Anemones: how to grow them and which to plant
We round up a selection of the best anemones, from Japanese anemones to woodland anemones, to feature in your garden, alongside tips on how to care and grow them
Anemone is a genus of plants which includes wood anemones, spring bulb anemones and Japanese anemones and can be both early-flowering bulbs and autumn blooms. Wood anemones are a group of shade-loving herbaceous perennials composed of several genera, although Anemone nemorosa is possibly the best known. They originate in woodlands and hedgerows in Europe and North America. Japanese anemones will be regulars in many people's gardens, bringing colour perennially in late summer and autumn. These enjoy well-drained soil and slight shade. Spring bulb anemones grow from rhizomes or tubers and emerge in spring.
How to grow and how to plant anemones
When do anemones flower?
Wood anemones are spring flowering plants that are dormant during the summer and autumn. Most flower March through to June. Japanese anemones flower between June and October. Spring bulb anemones should be expected along with your bulb display in the spring months.
Wood anemones like moist but well-drained, humus-rich soil and part shade. Some anemone species will tolerate drier conditions during the dormant period. They are tough plants that are hardy throughout all of the UK. Most reach a height of between 12cm and 20cm, and can often form clumps that are several metres wide. The majority of anemones dislike very wet winters and waterlogged soil. Japanese anemones can be planted between May and September for flowering in September October.
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The best anemones to plant
Key anemones from the Elizabeth MacGregor nursery
Anemone hybrid (= ‘Macane025’)
A new selection with red-and-white banding on the backs of the flowers, reminiscent of Tulipa clusiana. This anemone produces masses of flowers from June to September. 60cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Blushing Swan (= ‘Macane002’)
A soft-pink, early flowering anemone from the Swan series. Clump-forming, with an upright habit. Likes a good, well-drained soil, with lots of moisture. 60cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Elfin Swan (= ‘Macane017’)
A compact anemone cultivar with large, palmate leaves. Masses of white flowers with blue backs are produced on sturdy, upright stems. A good clump-former for rich soils. 50cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Wild Swan (= ‘Macane001’)
Large, white, cupped flowers, each with blue banding on the backs of the petals. The flowers close at dusk and open in the morning. 60cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Dreaming Swan (= ‘Macane004’)
This unusual, outstanding selection produces single flowers initially, followed by large, semi-double, white blooms with blue backs. This anemone is compact and strong-growing. 50cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Dainty Swan (= ‘Macane005’)
The semi-double flowers are presented on dark, maroon-pink stems and have conspicuous pink banding on the backs of the petals. It makes neat mounds of clean foliage and likes rich, moist soil. 45cm. RHS H6.
Anemone Ruffled Swan (= ‘Macane007’)
An anemone that flowers continuously from mid June to late October, this tall selection has semi-double flowers. Like Wild Swan, it has beautiful white petals with blue backs. 80cm. RHS H4.
Anemone hybrid (= ‘Macane044’)
A new favourite at Ellenbank, with dark-lavender backs to the flowers. This particular anemone form stands out from the crowd in the stock beds. One to watch out for. 60cm. RHS H6.
Anemones chosen by plantswoman Marina Christopher
This tuberous anemone produces an attractive rosette of dissected green foliage in early spring. Flowering stems unfurl from the centre to reveal large vibrant blooms in shades of white, pink, red or purple with an occasional pale lemon. A central white – or occasionally, as here, pink – halo around a cluster of stamens completes the picture of this flamboyant flower, which has the appropriate colloquial name of peacock windflower. Stamens vary in colour through black, green and blue. If happy, will naturalise to form large colonies. Height 20cm. Origin Greece, Turkey. How to grow this anemone Well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 8b-10b. When this anemone flowers Early spring.
Anemonella thalictroides f. rosea ‘Oscar Schoaf’
I generally avoid double flowers as many are sterile and so don’t provide sustenance for insect pollinators, but I make an exception for this exquisite rue anemone. A diminutive woodlander with perfectly double, rosy-pink flowers and thalictrum-like foliage, hence its name. This anemone flowers in late April and remains in flower for many weeks. It is best grown among plants of similar stature else it can be easily lost among the larger foliage of plants such as hostas. A little woodland gem. Height 10cm. Origin Eastern North America. How to grow this anemone Humus-rich, well-drained soil; dappled shade. Hardiness USDA 5a-8b. When this anemone flowers Mid to late spring, summer dormant.
An anemone from Milwood Plants
Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’
A beautiful and robust anemone cultivar with flowers that have a central white cushion made up of stamens that have become petaloid, sitting on a corona of white petals. 15cm. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.
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An anemone from Avon Bulbs
One of the nicest of the perennial anemones. It makes drifts of dainty, blue anemone flowers atop fine foliage. Prefers rich soils and semi-shade. 20cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b.
Anemones chosen by plantswoman Fleur van Zonnenveld
Anemone nemorosa ‘Kentish Pink’
I’m always amazed that Anemone nemorosa doesn’t generate the same levels of excitement as snowdrops. These wood anemone offer far more variation – the Austrian breeder Christian Kress has a collection of 140 types – and naturalise well. This cultivar is almost white but the backs of the petal-like sepals are pink, so in full sun it looks like a typical, white wood anemone, but when light is low, and the flowers start to close, its appearance changes completely. In some lights the flowers can appear dark pink. Height 20cm. Origin Western Europe How to grow this anemone Well-drained, humus-rich soil; part shade. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b. When this anemone flowers Spring.
Anemone ranunculoides ‘Crazy Vienna’
An anemone discovered in a castle park in Vienna that has been cultivated by the Austrian anemone specialist Christian Kress. Kress along with the Estonian Taavi Tuulik is introducing some exciting new cultivars. This one has bright-yellow, double flowers that look like buttercups and last until late in the season. It makes an excellent groundcover plant that works especially well when used between higher and later-flowering, shade-loving plants, such as Maianthemum racemosum or Polygonatum x hybridum. Height 20cm. Origin Vienna. How to grow this anemone Moist but well-drained soil; part shade. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA When this anemone flowers Spring.
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