Anemone Flowers for Spring and Fall Gardens

Red and purple anemone blossoms
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Gardeners who love the look of the exotic Himalayan blue poppy, but are unsuccessful in growing it, should try the much more forgiving anemone flower. The flowers of these spring or fall blooming bulbs are a hot trend in wedding bouquets, and also make the garden come alive in vibrant red, white, pink, yellow, and purple shades. 

The family Ranunculaceae is a generous contributor to flower gardens. In addition to the genus Anemone, it offers us the delphinium, clematis, and ranunculus. Anemones are often referred to as windflowers, from the Greek word for wind, anemos. 

Get to Know Anemones

Anemone flowers have a simple, daisy-like shape and lobed foliage. Some anemone varieties feature double flowers, similar to a frilly, oversized mum. Hardiness varies according to anemone species, which can be confusing to gardeners. Anemone blanda adapts well outdoors and is hardy in zones 5-9. Anemone coronaria, the poppy-like bloom with black centers so popular in floral arrangements, is only reliably hardy in zones 8-10.

In addition to varying degrees of hardiness, anemones also differ in their bloom times, depending on the type you plant. The Japanese anemone blooms abundantly from mid-summer to late fall, giving gardeners a shade-loving alternative to the sun-drenched mums and asters of autumn. Anemone japonica types not only bloom later but also tend to be taller types suited for the middle or back of the border. Early spring blooming types like Anemone sylvestris don't have time to attain great heights and belong at the front of the border.

Close up of an anemone flower
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How to Plant Anemones

Choose your planting time based on the blooming cycle of your anemones. Plant spring bloomers in the fall, and fall bloomers in the spring. 

It’s hard to believe that the wizened little tubers of anemone plants will amount to anything. The first step in bringing them back to life is to give them a good soaking to hydrate them. Place them in a bucket of warm water for a few hours, and meanwhile scout out your planting location.

Plant your anemones in a site with rich to average garden loam, and good drainage. Raised beds are essential in gardens with heavy clay soil, as bulbs will rot after a wet winter.

Unlike many bulbs that have a distinct shape that indicates how you should orient them in the planting hole, anemones are lumpy and irregular. Site your anemones where they will receive at least a half day of sun. You can place them under the dappled shade of a deciduous tree canopy, where the plants can soak up energy-providing rays before the trees leaf out. Place them two inches under the soil, one inch apart, in any direction, and let nature dictate the proper growth of the roots and stems. If you’ve skipped the pre-soaking step, be sure to give the newly planted tubers a good watering to trigger growth.

Anemone Care

Anemone flowers are low maintenance plants. Leave the foliage in place to nourish the bulbs after flowering. The fading foliage of spring bloomers is usually insignificant enough to wither away unnoticed, so you won’t need to prune it for a tidy looking garden. Taller fall-blooming varieties may look shabby after the first frost, so shear dead growth during early winter clean up. If desired, you can cultivate some bone meal into the soil in the fall for spring bloomers or in the spring for fall bloomers to give the bulbs a nutrient boost.

Anemones in the Garden and Vase

Plant several dozen spring-blooming anemones around your tulips and daffodils. Plant large drifts of anemones in wooded areas, where they can naturalize undisturbed. Place your spring-blooming anemones near the front of your borders or at the edges of paths, and don’t worry about browsing deer, which generally find this flower unpalatable. Fall-blooming anemones fill in gaps between mounding chrysanthemum plants.

In spite of their popularity as a cut flower, anemones have a short vase life; around four or five days. By growing these easy flowers in your garden, you can take advantage of the freshest flowers, rather than purchasing past-their-prime greenhouse-grown flowers. Your cut anemones will take up large amounts of water, so check the vase daily to ensure the longest lasting arrangement. If you aren't into formal flower arranging, you can gather some of the tall autumn-blooming anemones for weaving into daisy chains or crowns. Their long, wiry yet flexible stems are just right for this sort of craft. 

Anemone flowers in a vase
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Anemone Varieties to Try

Be generous when you plant the petite spring anemones; these low-growing plants that range from three to 15 inches look best in groups of 50 or more.

  • Hollandia: Red flowers sport a white eye around black stamens
  • Lieutenant: Double blue flowers look brilliant alone or with a stand of early yellow tulips
  • Mr. Fokker: Early, single violet flowers with black stamens
  • Mt. Everest: Double white flowers with green stamens
  • St. Brigid: Semi-double to fully double flowers in a mix of white, pink, purple, and blue
  • Whirlwind: Plants begin to bloom in August, refreshing faded gardens