How to Grow Baneberry — Actaea

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Actaea–commonly called baneberry–is a rhizomatous perennial that bears fluffy racemes of small white flowers in late spring and early summer. The flowers are followed by clusters of round berries that add color to the garden in late summer and fall.

Actaea forms handsome 2- to 4-foot-wide clumps of mid-green leaves that are divided in a featherlike fashion and have toothed leaflets. Actaea is well suited for a woodland garden or shady mixed herbaceous border.

Actaea is native to woodlands in the Northern Hemisphere. It should be planted in shade or partial shade in humus-rich, moderately moist, and well-drained soil.

Actaea is a genus of 8 speices.

Get to know Actaea

  • Plant type: Rhizomatous perennials
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4-9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 4
  • Height and width: 24 inches to 4 feet (60cm-1.2m) tall and 24 inches (60cm) apart
  • Foliage: Leaves are featherlike with 2 or 3 ternate toothed leaves
  • Flowers: Compact, fluffy, spherical races of small white flowers with prominent stamens
  • Bloom time: Late spring to early summer
  • Fruits: Red or white berries follower flowers; the berries are highly toxic if ingested.
  • Uses: Woodland garden or shady mixed herbaceous border
  • Common name: Baneberry
  • Botanical name: Actaea
  • Family name: Ranunculaceae
  • Origin: Woodlands in the Northern Hemisphere
Baneberry, Actaea
Baneberry, Actaea

Where to plant Actaea

  • Grow Actaea in partial shade.
  • Plant Acatae in cool, mosit, moderately fertile soil enriched with aged compost or leaf mold.

When to plant Actaea

  • Set container-grown Acataea outdoors in spring.
  • Existing plants can be divided in spring.

Planting and spacing Actaea

  • Space Actaea 24 inches (60cm) apart.

How to water and feed Actaea

  • Water Actaea to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Water Actaea thoroughly in dry weather.
  • Fertilize Actaea with an all-purpose organic fertilizer.

Actaea care

  • Abundant soil moisture is essential to success in areas with hot summers.
  • Note: Actaea berries are toxici.

Actaea pests and diseases

  • Leaf spot and leaf smut can be a problem.

Actaea propagation

  • Divide Actaea in spring. Plans form 2- to 3-foot-wide clumps.
  • Sow seed as soon as they are ripe.

Actaea varieties to grow

  • Actaea alba, doll’s eyes, white baneberry. Wildflower grows 2 to 4 feet tall bearing fluffy, rouned 2- to 4-inch racemes of white flower above the foliage; flower stalks turn red as 3/8 inch wide berries ripent to white.
  • A. rubra, red baneberry, snakeberry. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall; bears fluffy, rounded, 2-inch long racemes of flowers followed by clusters of small round, red berries.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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