Anemones make show-stopping cut flowers and also put on a beautiful display in the garden almost all season. They are easy to grow and very hardy plants- perfect for beginner gardeners and loved by many who have been growing them for years.
You have a wide choice of height, color, and bloom time when it comes to anemones, making them very versatile. There’s really little not to love about these flowers!
Here’s a complete guide to growing the anemone flower in your garden, plus some care tips to keep your plants healthy for years to come.
What Is the Anemone Flower?
Also known as windflowers, anemones (Anemone sp.) make up a large plant group of about 120 different species. Many species are native to North America and others to eastern Asia or Europe.
Anemones belong to the Ranunculaceae family along with other plants like ranunculus, delphiniums, and clematis.
Most often, anemones grow either from bulb-like corms or a rhizome-like root system. This will vary depending on which variety is being grown. All can be planted using a similar method, but there will be some slight differences based on the root system.
In general, anemones are herbaceous perennials in USDA hardiness zones 4-8. There are specific cultivars that are more heat-tolerant and suitable for zones 9-10.
Anemones are graceful yet hardy flowers that brighten up the garden landscape from spring to fall. Plant a variety to get consistent blooms through three seasons.
Plants will grow anywhere from 6 inches tall to over 4 feet tall. There are different varieties that bloom in spring, summer, and fall. Colors are a range of pinks, purples, red, orange, yellow, white, and blue.
To make these flowers even more interesting, blooms can be single, double, or semi-double, and many have brightly colored stamens in the center.
Toxicity Note: All varieties of anemones are toxic. This includes flowers, roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. The plant itself is very bitter, so it’s not often ingested. However, you may want to plant it out of reach of children and pets.
Reasons to Grow Anemone Flower
Besides their lovely appearance, there are many other reasons to add anemone flowers to your garden.
To start with, they are some of the best low maintenance plants you can grow. There are virtually no pests or diseases that bother them, and anemones require minimal care during the growing season.
As an added bonus, the flowers are also deer and rabbit resistant, mainly due to their bitter taste.
Although they repel most pests, anemones will attract beneficial insects like butterflies and many kinds of pollinators to your garden.
Though they look very delicate, anemones are some of the most low maintenance plants you can grow. They are bothered by very few pests and return reliably year after year.
As far as putting on a show in your garden, the flowers have a long bloom period. They can bloom for up to two months, and if you plant a mix of spring, summer, and fall bloomers, you’ll end up with an almost nonstop display from spring to fall.
Despite the fact that anemones can grow up to 4 feet, their stems are stiff, which means they won’t need staking (yet another thing that makes them low maintenance).
Finally, anemones make truly beautiful cut flowers. They are extremely popular in bouquets (particularly for weddings), and come in a fantastic range of colors. Some look similar to poppies, while others have a daisy-like appearance. All are unique!
Types and Top Cultivars of Anemone
There are many varieties and cultivars of anemone, but they are usually divided into two main groups:
- Spring Blooming– This category includes both spring and early summer bloomers. Cultivars in this group tend to be on the shorter side and generally start blooming alongside daffodils, tulips, and mid-spring bulbs. Spring bloomers are more likely to be native to North America and naturalize easily.
- Summer and Fall Blooming– These two types are put together in the same group because they are mostly all Japanese or Chinese anemones. Most grow a few feet tall and tend to be showier than the spring blooming varieties. Some can also be aggressive and spread by both seeds and rhizomes.
Native spring bloomers tend to be less showy than other varieties, but they can make quite an impact when planted in masses. They spread slowly and will eventually fill in empty spaces.
Within these two groups there are several species that are the most popular to grow. Here’s a look at the top few:
- Anemone blanda– The most popularly grown type of spring blooming anemone. Also known as Grecian windflower, plants are mostly hardy in zones 5-9. They are low-growing and have daisy-like flowers.
- A. sylvestris– Also called snowdrop anemone, this species is one of the earliest to bloom and has pure white flowers with yellow stamens. Plants are hardy in zones 4-8 and native mainly to woodland areas.
- A. canadensis– Native to North America, this species is one of the most cold-hardy and can be grown as low as zone 3. Plants aren’t as showy but are great for naturalized areas. Flowers are white.
- A. coronaria– This species is one of the most popular poppy-type anemones. They are especially popular in floral arrangements but are only perennials in zones 8-10.
- A. hupehensis– A mid-summer to fall bloomer with many cultivars to choose from. Also known as Japanese anemone, plants are hardy in zones 4-8.
- A. x hybrida– A large group of summer and fall blooming anemones with lots of cultivars to choose from. Hardiness varies by cultivar.
There are so many anemone varieties to choose from, but here are some of the top overall picks:
- ‘Hadspen Abundance’– A fall bloomer, this cultivar is very hardy and keeps blooming through a few light frosts. Flowers are a lovely pink with yellow centers. Zones 4-8.
- ‘Blanda Mix’– This is a mix of spring-blooming anemones. Flowers are daisy-like and come in shades of pink, white, and blue. Plants are low growing: 4-6 inches tall. Zones 4-9.
- ‘De Caen Mix’– De Caen is one of the most popular types of poppy-like anemones. This mix has large flowers in scarlet, pink, blue-violet, and white. All have dark centers and grow 10 inches tall on average. Zones 7-10, can be grown as an annual. Spring-blooming.
De Caen is a line of some of the most popular and reliable poppy-type anemones. You can find a wide range of colors, or go with a mix that will have several combined together.
- ‘Mr. Fokker’– This is another De Caen cultivar with true blue to purple-blue, poppy-like flowers. Plants bloom in spring and grow 6-9 inches tall. Zones 7-10, can be grown as an annual.
