How to Plant, Grow and Care For Anemone Flowers
Are you thinking of adding some anemone flowers to your garden this season but don't know where to start? These hardy flowers can brighten up any flower garden. In this article, gardening expert and cut flower farmer Taylor Sievers walks through everything you need to know about flowering anemone plants and their care.
One of the most amazing things about gardening is the discovery of new plants. Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned veteran, there’s always more to learn when it comes to our gardens. As a cut flower grower, one flower that stole my heart was the charming, adorable anemone.
Anemones, also known as windflowers, are members of the family Ranunculaceae–the buttercup family. As you can probably guess, anemone’s growth requirements are similar to their cousin ranunculus (the Persian buttercup)–an equally amazing flower in its own right. Other members of the buttercup family are larkspur and columbine.
Depending on the species, anemone flowers remind people of either poppies or daisies. Most of them are low-growing and can spread to form a thick ground cover in the landscaping. Others will delight you with their intense colors in a container. If you haven’t yet tried growing these little sweethearts, then take a glance through this article to find out how you can add them to your very own garden!
Anemone Plant Overview
Plant Type Herbaceous Perennial
Native Area Mediterranean, Turkey, China
Hardiness Zone USDA 4-10
Season Spring, Fall
Expusure Full Sun to Part Shade
Maturity Date 3-8 months
Growth Rate Moderate
Plant Spacing 2-6 in. tubers, 1-2 ft. rhizomes
Planting Depth 2 inches
Height 10 inches – 3 feet
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pesta and Diseases Aphids, Tuber Rot, Leaf Spots
Tolerance Cool to Temperate Climates
Maintenance Low Once Established
Soil Type Well-Draining, Sandy
Plant With Ranunculus, Tulips
Don’t Plant With Warm Season Annuals
Species coronaria, blanda, canadensis
Anemones are herbaceous perennials that grow from small tubers (nicknamed “corms” in the industry) or rhizomes, depending on the species. Tubers are fleshy underground stems with nodes (“eyes”). Think of potatoes and ginger when you picture tubers.
Rhizomes are also a type of underground stem that are more like elongated bulbs that grow horizontally. Other examples of plants that spread via rhizomes are canna lilies and bearded iris. There are four main types or species groups of anemones that are cultivated:
Anemone blanda, known as Grecian windflower, is native to Southeastern Europe, Caucasus, and Turkey. They grow from tubers and have finely cut fern-like foliage. Flowers are daisy-like in appearance and range in colors of blue, white, pink, and purplish-red. Plants are low-growing at 4 to 8 inches tall and form a carpet in the landscape.
Anemone coronaria, probably the most popular type of anemone (coined the “common garden anemone”), is native to the Mediterranean region and sprouts from small tubers. The leaves are bright green and very finely cut. They produce leaves basally and send up flower stalks straight from the tuber.
Flower petals are much wider and more ovate than A. blanda, and they come in colors of white, red, blue, pink, burgundy, bicolors, and pastel tones. The centers of the flowers can be blackish gray to green.
Anemone canadensis, the Canada anemone, and A. sylvestris, the snowdrop anemone, have deep green lobed foliage and spread via rhizomes. White flowers with yellow stamens bloom in the spring. Snowdrop anemone flowers are more cup-shaped than Canada anemones.
Canada anemones are native to the upper Midwest and grow in moist prairies, meadows, and roadsides. Snowdrop anemones are native to central Europe and Asia. Both can be aggressive spreaders.
Anemone x hybrida
Anemone x hybrida is commonly called Japanese anemone or thimble flower. They are ironically native to China (not Japan) and are the result of crosses between A. hupehensis, A. vitifolium, and A. tomentosa. They spread via rhizomes and grow up to 3 feet tall when flowering.
Dense, compact mounds of foliage grow basally with palmate dark green leaves. Flowers emerge in erect, branched stems in shades of pink or white with yellow centers. These perennials bloom in the fall, unlike other species of anemones.
Several species exist in the Anemone genus, but the most widely cultivated for gardens and floristry have been A. coronaria. Pliny the Elder recorded the first account that distinguished between cultivated and wild anemones in the 1st century A.D.
