Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is a flowering perennial in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. It is native to the woodland habitats of western Europe and widely naturalized elsewhere. It is common to see winter aconite peeking through the snow in the earliest spring days, blooming even before crocuses do. Characterized by golden buttercup-like flowers and a skirt of leaves that grow just under the flower head, winter aconite is a small plant growing up to 6 inches in height. Winter aconites are toxic to humans and animals.
|Common Name||Winter aconite|
|Botanical Name||Eranthis hyemalis|
|Mature Size||6 in. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial sun|
|Hardiness Zones||3-7 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and animals|
Winter Aconite Care
Like most other spring blooms, such as crocuses, tulips, and daffodils, these delicate plants are grown from tubers rather than bulbs. The tubers store nutrients for the plant, allowing winter aconite to hibernate and survive harsh winters. You should plant winter aconite tubers about four inches apart and two to three inches deep to help protect them from winter temperatures. Like most other spring bulbs, plant winter aconite tubers in the fall to prepare them for the following growing season.
Winter aconite thrives on neglect and requires little to no maintenance once planted. It is virtually pest and disease-free, deer resistant, and can tolerate various light levels. Once established, winter aconite may self-seed and naturalize over time.
The winter aconite can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, from partial shade to full sun. However, growth will be most vigorous in a location that receives at least five to six hours of direct sunlight daily.
This resilient plant tolerates most soil types but grows best in alkaline soils. Winter aconites are native to woodland habitats with consistently moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter. Planting winter aconites in moderately fertile, humus-rich soil will help to mimic its natural habitat.
Winter aconites require consistent moisture year-round. In particularly hot, dry spells, winter aconites may need supplemental watering. Still, for the most part, as long as it is planted in suitable soil, the winter aconite does not require regular watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Winter aconite flowers are sensitive to temperature changes, blooming best in warm, sunny weather and closing in cold, overcast weather. However, winter aconite does require warm spring and summer weather to grow and bloom. The plant can handle a range of humidity.
Winter aconite plants do not require regular fertilizing. The best way to support healthy growth is to amend the soil with compost or manure each spring to provide the plants with supplemental nutrients yearly.
Types of Winter Aconites
- Eranthis hyemalis
- Eranthis pinnatifida
- Eranthis cilicica
- Eranthis x tubergenii
Winter aconites are very low-maintenance and don't require pruning. You can cut off withered, dead leaves, but beyond that, leave the plant alone.
Propagating Winter Aconite Plants
Winter aconite can be most easily propagated through division. Here's how to propagate winter aconites:
- Using a spade, divide the plant after it flowers.
- Remove any dead leaves.
- Divide the tubers into new clumps.
- You may soak the tubers before planting.
- Immediately replant them in an appropriate location, no more than 4 inches deep.
- Water well.
How to Grow Winter Aconites From Seed
Prepare the bed by removing leaves and weeds to grow winter aconites from seed. You may add compost to the soil before scattering the seeds and covering them with about 1 inch of soil. The seeds will take a few years to germinate. The seeds need to be stratified before germination, so it's best to plant in late fall or early winter.
As suggested by the "winter" in the plant's name, the plant tolerates cold weather and frost. You shouldn't move the plant indoors during the winter, but during exceptionally heavy snow, you can lightly cover the plant with a tarp or frost blanket for extra protection.
How to Get Winter Aconites to Bloom
Winter aconites begin to bloom in the early spring and yield cup-shaped, yellow flowers framed by green bracts. Each flower contains six petals with many stamens and pistils. The leaves divide into lobes, and the flowers grow upward. The yellow flowers last for a couple of days once they have bloomed, after which time lobed, basal, green leaves emerge, turning winter aconite into a carpet of green foliage for the remainder of the year. The blooming season is usually two weeks long. You don't need to take measures to promote blooming besides ensuring consistently moist soil and bright sunlight.
Common Problems With Winter Aconites
While these plants are pest and disease-resistant, they may occasionally suffer from fungus if poorly cared for. Winter aconites are exceptionally easygoing and, once established, should be left alone.
What is an alternative to winter aconite?
Consider a non-toxic alternative to winter aconites. If you're looking to add a similarly vibrant yellow flower to your garden, yellow petunias may be a good option.
Can I grow winter aconites indoors?
While winter aconites prefer outdoor planting, you can grow them indoors as long as you can closely mimic outdoor conditions. Providing indoor winter aconites with full, bright sun is essential to its growth.
Are winter aconites invasive?
Winter aconites are not categorized as invasive, but their rampant reproduction tendencies can lead to a potentially unwanted surplus in your garden if left unattended.
- Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. University of Wisconsin Horticulture.
- Eranthis hyemalis. NCSU.