Also known as windflower, anemones are grown for their beautiful, nodding blooms on long, wiry stems. The foliage looks similar between varieties, but size and bloom times vary between spring, summer, or fall. Fall-blooming Japanese anemones are particularly noteworthy because they fill the midsummer-to-fall gap in gardens.
Anemones' timeless grace enhances any garden. Depending on species, anemones can be some of the earliest perennials up. Those spring plants typically cover woodland floors with delicate, nodding blooms in soft shades, most often white, rarely tinged pink or purple. But the true showstoppers are fall-blooming anemones. These larger plants come in many shades of whites and pinks with petals ranging from single rows to double.
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Anemone Care Must-Knows
Perennial anemones are easy to grow, and once established, they can create large colonies of plants for grand displays. Anemones spread by underground rhizomes that multiply readily; in some cases they can be almost aggressive spreaders. However, their shallow roots make them easy to dig up.
For best results, plant anemones in well-drained soils rich in organic matter. The extra organic matter keeps a consistent moisture in soil. Many spring-blooming anemones are ephemeral, meaning the foliage will die back in summer and plants will go dormant. This can happen quickly if the soil is allowed to dry too much or too often. Keeping the soil evenly moist is also important for fall bloomers because the foliage can dry up and leaf edges brown and crisp especially in warm Southern climates.
Related: Bold Woodland Garden Plan
Planting anemones in part sun protects foliage from drying out too much, but don't plant fall-blooming varieties in too much shade otherwise plants become leggy and flop. More shade than necessary also reduces the number of flowers.
Anemones don't require much maintenance to put on a spectacular display of blooms. While not necessary, you can divide anemones in spring as plants emerge. In shadier plantings, keep an eye out for powdery mildew, which can be a mild nuisance.
More Varieties of Anemone
Anemone nemorosa 'Bracteata Pleniflora' is showier than the wild type because its flowers have extra petals. Like the wild form, it grows less than 1 foot tall. Zones 4-8
'Honorine Jobert' anemone
Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert' is 3-4 feet tall and covered with 2-inch-wide pure-white single blooms. It spreads less rapidly than other varieties.
'Queen Charlotte' anemone
Anemone x hybrida 'Queen Charlotte' offers wonderful, semidouble pale mauve flowers on 3-foot-tall plants. Zones 4-8
'September Charm' Japanese anemone
Anemone hupehensis 'September Charm' is a Japanese type with single pink flowers in late summer and early fall. Zones 4-8
Anemone sylvestris is a spring bloomer that may repeat in fall. The fragrant white flowers emerge from 18-inch-tall upright stems. It tolerates full shade, spreads by rhizomes, and can become invasive in loamy soils. Zones 4-9
Anemone nemorosa is an early-spring bloomer with 1-inch white blooms. Plants go dormant in summer but carpet large areas of woodland in spring. Zones 4-8
Anemone Companion Plants
This native perennial gets its name from the shape of its unusual flowers, which resemble the heads of snapping turtles. It's a good choice for heavy, wet soils and spreads to form dense colonies of upright stems bearing pink, rose, or white flowers from late summer into fall. It grows best in some shade, but tolerates full sun with adequate moisture.
Culver's root is imposing and elegant, with vertical spires of whitish blue flowers against dark foliage. Planted in full sun in humus-rich soil that remains moist, they may reach a whopping 7 feet tall; where the soil is drier, they stay a little more compact.
These diminutive wildflowers set bowl-shaped white, lavender, purple, or pink blooms. They get their name from the evergreen three-part leaves shaped somewhat reminiscent of the human liver—pointed or rounded on their ends and often with a deep purple cast. In the wild, the plants grow in deep leaf litter in deciduous woodlands. Liverleaf is excellent in shady rock gardens or woodlands where the soil is rich with humus.