Anemones originate from the Mediterranean, southeastern Europe, Turkey, Israel, Caucasus, and China. The name anemone comes from the Greek word “anemos,” meaning “wind.” Other names for anemones have been windflowers, poppy anemones, and lilies of the field.
Over time, anemones were distributed throughout Europe and grown in famous gardens where they were bred and propagated by seed and tubers. Anemones were popular in the mid-1500s to 1600s gardens throughout France, Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, and England. Their popularity waned in the 18th and 19th centuries, although breeding still continued.
Anemones began to become popular again in the late 1800s. A. coronaria became known as the “common garden anemone” at this time. They were popular as border plants, “spring bedders,” and even as a component of nosegays sold at French markets.
They were often sold as seeds. But in the early 1900s, demand for anemone tubers, or “corms,” in different sizes became more popular in Europe. Many Dutch bulb growers began producing anemone tubers as a sideline to their businesses.
You can purchase tubers from reputable nurseries that sell flower bulbs. You can also purchase them via mail or online. Anemone seed is hard to find at a local garden store, so purchasing seed is usually online or via a mail order catalog.
As a cut flower grower, I order my tubers/corms in July and they arrive in the Fall, sometime between October and November. I store them in a cool, dry, dark place (my basement) until I’m ready to plant out in my unheated high tunnel in February.
How to Start Anemones From Seed
Sow seeds on the surface of the soil and place the tray in an area with temperatures between 55 and 60℉. Dust the tray with a light layer of vermiculite to hold moisture and use a humidity dome to hold moisture while the seeds begin germinating.
Remove the humidity dome when 50% of the seeds or more have germinated. Germination should occur in 10 to 14 days. Transplant seedlings after the danger of frost has passed.
How to Divide Anemone Corms
While the division of anemone corms can be done, most growers opt to treat anemones as an annual by purchasing new corms every year. However, large clumps can be divided. When dividing a clump, make sure that each newly divided tuber has an eye. The eye is the bud that will eventually push out leaves and stems.
I’ve found that my anemone tubers either rot away by the end of the season or that it takes about two years for them to reach a size worth dividing. Therefore, this is not a favorable propagation method.
How to Divide Anemone Rhizomes
Anemones that spread via rhizomes can often overtake an area very quickly. Also, if not divided after a few years, the plants may begin to produce fewer blooms. You can divide anemones in the spring using a shovel or spade to split the plant in half or in thirds. Transplant your division to a new area of the garden and water well.
When to Plant
Depending on your hardiness zone, you may decide to plant anemones in either the fall or the spring. In most instances, you will likely plant them in the spring.
Anemone tubers will be very dry and hard when you receive them in the mail or purchase them at a nursery. Make sure to soak the tubers for 4 to 12 hours prior to planting to help jumpstart growth. Don’t soak them for more than 12 hours to prevent tuber rot.
One option is to plant anemone bulbs in pots in the fall and keep them in a cool space that is protected from freezing temperatures. Once freezing temperatures have passed in the spring, you can bring the pot outside.
If you can protect your anemones from hard freezes, you can plant in late winter or early spring. Most cut flower growers will pre-sprout anemone corms in trays from late January to February and plant out into unheated hoop houses or plastic-covered low tunnels from February to March.
If you live in USDA growing zone 7 or warmer, you can plant tuberous anemones like A. coronaria in the fall. Rhizomatous anemones like A. canadensis and Japanese anemones can be planted at any time during the growing season.
Most of the time it is best to plant in the spring or fall because temperatures are cooler. Make sure to water well if you are planting during warmer temperatures.
How to Grow Anemones
Once established, these flowers are incredibly easy to grow. So much, so that they may actually be hard to control! Let’s take a look at all the important things to know once you’ve decided to plant them in your garden.
Plant Spacing and Depth
Plant tubers of A. coronaria 1 to 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. For cut flower production, decrease the spacing to 1 to 2 inches apart.
Rhizomes of anemones should be spaced 1 to 2 feet apart and 2 inches deep (or just make sure the root ball is covered). Some rhizomatous varieties can be aggressive spreaders. Be aware of that when planning your landscaping beds.
