Celebrate the end of cold weather with winter aconite, one of the first blooming plants you’ll see in your yard before spring actually arrives. It sometimes appears so early (before crocus!) that the buttercup-like flowers burst up and out of the snow. This plant catches the eye in beds and borders, along pathways, and when mixed with crocus and other ephemerals in the lawn.
Winter Aconite Care Must-Knows
Winter aconite grows and blooms best in a spot that receives full sun (at least 6 or so hours of direct light per day in early spring). Because its growth starts so early in the season, this spring-blooming bulb can be planted beneath deciduous trees such as maples and oaks. By the time the trees leaf out, winter aconite has already put on its show and is getting ready to rest. Once the plant goes dormant in early spring, its foliage disappears until the following year.
For best results, grow winter aconite in moist, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. It is native to the woodlands of Europe, and as such, is used to soil that's full of decomposing leaves and other materials. If your soil claims an especially high sand or clay content, augment it with compost or well-rotted manure at planting time. Top-dress the soil each fall with an inch or two of compost to keep your winter aconite happy.
Winter aconite doesn't require any pruning or special care after planting. Because it blooms in March or April (but as early in February during mild winters) and goes dormant before summer, it can be helpful to mark where you plant them. That way you don't accidently dig up winter aconite if you site other plants in the garden for summer interest.
Like other spring-blooming bulbs, winter aconite is best planted in early fall. Look for evenly colored, firm tubers that don't feel limp or dried out. Many gardeners find success by soaking the tubers in water for a few hours before planting them. Plant tubers an inch or two deep and water them well after planting. Winter aconite's bulbs don't like to dry out in the fall, as they're busy sending out roots.
Unlike many other spring-blooming bulbs, winter aconite doesn't appeal to pests such as deer, rabbits, and rodents. That makes it an ideal choice for adding early spring color to yards where these critters frequently visit.
Using Winter Aconite
Plant winter aconite where you can see and enjoy its short, two-week-long blooming season. In addition, its tiny flower grows only 6 inches tall or less. With those stats in mind, you may want to plant these bulbs in garden beds and borders near the driveway or along a sidewalk you use frequently.
Winter aconite is also a classic choice for adding start-of-the-season color to woodland gardens. It thrives beneath deciduous trees with other woodland plants such as yellow corydalis, bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia), trillium (Trillium erectum), hepatica (Hepatica transsilvancia), and lungwort (Pumonaria saccharata).
Its early bloom season makes winter aconite an interesting choice for naturalizing in your lawn alongside other favorites such as crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) and snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). The foliage usually starts to go dormant when you're ready to mow for the first time of the season. Tip: In terms of lawns, winter aconite does best in areas where irrigation takes place during summer dry spells, and where there is not a lot of foot traffic compacting the soil.
To keep your winter aconite happiest, plant it in a spot where it won't be disturbed while it's dormant. To avoid bare areas in your beds and borders, plant winter aconite with groundcovers such as vinca (Vinca minor), green and gold Chrysogonum virginianum, or wild ginger (Asarum canadense).
Plant Winter Aconite With:
Early-spring blooming iris reticulata is a good match for winter aconite because the two plants' bloom times often overlap. (Winter aconite is finishing as Iris reticulata is getting started). The pairing creates an outstanding contrast of complementary colors: blue or purple from iris with bright, golden-yellow from winter aconite.
Snowdrops and winter aconites both enjoy the same growing conditions: sunny and planted in moist, but well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They also bloom around the same time, so you can enjoy snowdrop's white, butterfly-shape blossoms right alongside winter aconite's golden-yellow buttercups.
One of the earliest perennials to bloom in spring, hellebores sport leathery, semievergreen foliage, which means the foliage looks good throughout the winter in some, but not all, areas where the plant is hardy. Hellebores help draw attention to winter aconite when it is in bloom. Both plants are similarly pest-resistant.