This stately and curious herbaceous plant has been cultivated in Britain for four hundred years, but is not widely grown today. True, it is a large plant, some 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide, but it makes such a sensation in summer in a shady bed that it is worth finding space for a single plant, or a group of three, if you can provide the right conditions. It is quite hardy.
The plant forms an impressive pyramid with spikes of tiny purple-black velvetycrowded up the as though a swarm of bees had settled there. The spikes shoot up from very large longitudinally pleated and deeply veined . Like a piece of sculpture, these need space round them to be appreciated, so do not plant anything competitive near Veratrum. Self-effacing plants of medium size, like Salvia superba or blue rue will be the best sort of companions, or silver artemisias or santolina. There is also a white species, V. album, but neither the leaves nor the compare with V. nigrum for sinister beauty. Incidentally, the specific name ‘nigrum’ refers to the , which is black and .
Veratrum needs rich moist soil, likes some shade and will tolerate a little lime. It is recommended for woodlands as well as for a shady border, but few of us have this amenity, and mulches of peat or leafmould must do duty for those desirable woodland conditions.