‘Curtain Call Deep Rose’ Japanese anemone. Photo by Proven Winners.

If you’re looking for a plant that will light up your garden at both ends of the season and even in between, Anemone is the perfect choice. Spring-blooming varieties begin showing off their delicate flowers in April, often sharing the spotlight with tulips and daffodils. Summer and fall bloomers come into the limelight as early as July and often continue well into autumn, putting on a spectacular grand finale. In addition to offering a wide range of bloom times, these shade-tolerant perennials come in an impressive array of flower forms, colors, and heights.

Despite their graceful beauty and dainty blooms, most are tough and undemanding. If they have a downside, it’s their tendency to naturalize and multiply in number year after year. But if you have the space, you’ll welcome the slow and steady population increase. Anemones make the greatest impact when grown en masse, and having too many is rarely a problem.

On this page: Basics | What to Plant | Growing Guide | Anemone Pictures | Garden Uses

THE BASICS

Common name:

Windflower, describing how the buds and flowers bob and sway in the slightest breeze. The botanical name is derived from the Greek word ánemos, meaning wind.

Zones:

Varies, but most are hardy from zones 4 to 8.

How they grow:

Depending on the species, anemones can grow from tubers, fibrous roots, or rhizomes.

Exposure conditions:

Partial shade to full sun.

Height:

From 6 inches to more than 4 feet.

Special attributes:


  • Attracts butterflies and many other pollinators.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant.
  • Long bloom period, often lasting two months or more.
  • Resistant to most insects and diseases.
  • The stiff, wiry stems need no staking.

Toxicity:

A word of warning, all anemones are toxic if ingested, so be sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets. (See more: Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats)

WHAT TO PLANT

Snowdrop anemones naturalized in meadow. Photo by Creative Travel Projects / Shutterstock

There are about 120 species, but they can generally be divided into two groups: Spring and early summer bloomers and late summer to fall-flowering species.

Spring blooming
Some of the first to bloom in spring are A. blanda (Grecian windflower), A. canadensis (Canada or meadow anemone), A. nemorosa (wood anemone), and A. sylvestris (snowdrop anemone). Typically shorter than their fall-blooming cousins, they naturalize readily to form low carpets of ferny foliage topped by petite white flowers, sometimes tinged in pink or purple.

Summer and fall blooming
This group (collectively called Japanese or Chinese anemone because of their East Asian origin) includes A. hupehensis, Anemone xhybrida, A. tomentosa, and their many cultivars. All bear airy clusters of 2- to 3-inch flowers that wave on wand-like stems a foot or more above mounds of attractive deeply-divided foliage. The flowers can be single, semi-double, or double in various shades of white, pink, and purple, all with showy yellow stamens. Plants spread by seeds and rhizomes once established, some (especially the fall-blooming species) can be aggressive. Most are less than 3 feet tall, but some cultivars can top out at 5 feet when the flower stalks reach full height.

GROWING GUIDE

Where to plant:

For the best performance, plant anemones in well-drained soil rich in organic matter, which will help maintain a consistent moisture level. Although they grow well in partial shade, fall-blooming varieties can become leggy and anemic if they don’t receive enough sunlight. A site protected from afternoon sun is ideal.

When to plant:

Fall bloomers are best planted in spring, especially in colder climates. If planted later in the season, they may not have time to establish a strong root system that can survive winter. Plant the tubers of spring-blooming species in the fall for blooms the following spring.

How to plant:

Plant rhizomes or tubers horizontal to the ground to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches, spacing them about 3 to 6 inches apart. The wider spacing is best for rhizomatous species that need room to spread. Tubers often benefit from an overnight soaking, which will encourage them to sprout faster. Before planting, amend the soil by digging in compost, leaf mold or other organic matter.

Watering:

During the growing season, keep the soil consistently moist by watering plants regularly. Japanese anemone can tolerate drier soil if grown in partial shade. All will suffer when grown in soggy soil, so avoid planting them in areas where water may accumulate.

Fertilizing:

It’s not necessary to fertilize them, but a topdressing of compost in the spring will help boost flower production and vigor.

Dividing and propagating:

Anemones are not always easy to grow from seed; however, the fall-blooming species can spread aggressively by seed in warmer zones. You can also divide fall bloomers in spring as the plants emerge or by taking root cuttings. Divide spring-blooming plants in late summer after the leaves fade. Those that spread by creeping rhizomes multiply readily once they become established, but they are easy to dig up and transplant if they begin trespassing beyond their boundaries.

Pruning:

They don’t require deadheading to prolong blooming, but the spent flower heads provide little ornamental value. Once the petals fall, clip off the flowers and their long stems to keep plants looking neat and to prevent self-seeding.

Winter care:

Anemones benefit from a good mulching in the fall to prevent frost heaving and to provide extra protection from the cold, especially in northern gardens. After the first hard frost, the foliage of Japanese anemones will blacken. Cut it back to the ground if you find it to be an eyesore. After the flowers have faded from spring bloomers, allow the foliage to remain until it yellows so the plant can produce the energy it needs for next year’s flowers.

ANEMONE PICTURES

Swipe to view slides

Photo: Proven Winners

'Curtain Call Pink'Buy now from Proven Winners
A. japonica

Zones:

4-8

Height:

14 to 18 inches

Spread:

16 to 18 inches

Bloom time:

Midsummer to early fall

This recent introduction from Proven Winners begins blooming as early as June and continues into fall, as does its kissing cousin ‘Curtain Call Deep Rose’. Bubblegum-pink flowers held above tidy mounds of emerald-green foliage create dainty bouquets. As a bonus, the flowers have two rows of petals for a fuller look. Excellent for containers or as an edging plant along garden beds and pathways.

