How to Grow and Care for Anemone (Windflower)

Anemone hupehensis

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The common name "anemone" is a collective label used for a number of different species in the Anemone genus of plants. Many gardeners know the plants as windflowers, so named because the delicate poppy-like flowers sway in the lightest breezes. (The Greek word anemos translates as "wind.") The various species vary considerably in size, but all have basal leaf clumps from which long flower stems arise to support delicate flowers, 2 to 5 inches in diameter. Flower colors also vary depending on species and variety. The flowers are usually simple single blossoms, though some varieties do feature double flowers, similar to a frilly, oversized mum. 

Anemones are usually planted from bulb-like corms or bare roots in the fall or in the late winter or early spring. They are fast-growing plants that will flower in their first season. Life expectancy depends on species; some are relatively short-lived while others can live for decades.

All parts of anemone plants are moderately toxic to humans if large quantities are eaten and mildly toxic to pets. The plants contain protoanemonin, an oily substance that can cause serious stomach upset as well as skin irritation.

Common Name Anemone, windflower, Grecian windflower, poppy windflower
Botanical Name Anemone spp.
Family Ranunculaceae 
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 6 in.–4 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide (varies by species)
Sun Exposure Full to partial
Soil Type Rich, moist
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring, summer, fall (varies by species)
Flower Color Red, orange, yellow-green, blue, purple, red-purple, white, ivory, pink
Hardiness Zones 3–10 (USDA); varies by species
Native Area Temperate zones worldwide; many species are native to North America
Toxicity Toxic to humans, toxic to pets
closeup of anemone

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

white anemones

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

closeup of an anemone

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Anemone blanda
Anemone blanda

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Anemone coronaria
Anemone coronaria

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Anemone hupehensis
Anemone hupehensis

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Anemone sylvestris
Anemone sylvestris

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Anemone Care

Choose your planting time based on the blooming cycle of your chosen species. Plant spring bloomers in the fall, and fall bloomers in the spring. Different species of anemones have different types of root structures, and the planting method varies a bit from type to type. Normally, anemones are planted from corms or bare roots purchased from online or mail-order retailers.

Some species, such as A. coronaria (often known as poppy anemone) have roots that resemble bulb-like corms. The small corms are planted in groups, like tulips or daffodils. Place them in clusters, spaced about 1 inch apart and 2 inches deep. Let nature dictate the spreading of the cluster. With corm-types, leave the foliage in place to replenish the corms until it turns brown.

Other species, including A. hupehensis (sometimes known as Japanese windflower), have tuberous or rhizomatous roots that are planted like dahlia or tuberous iris roots, in small groups about 3 to 6 inches deep.

Be generous when you plant the petite spring anemones; these low-growing plants that range from 3 to 15 inches in height look best when planted in groups of 50 or more. Whatever the species of Anemone, these plants generally like at least four hours of sun each day and well-drained soil that is relatively moist. Once planted, they are relatively carefree plants. Those types with rhizomatous roots will need to be lifted and divided every three years or so.

Light

Most species of anemones should be placed where they can receive at least half a day of direct sunlight. Some varieties thrive more in partial shade, but they should still receive at least four hours of sun daily.

Soil

Plant anemones in moist, well-drained soil. Before planting, you can improve the soil by adding compost, leaf mold, or other organic matter. Anemones aren't fussy about soil pH, but will thrive best in slightly acidic soil.

Water

Water the plants regularly when it does not rain. Try to keep the soil lightly moist by watering slowly to allow the soil to absorb as much water as possible. Some varieties have special water needs; for example, wood anemone (A. nemorosa) dies to the ground in midsummer and does not need water until it regrows in fall.

Temperature and Humidity

Anemones like relatively cool temperatures. Most species do best with daytime temps of 58 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temps of 42 to 50 degrees. Gardeners in zones 3 to 10 will be able to find at least one Anemone species that will work, but no single species can adapt to all zones. A. blanda and its cultivars are appropriate for zones 4 to 8, for example, while A. coronaria and its cultivars are good for zones 7 to 10. Gardeners in cold-winter zones may choose to grow tender Anemones as annuals, planting new corms each spring.

Anemones have no special humidity requirements, provided they are getting proper soil moisture.

Fertilizer

If desired, you can add some bone meal to the soil in the fall for spring bloomers or in the spring for fall bloomers to give the bulbs a nutrient boost. No additional feeding is needed or recommended.

Types of Anemones

There are several good species of Anemone available, each with several named cultivars to choose from:

  • Anemone blanda adapts well outdoors and is hardy in zones 4 through 8. This plant is sometimes known as Grecian windflower. Some notable cultivars include "Blue Star," "Pink Charmer," and "White Splendour."
  • Anemone coronaria, has poppy-like blooms with black centers. These are popular in floral arrangements. This species, sometimes known as poppy anemone, is reliably hardy only in zones 7 through 10. Some recommended cultivars include "Lord Lieutenant," "Mount Everest," and "Sylphide."
  • Anemone hupehensis var. japonica, 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. It is grown in zones 4 to 8. Some recommended cultivars: "Bressingham Glow," "Pocahontas," "Praecox," and "Pamina."
  • Anemone sylvestris (sometimes known as snowdrop windflower) is an early spring bloomer that does not have time to attain great heights; it belongs at the front of the border. You can grow it in zones 4 to 8.
  • Anemone canadensis is a North American native wildflower that is hardy to zone 3. It blooms from April to June.
  • Anemone nemerosa (wood anemone) is hardy in zones 5 to 8 and is a short 5- to 8-inch plant with white flowers. There are several cultivars available, including the pink-flowering "Robinsoniana."