- ‘Bordeaux’– A de Caen variety with striking, deep red flowers. Grows 8-12 inches tall and looks great with white or pastel flowers. Zones 7-10, can be grown as an annual.
- ‘Rainbow Pastel Mix’– This is a gorgeous poppy-like mix that would be great for a wedding bouquet. Flowers are bi-colored in shades of lavender, light pink, violet, mauve, and white. Plants grow 10-12 inches tall and are very productive. Zones 6-10.
- ‘St. Brigid Mix’– This mix has unique ruffled, double blooms that are bright red, white, pink, violet, and blue. Plants bloom in spring and are excellent in rock gardens. Zones 7-10.
- ‘Wild Swan’– This is a late summer and fall blooming cultivar with flowers that are pure white on one side and violet-blue on the other. Blooms are large- about 4 inches across- and plants grow 16-20 inches tall. Zones 5-8.
- ‘Queen Charlotte’– A beautiful cultivar that blooms at the end of summer when little else is flowering, ‘Queen Charlotte’ has semi-double light pink blossoms. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall. Zones 5-8.
How to Grow Anemone Flower
When to Plant
The best time to plant anemones depends on which group your cultivar belongs to.
Spring blooming varieties should be planted in the fall. They will remain dormant during the winter, then grow and bloom the following spring.
Summer and fall blooming varieties should be planted in the spring. They need time to get their roots established before winter, so plant them after the danger of frost has passed in the spring.
The one exception to these guidelines is if you are trying to grow an anemone not hardy to your zone as an annual. In this case, you should always plant early in spring after the last frost has passed.
Keep in mind that by doing this, spring-blooming cultivars will flower for you much later, since you aren’t able to put them in the ground in the fall.
Where to Plant
As a general rule, anemones can be grown in full sun to partial shade, although a spot protected from afternoon sun is ideal in warmer climates.
You’ll have to check on your specific cultivar to find out its light requirements.
Usually, spring-blooming natives like A. blanda, A. sylvestris, and A. canadensis do well in more shade and can even be grown in a woodland garden. This is because they are native to forested areas.
Fall bloomers tend to do better with more sun- at least half a day. You’ll be able to tell if your plants need more sunlight because they’ll start to get leggy and floppy.
Anemones grow best in well-drained soil. Make amendments to improve poor drainage if needed before planting your bulbs. They aren’t picky about soil type, but adding in compost or another type of organic matter before planting will benefit your plants later on.
Choosing the right planting site is key to growing any plant successfully. If you get this part down, you’ll have little trouble growing anemones.
Don’t forget to weed your planting area and get rid of rocks or debris so that your plants won’t have anything to compete with as they get established.
How to Plant Anemones
Before planting, soak your corms or rhizomes in lukewarm water overnight. This helps to soften them and encourages them to sprout.
Planting depth and spacing will depend on the particular cultivar you’re growing.
Those that are small corms can be planted about 2 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart. Those that are larger rhizomatous roots can go 3 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. Measure the spacing by the center of each bulb.
The good news is that there is no right way up for anemone corms. You can place them in any way you want, and they will sprout upwards.
After digging your holes and planting your bulbs, cover them all up with soil. If you are planting in the fall, it’s a good idea to mark where you planted your anemones, so you don’t accidentally put anything on top of them.
Fall-planted anemones will be cared for by nature during the coming months. You can water spring-planted ones in and keep the soil damp (but not soaking, which encourages rot) until they sprout.
Anemones are a welcome sight in the spring when they emerge alongside many spring bulbs. If you planted in the fall, you should be rewarded with blooms the following spring.
Anemone Flower Care
Once they get going, anemones are pretty care-free. Keep them well weeded, especially as your new plants are getting established.
Most anemones prefer slightly drier soil over wet or water-logged soil. It’s important to water your plants during extended dry periods, but don’t let the soil get soggy. Growing plants will need watered more often, since they haven’t put down deep roots yet.
Fertilizing isn’t necessary for anemones. A yearly application of compost in the spring is enough to provide them all the nutrients they need.
You can deadhead spent flowers to tidy up your plants, although this isn’t strictly necessary. Varieties that spread easily by seed should be deadheaded regularly to prevent this.
Allow the foliage to remain intact on spring bloomers until it turns yellow-brown. You can then remove it. Cut fall bloomers back to the ground with a pair of pruners after a frost has turned their leaves brown or black.
If you are trying to bring anemones through the winter in a borderline zone, apply a thick layer of mulch as the weather starts to turn cold. Or you can dig up your corms in the fall and store them like you would dahlia bulbs.
Pests and Problems
Great news! There are no serious insect or disease problems that affect anemones. Occasionally, they may develop fungal problems, but these rarely cause severe damage.
One of the reasons anemones can make a great woodland plant is because deer and rabbits avoid them. There are also few insects that attack them, which is great news for you as the gardener.
Depending on what type of anemones you’re growing, they will begin spreading in your garden either gradually or more rapidly. This gives you the chance to easily propagate more plants, especially if clumps start getting crowded.
All types of anemones can be dug up, divided into smaller pieces, and replanted.
It’s best to divide fall bloomers in early spring, not long after the plants have emerged. Spring bloomers should be divided in late summer after the foliage has faded.
Enjoying Anemone in Your Garden
Anemones, especially the smaller varieties, look best when planted in masses. This is needed to get the full effect, although they also go well with other perennials.
Try planting spring-blooming varieties with spring bulbs and other early bloomers like columbine and bleeding heart. Plant them among perennials that come up later so there will be new plants to cover the dying foliage.
Fall bloomers look great planted next to perennials like purple coneflower, asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod, and black-eyed Susans.
All varieties can be used as cut flowers.
Once you get started planting the beautiful anemone flower in your garden, it may be difficult to stop! They look great with so many other flowers and provide you a gorgeous display with little effort year after year.