All anemones prefer full sun (6 to 8+ hours of direct sunlight) to part shade (4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight). If you live in a warm climate, plant these perennials in a partially shaded area so they won’t be stressed by heat. Full shade may reduce the number of flowers produced by the plant.
Anemones prefer well-draining soils that are rich in organic matter. As a flower that produces rhizomes and tuberous roots, rotting can be a concern in soil that does not drain well, like heavy clay soils. Soils with higher sand content are preferred for growing these flowers.
Japanese anemones and wild anemones like the Canada anemone and snowdrop anemone can withstand more clayey soils.
Anemones are pretty tough flowers and as such only have moderate moisture requirements. Spring rains will often be adequate. Aim to water anemones when the top few inches of soil are dry. Make sure to water at the base of the plant and in the mornings to help prevent disease.
Climate and Temperature
All anemones prefer cooler temperatures and will not thrive in very harsh, hot areas. Planting in part shade in warmer climates may help mitigate any negative effects of climate.
According to Specialty Cut Flowers by Allan Armitage and Judy Lauschman, optimal day temperatures for growing A. coronaria should be between 54 to 60℉ with night temperatures around 45 to 48℉.
Most anemones will die back once temperatures increase, especially above 75 to 80℉ consistently. This doesn’t mean they are completely dead, it’s just that they are going dormant, much like other spring flowers like tulips, daffodils, and crocus.
- Anemone coronaria is winter hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10.
- Anemone x hybrida (Japanese anemones) is winter hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
- Anemone blanda is winter hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
- Anemone canadensis and A. sylvestris are winter hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7.
If you are growing anemones from seed, the seedlings can be lightly fertilized. A mixture of fish and seaweed emulsion is a great little jumpstart for seedlings. Planting anemones in a pot with either slow-release fertilizer or compost will be sufficient for the growing season.
If planting anemones in the field for cut flower production, apply compost and a low percentage well-balanced fertilizer once or twice during the growing season. These little flowers are tough and don’t require much to get them going.
If growing in the landscaping, mulching and applying compost or well-rotted manure will help ensure adequate fertility for your plant. You can also apply dead leaves in the fall to give your soil a boost, and leaves will break down much faster than hardwood mulch!
Anemones planted in the fall should be mulched for extra protection over the winter if not under a frost cover. Pull back the mulch in the spring when the plant begins to sprout.
Mulch comes in many different materials, such as straw, leaves, tree bark, and other organic matter. It is important in retaining moisture as well as keeping in warmth throughout the cold winter months.
Keep anemones deadheaded to ensure new blooms. Cut at the base of the flower stem close to the soil line to keep your plant looking tidy.
When and How to Harvest
Anemones make excellent cut flowers. Because they open during the day and close at night, it can be tough to decide when to cut the stems for a flower arrangement.
Some professional growers will say that they like the flowers to open fully one time before they harvest. Others prefer to look at how far the leaf collar is away from the flower.
The “collar” is a ring of leaves around the bottom of the flower petals. As anemone flowers mature, the flower head grows up and away from the collar. A good rule of thumb is to cut flower stems when the space between the flower petals and the collar is about 1 inch.
Anemone coronaria usually has excellent vase life. Some have been known to last 2 to 3 weeks in a vase. Japanese anemones have a much shorter vase life. However, they can be cut for events.
Varieties of Anemones
There are several varieties that are available for planting. They come from different areas of the globe, but all produce pretty little flowers adored by any gardener.
De Caen hybrids are one of the most popular groups of anemones. They have large, single, saucer-shaped flowers. Flowers are available in white, dark pink/rose, blue, bicolor red and white, and white with hues of purple and pink.
These plants reach 10 to 12 inches in height. They are recommended for rock gardens and pots. De Caens are most often available as a mix.
St. Brigid hybrids have semi-double and double flowers. They are available in single colors of white, red, blue, pink, etc., or as a mix. Petals are more narrow and pointed at the tips compared to De Caen hybrids.