Pruning

The fading foliage of spring bloomers is usually insignificant enough to wither away unnoticed, so you will not need to prune it for a tidy looking garden. Taller fall-blooming varieties may look shabby after the first frost, so shear off dead growth during early winter clean up. 

Propagating Anemones

Though the different species of anemones have different root structures, all can be propagated by digging up the corms/tubers, dividing them, then replanting. Lifting the roots in fall for winter storage can be a good idea if your garden experiences wet soil over the winter. Here's how:

  1. In the fall after the foliage has begun to die back, dig up the root clump or corms.
  2. With corm-types, carefully break off any offset corms that have formed, discarding any that are decayed or soft. With types with rhizomatous roots, shake off most of the dirt, then divide the roots each segment, with each piece attached to a segment of crown.
  3. Replant immediately, or store the corms or roots in a cool dry place over winter for planting the next spring.
  4. If you have stored the roots over winter, it's a good idea to soak them in a bucket of water overnight before planting. Unlike many bulbs that have a distinct shape that indicates how you should orient them in the planting hole, anemones corms/tubers are lumpy and irregular. They will grow properly no matter how you orient them in the ground.

How to Grow Anemones From Seed

Seed propagation of anemones is a slow, unpredictable method that is generally practiced only by serious amateurs or by professionals developing new cultivars by disciplined cross-pollination. But if you want to try seed propagation, collect the seeds from dried seed heads left after the flowers fade, and sow them in an outdoor cold frame filled with loose, well-draining soil mix. Just barely cover the seeds. After they sprout, allow the seedlings to remain outside over winter under a thick layer of mulch, then transplant them individually the following spring.

If you wish to start the seeds indoors in pots or trays, the planted seeds will need a cold stratification period of three to four weeks before you take them out and set them in a bright location to sprout.

Potting and Repotting Anemones

Not all Anemone species adapt well to growing in containers, but one that does is Anemone coronaria, of which there are many cultivars. Use a large pot filled with ordinary commercial potting soil blended with well-decayed compost. It's generally best to use a large 12- to 14-inch containers. Corm-types should be spaced at least 4 inches apart; rhizomatous types should be planted one per pot.

Potted anemones do not adapt well to moving indoors, though they can be overwintered in an unheated greenhouse or another sheltered area where they can receive the necessary winter chill period. When the plant becomes root-bound (an issue only with the rhizomatous types), then divide the root clump and replant.

Overwintering

Provided the species being grown is appropriate to your hardiness zone, no special winter protection is needed for Anemones. Most gardeners simple trim off the flower stalks and foliage near ground level as part of the general winter prep work in the garden.

If you are growing a species that is borderline hardy for your region, then a layer of mulch over the root crowns may protect the roots from winter kill.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Although there are no truly serious pest or disease problems with Anemone, they can be stricken with foliar nematodes that feed inside the leaves. These microscopic soil worms can cause distorted leaves and flowers through damage to the plant cells. Treatment is difficult, but removing plants and heating the soil through solarization sometimes gets rid of nematodes. All plant material in the afflicted area will need to be removed and disposed of. Periodically churning up the soil and allowing it to bake in the sun may rid the area of nematodes.

A variety of fungal leaf spots, downy mildew, and powdery mildew may appear on Anemones, though the diseases are rarely serious.

How to Get Anemone to Bloom

Most Anemone species bloom readily, provided they are growing in moderately rich, moist soil. When plants stop blooming, it is usually because the roots have become over-crowded. Lifting and dividing the root clump or corms, then replanting, will usually return the plant to robust flowering.

A yearly application of bone meal blended into the soil may also help provide the mild boost needed to support good flowering.

Common Problems With Anemone

Anemones are relatively care-free flowers that are subject to only a few issues:

Flopping Flowers

It's generally desirable for Anemones to sway in the wind, but some species may lose all ability to stand upright. Taller Anemones may need to be staked to prevent them from flopping, especially when grown in shady areas.

Holes in Leaves

This can happen if snails or slugs come to visit. If this becomes a problem, small saucers of beer or snail/slug bait will do the trick.

Plants Die Out Over Winter

An unusually cold winter—or one that saw unexpected thaws followed by hard refreeze—may cause some Anemone species to perish. There's no solution other than to replant.

If this is an ongoing problem, you might consider digging up the corms or roots to store for the winter for yearly replanting in the spring.

FAQ
  • How can I use anemone in a landscape?
    • Plant several dozen spring-blooming anemones around your tulips and daffodils, or 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 do not worry about browsing deer, which generally find this flower unpalatable.
    • Fall-blooming anemones are good for filling in gaps between mounding chrysanthemum plants.
  • Can I dig up and store the roots if I live in a cold-winter zone?

    Yes. If you want to grow Anemone varieties that aren't reliably hardy in your area, they can be treated in the same way as other semi-hardy perennials, such as Gladiola or Dahlia.

    As winter approaches and the foliage dies back, dig up the corms or rhizomatous roots, and place them in a bag filled with peat moss. Store them in a cool, dry location for the winter.

    Before replanting in the spring, give the bulbs/or roots an overnight soaking in water to rehydrate them. Discard any corms or roots that are noticeably rotted or shriveled.

  • Can I grow Anemones as annuals?

    Yes, like many tender perennials, Anemones are often grown as annuals in regions where the species is not cold-hardy. This is most often done with the more affordable corm types, such as A. coronaria and A. blanda.

Article Sources
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  1. Anemone coronaria. North Carolina State Extension.

  2. Spring Dangers.Hopewell Animal Hospital.