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 slightest breeze. 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 rise to support delicate flowers two to five 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.
The plants contain a substance called protoanemonin, which makes all parts of anemone plants moderately toxic to humans if large quantities are ingested and mildly toxic to pets.
|Common Name||Anemone, windflower, Grecian windflower, poppy windflower|
|Botanical Name||Anemone spp.|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||6 in. - 4 ft. tall, 2–3 ft. wide (varies by species)|
|Sun Exposure||Full to partial sun|
|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|
The time of year to plant anemones is 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 between types. Typically, 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 one inch apart and two inches deep. Let nature dictate the spreading of the cluster. With corm-types, leave the foliage in place until its foliage dies back naturally before removing it.
Other species, including A. hupehensis (sometimes known as Japanese anemone), have tuberous or rhizomatous roots that are planted in small groups about three to six 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. The types with rhizomatous roots will need to be lifted and divided every three years or so.
Most species of anemones should be planted where they 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.
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 the plants regularly when rainfall is less than one inch per week. 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 temperatures are 58 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures are 42 to 50 degrees. Gardeners in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 10 will be able to find at least one Anemone species that will thrive, 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 able to grow in zones 7 to 10. Gardeners in cold-winter zones might choose to grow tender anemones as annuals, planting new corms each spring.
Anemones have no special humidity requirements provided they are receiving proper soil moisture.
If desired, you can add bone meal to the soil in the fall for spring bloomers or in the spring for fall bloomers to give the plants a nutrient boost. No additional feeding is needed or recommended.
Types of Anemones
Several species of Anemone are 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 and 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 give- to eight-inch plant with white flowers. Several cultivars are available, including the pink-flowering 'Robinsoniana'.
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 might look shabby after the first frost, so shear off dead growth as part of your early winter clean-up tasks.
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 is a good idea if your garden experiences wet soil over the winter. Here's how:
- In the fall after the foliage has begun to die back, dig up the root clump or corms.
- With corm-types, carefully break off any offset corms that have formed, discarding any that are decayed or soft. For those plants with rhizomatous roots, shake off most of the dirt, then divide the roots into segments, with each piece attached to a segment of crown.
- Replant immediately or store the corms or roots in a cool dry place over winter for planting next spring.
- If you have stored the roots over winter, it's a good idea to soak them in a bucket of water overnight to rehydrate them 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 seeds will need a cold stratification period of three to four weeks before you sow 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 container. Corm-types should be spaced at least four inches apart; rhizomatous types should be planted one per pot.
Potted anemones do not adapt well to growing 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), divide the root clump and replant.
Provided the species being grown is appropriate to your hardiness zone, no special winter protection is needed for anemones. Most gardeners simply trim off the flower stalks and foliage near ground level as part of the general winter cleanup work in the garden.
If you are growing a species that is borderline hardy for your region, a layer of mulch over the root crowns can 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 tilling up the soil and allowing it to bake in the sun might rid the area of nematodes.
A variety of fungal leaf spots, downy mildew, and powdery mildew can affect 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 can also provide the mild boost needed to support good flowering.
Common Problems With Anemone
Anemones are relatively care-free flowers that are only subject to a few issues:
It's generally desirable for anemones to sway in the wind, but some species can lose the ability to stand upright. Taller anemones might need to be staked to prevent them from flopping especially when they are not receiving enough sunlight.
Holes in Leaves
This can happen if snails or slugs come to visit. If these pests 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 a hard refreeze—can cause some Anemone species to perish. There's no solution other than to re-purchase and 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.
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 dry 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.
“Anemone Coronaria.” Ncsu.edu, https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/anemone-coronaria/
University of California Agriculture, and Natural Resources. “Toxic Plants (by Common Name).” Ucanr.edu, https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_common_Name_659/
Elmore, Clyde L., et al. Ucdavis.edu, https://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/soil_solarization.pdf