Anemona x hybrida
‘Honorine Jobert’ is probably one of the most popular Japanese anemones. White flowers with yellow and green centers bloom in the Fall on erect, branching stems that reach up to 3 feet tall.
‘Pink Saucer’ is a beautiful Japanese anemone that has light pink, slightly cupped flowers with yellow stamens that bloom in the fall. The plant is heavily branched and erect.
Anemone blanda varieties most often come as mixes of white, pink, purple, and blue tones. ‘Blue Shades’ comes in masses of bluish-purple daisy-like flowers. ‘Pink Star’ has pink tips a white ring in the center of the flower and yellow stamens. ‘White Splendour’ is completely white with yellow stamens.
Pests and Diseases
Anemones have only a few pest and disease problems. All are typical in any plant, and there are none that are unique to these flowers. Most of these pests and diseases can be prevented or remedied.
Aphids are tiny insects that can range in color from green to gray to brown. They have piercing, sucking mouthparts that can transmit viruses readily. Aphid feeding can cause distortion of the flowers and overall yellowing and stunting of the plant.
More than anything, they can be a problem mostly for cut flower growers because they tend to burrow into the folds of the petals. Spraying plants with a forceful stream of water can knock aphids off of plants.
Releasing beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings can help control aphid populations. Aphids are more of a problem when growing in greenhouses and unheated hoop houses.
Bacterial and fungal leaf spots can be an issue for these flowers. The best way to control various leaf spot diseases is by watering at the base of the plant instead of overhead and watering in the mornings instead of the evenings.
The key is to reduce the amount of moisture on the foliage of the plants. Remove any infected plants or debris to prevent the spread of the disease.
Rotting tubers can be an issue in soggy soils. Make sure to plant anemones in well-draining soil. If you know your soil is poorly drained or high in clay content, amend the soil with compost and well-rotted manure prior to planting. You can also plant in raised beds to increase drainage.
Anemones make excellent cut flowers, which is mostly what they seem to be known for today. As a cut flower grower myself, I have noticed that anemones are one of the flowers my customers love the most, especially because they are not easy to come by for the average person. White anemones are frequently used in wedding bouquets by florists.
Anemones are not just for cutting, though! Anemones are splendid little sweethearts that will beautifully grace a flower pot on your patio in the spring. Low-growing types are excellent along borders. Japanese anemones provide a splash of color in the fall, too.
Anemones are also an excellent candidate for rock gardens and as a flowering ground cover in natural landscapes (especially Canada and snowdrop anemones).
Frequently Asked Questions
Which way do I plant anemone tubers?
For the most part, you don’t need to worry about the direction you plant your tuber. However, you’ll notice one side of the tuber is more flat than the other. Plant the flatter side facing down.
Oftentimes if you look really closely you can tell where the eye is that the leaves will grow from. Plant the eye (i.e. bud) facing up if you are able to distinguish this.
Do they bloom in the spring or fall?
All anemones bloom in the spring except for Japanese anemones, which bloom in the fall. Most anemones will go dormant after flowering due to high temperatures of summer.
Do they prefer sun or shade?
Anemones prefer full sun to part shade. This means that they need between 4 to 6+ hours of direct sunlight per day to grow and bloom properly. In warmer climates, opt to plant anemones in part shade to mitigate effects from the heat.
Do they come back every year?
Anemones are herbaceous perennials, so yes they will come back every year if they are winter hardy in your USDA growing zone. If you live in zones 4 to 8, choose anemones like A. blanda, A. canadensis, A. sylvestris, or Japanese anemones.
If you live in zone 7 to 10, you can plant A. coronaria varieties outside with no cover. You can try lifting tubers in the Fall if you are in a colder growing zone, but many growers opt to treat A. coronaria varieties as annuals and purchase new tubers every year.
Anemones are one of the top flowers I would recommend trying to grow if you’re looking for a spring flower. They can provide value in the landscape as a border plant, potted plant, or as groundcover.
If you love to cut and bring flowers inside for your dining room table, anemones make great cut flowers with outstanding vase life and vibrant colors. Anemone blooms are not only beautiful but also endearing. I promise once you see your first bloom, there will be no going back to a spring garden without anemones.