaller stature also creates more use than straight species, Actaea racemosa.

Companion Plants:

Combine in a landscape bed with bright colored shrubs or perennials like Lemony Lace Elderberry, All Gold Japanese Forest Grass, or Island Breeze Hosta. Providing an architectural accent against a solid background, plant in front of Spikenard, Pagoda Dogwood, or at the base of Autumn Brilliance® Serviceberry. Suitable for use in a rock garden with Christmas Fern, Sensitive Fern, or Japanese Painted Fern.

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