Photo: Proven Winners

Fall in Love™ 'Sweetly'Buy now from Proven Winners
A. japonica

Zones:

4-8

Height:

20 to 26 inches

Spread:

24 to 30 inches

Bloom time:

Late summer to early fall

It’s impossible not to swoon over this early-fall bloomer, which produces plush semi-double flowers that look just like mini pink peonies. The upright growth habit works well in mass plantings or as a focal point in garden beds and containers.

Photo by Drop of Light / Shutterstock

Snowdrop Anemone
A. sylvestris

Zones:

3-8

Height:

12 to 18 inches

Spread:

12 inches or more

Bloom time:

Late spring to early summer

This enchanting shade-tolerant woodland native bears delicate white flowers that nod demurely on single stems that rise a foot above the finely cut blue-green foliage. When cut back after flowering, it often reblooms in the cool weather of early autumn. An excellent plant for naturalizing as a groundcover, especially in shady nooks or rock gardens.

Photo by Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock

'September Charm’
Anemone xhybrida

Zones:

4-8

Height:

2 to 4 feet

Spread:

2 to 3 feet

Bloom time:

August to October

The tall, elegant rose-pink blooms of ‘September Charm’ are among the most welcome sights in my fall garden. From a few nursery-grown plants I started five years ago, I now have a large colony of these beauties residing happily in a sun-dappled corner. Even when not in bloom, I love this plant’s attractive deeply-lobed foliage, which resembles small maple leaves. Despite the name, this windflower remains floriferous for months, brightening my garden from late August through October.

Photo by ranmaru / Shutterstock

‘Hadspen Abundance’
A. hupehensis

Zones:

4-8

Height and spread:

2 to 3 feet

Bloom time:

September to November

Here’s a tough, cold-tolerant fall anemone that will continue to bloom even after the first frost, often persisting into November. The flowers have petals of different sizes and shades of pink surrounding sunny yellow centers, creating a unique two-tone effect. It naturalizes enthusiastically yet not invasively, interweaving gracefully among other late-season garden perennials and shrubs.

Photo by Landscape Nature Photo / Shutterstock

‘White Splendour’
A. blanda

Zones:

4-8

Height and spread:

4 to 6 inches

Bloom time:

April to May

Blooming in early spring, often in concert with late daffodils and May tulips, this low-growing tuberous plant forms a carpet of daisy-like white flowers, each displaying more than a dozen petals. The plants naturalize over time to create a shade-tolerant spring groundcover. Their short stature also makes them ideal for shrub and tree underplantings.

Photo by Mike Russell / Shutterstock

Anemone Wild Swan™

Zones:

5-8

Height:

20 inches

Spread:

16 inches

Bloom time:

Late spring through fall

This unique offspring of both early- and late-blooming varieties remains in its full glory for most of the gardening season, yielding an abundance of pure white flowers from late spring until the first frost. The exceptionally large blooms, spanning up to 4 inches across, have lavender-blue bands on the reverse side of each petal that are even more noticeable when the flowers slumber in the evening, closing into lovely little bicolored bells.

Photo by Del Boy / Shutterstock

'Honorine Jobert'
Anemone xhybrida

Zones:

4-8

Height:

3 to 4 feet

Spread:

1 to 2 feet

Bloom time:

September to November

Considered to be the best and most prolific of the white-flowering fall bloomers. For months on end, it produces profusions of dazzling white blooms with overlapping petals and bright yellow centers. The tall, graceful stems make it an invaluable background plant in herbaceous borders. In cottage gardens, it looks lovely when intermingled with pink-flowered selections, such as 'September Charm’. Named the 2016 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Photo by Del Boy / Shutterstock

'Robustissima'
Anemone xhybrida

Zones:

3-8

Height:

3 to 4 feet

Spread:

2 to 3 feet

Bloom time:

Late August to November

Also called grape leaf anemone (because the foliage resembles grape leaves), this sturdy cultivar is one of the hardiest of the fall-blooming species, tolerating temperature extremes and drought better than most. Its silvery pink cup-shaped flowers rise up to 4 feet above the handsome dark green foliage, held aloft by red-flushed stems. Impressive when massed.

Photo by Matt Hopkins / Shutterstock

'Robinsoniana'
A. nemorosa

Zones:

4-9

Height and Spread:

4 to 6 inches

Bloom time:

Early to midspring

The pale lavender blooms of this beguiling wood anemone open in early spring to reveal bright starbursts of golden yellow stamens. It thrives in shade-dappled sites, gently wending its way among daffodils and other spring-blooming perennials to provide additional color and textural interest. Prefers moist, humus-rich soil but tolerates drier soil in summer when the plants go dormant.

GARDEN USES

Use shorter spring-blooming anemones as groundcovers or underplantings in woodland gardens and shade gardens or to accentuate other early bloomers such as daffodils, columbine and bleeding hearts. A. blanda and A. nemorosa go dormant after flowering and are best combined with warm-season perennials that will fill the space they leave behind.

The more statuesque fall-blooming anemones work well in mass plantings or the back of the border and combine beautifully with other fall perennials such as asters, purple coneflowers, ornamental grasses, goldenrod and black-eyed Susans.

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All-Star Spring Flowers for Your Garden
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