How to Grow Winter Aconite Plants

Add an early pop of color to your garden

A ladybug crawls across the small yellow flower of a winter aconite.

 Martina Borsdorf / Getty Images

Meet one of the earliest spring bloomers - winter aconite. It is common to see winter aconite peeking through the snow in the earliest days of spring, blooming even before crocus’ do. It is great for borders, garden beds, alongside paths or walkways, as a ground cover, and more. 

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 six inches tall. 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. 

Not only is winter aconite charming, but it is also low-maintenance! Learn how to grow this delicate early bloomer and enjoy the early pop of color in your garden each spring.

Botanical Name Eranthis hyemalis
Common Name Winter aconite
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 6 inches tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Well-drained soil
Soil pH 6-8
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 3-7
Native Area Europe
A winter aconite peeks through the snow, it is in full bloom.
 Martin Ruegner / Getty Images

How to Grow Winter Aconite Plants

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. 

These delicate plants are grown from tubers rather than bulbs like most other spring blooms such as crocus', tulips, and daffodils. The tubers store nutrients for the plant and allow winter aconite to ‘hibernate’ and survive harsh winters. 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 it is planted. It is virtually pest and disease free, deer resistant, and can tolerate various levels of light. Once established, winter aconite may self-seed and naturalize over time.

Light

Accustomed to the dappled light of the forest floor, winter aconite can tolerate a wide range of light conditions, from part 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. 

Soil

This resilient plant tolerates most types of soil but grows best in alkaline soils. Winter aconite is native to woodland habitats with consistently moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Planting winter aconite in moderately fertile, well-draining, humus-rich soil will help to mimic its natural habitat.

Water

Winter aconite requires consistent moisture year-round. In particularly hot, dry spells winter aconite may require supplemental watering, but for the most part, as long as it is planted in the right soil, winter aconite does not require regular watering. 

Temperature and Humidity

One of the charming features of winter aconite is that its flowers are sensitive to temperature changes - opening in warm, sunny weather and remaining closed in cold, overcast weather. However, winter aconite does require warm spring and summer weather in order to grow and bloom. It is not especially particular about humidity but does enjoy consistently moist soils as mentioned.

Fertilizer

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 a fresh boost of nutrients each year.

Propagating Winter Aconite Plants

Winter aconite can be most easily propagated through division. After the blooming period, dig up the winter aconite tubers and carefully divide the tubers into new clumps. Replant immediately in a new location for the best results.

Toxicity of Winter Aconite Plants

Plant with caution around curious pets and children because winter aconite is poisonous to humans and pets when ingested. The main toxic agent, cardiac glycosides may stimulate the heart when taken in small doses, but in large doses, it can cause serious heart damage. Symptoms of winter aconite poisoning include abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, disturbed vision, bradycardia, and even cardiac arrest in severe cases.