The temperate woodlands and meadows throughout the northern and southern hemispheres are home to more than 120 wild species of anemone, or windflower. The anemone hybrids treasured in bouquets and home gardens are derived from these charming wildflowers and have been specially cultivated for the size and color of their bright blooms.
Anemones are all perennial members of the buttercup family, growing 6 to 36 inches high. Their colorful flowers range from 2 to 5 inches in diameter and are made up of tepals, which are petal-like bracts (leaf-like structures located just below the flower or flower head).
Many types are for sale, but two hybridized species are especially popular with florists and home gardeners: Poppy windflower (A. coronaria) and Japanese anemone (A. hupehensis).
Anemone coronaria – Poppy windflower
Poppy windflowers top the list of anemones that are beautiful as cut flowers and in a garden. They are a favorite in the floral trade and are frequently used in arrangements because of their strong stems and long vase life.
These bright flowers come in white, red, hot pink, purple, blue, and white, with six to eight tepals apiece. Their dark, central buttons give them a poppy-like appearance. They grow 9 to 18 inches high, and are native to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, western Asia, and northern Africa.
Poppy windflower cultivars
A lovely series of cultivars that was developed recently in Italy is called mistral, or Italian anemones. These long-lasting, 3- to 4-inch wide flowers come in various colors and grow 8 to 12 inches high, making them an excellent choice for cut flower arrangements.
- Mistral Azzurro – Bright purple at the base, fading upward to white
- Mistral Bianco Centro Nero – Pure white contrasting with the dark center
- Mistral Blue – Blue flowers
- Mistral Bordeaux – Dark burgundy flowers
- Mistral Fucsia – Hot pink flowers
- Mistral Rarity – Light lavender-pink flowers
- Mistral Rosa Chiaro – Delicate light pink flowers
Another A. coronaria series is St. Brigid, developed in Ireland in the early 1900s. These have semi-double flowers and are perfect for cut flowers or a partially shady garden. They are typically sold as a mixed-color assortment of red, pink, light pink, lavender, purple, white, and bicolor. Certain cultivars are also available separately, including:
- The Governor – Red double flowers, 8 to 12 inches high
- Mt. Everest – White double flowers, 12 to 15 inches high
De Caen cultivars originated in France in the mid-1800s. They have single flowers that come in a rainbow of colors.
- De Caen Blue Poppy – Blue-violet flowers, 8 to 10 inches high
- De Caen Hollandia – Scarlet flowers with a ring of white at the base, 10 to 24 inches high
- De Caen Sylphide – Hot pink flowers, 10 to 12 inches high
- De Caen The Bride – White flowers with a white central button, 10 to 24 inches high
Anemone hupehensis – Japanese windflower
In the 1600s, European explorers collected anemones from Japan that had naturalized from China. The original name of these flowers was Anemone hupehensis, and now they are called Eriocapitella hupehensis. Hybridized descendants of these plants are called Eriocapitella × hybrida, or sometimes Anemone × hybrida, and you will see any of these names used for Japanese windflowers.
They excel as border plants, in wildflower or cottage gardens, or as cut flowers.
Japanese anemone cultivars
- Anemone hupehensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’ – Single pale rose flowers with yellow centers, 2 to 3 feet high
- Anemone hupehensis ‘Praecox’ – Single bowl-shaped pink flowers with yellow centers, 4 to 5 feet high
- Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ – Semi-double white flowers with green and orange centers, 3 to 4 feet high
- Anemone × hybrida ‘Pamina’ – Double rose-colored flowers with yellow centers, 2 to 3 feet high
Uses of anemones
Anemones are loved for their sweet, colorful blooms that are beautiful in the garden, in containers, and for cut flowers. Poppy and Japanese anemones are the best types for cut flowers because of their long stems and two- to three-week vase life, and are outstanding in arrangements and bridal bouquets.
Caring for cut anemones
When your box of anemones arrives, follow these simple steps, and they should stay fresh in a vase for two or more weeks.
- Unpack the box and carefully remove the wrapping from the flowers.
- Cut 1 inch from the bottom of each anemone stem and filler foliage at an angle with clean scissors or a knife.
- Fill a vase three-fourths full with clean, tepid water and add the flower food and preservative. If you didn’t receive a packet, you can make your own, with three-fourths teaspoon bleach, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 1 quart of water.
- Arrange the flowers in the vase, removing any leaves below the water line to avoid their decaying and shortening the life of your anemones.
- Change the water every two to four days to keep it fresh, and add more flower food with each change. If you need additional flower food, make more of your own with the recipe above.
- Clip the ends of the stems again when changing the water.
You can extend the life of your anemones by keeping them out of direct sunlight in a cool environment (65 to 72 degrees). At night, put them in a cool room away from drafty heating or cooling vents.
How to grow anemones
Anemones are easy to grow, and give back a hundredfold. Plant them in either the fall or spring, depending on the species and climate.
When to plant
Poppy anemones are not winter hardy and, as such, should be planted in the fall for late winter or early spring blooms in mild climates (zones 7 to 10), where their corms can winter over. In cold climates (zone 6 and below), plant the corms in the spring for summer blooms or in the summer for early fall flowering.
Japanese anemones (A. hupehensis) are fibrous rooted, winter hardy in zones 4 to 8, and bloom in the late summer and fall. Plant them in the spring in any climate after all danger of frost has passed.
Where to plant
All anemone species do best in light shade, especially in mild climates, but they will grow well in full sun if there is enough moisture and the weather is cool. They prefer loose, moist, well-draining soil rich in organic matter with neutral to slightly acidic pH.
How to plant
Poppy anemones grow from hard, knobby corms. To prepare them for planting, soak the corms in room temperature water for four to six hours until they plump up.
Some gardeners like to pre-sprout their anemones after soaking the corms to give the flowers an advantage when planting. To do this, put the corms in shallow trays on a layer of light potting mix or peat moss. Cover them with the mix and set them in a cool, dark place. In two weeks, they will sprout roots and be ready for planting.
Plant the corms 2 inches deep and about 3 inches apart with their pointed ends down, and they should begin to bloom in 12 to 15 weeks.
Dig a wide, deep hole and fill it part way up with rich, well-draining soil amended with compost. Set the plant into the hole, and backfill with the amended soil. Tamp it down, water it well, and you should see blooms in 12 to 15 weeks.
Caring for garden anemones
Water your anemones regularly to keep the soil moist. Overwatering can cause root rot, so only water when the soil is dry half an inch to an inch down from the top. If you are growing anemones in pots, water them more frequently than garden-grown flowers since the soil will dry out faster.
Deadheading anemones improves their look when some of the blooms go by. At season’s end, when all the flowers are spent, cut the plants down to a half or third of their size.
Even though Japanese varieties are cold hardy down to zone 4, they will be better protected in winter with a layer of mulch. Poppy anemones and their corms can be brought in for the winter in zones 4 to 6, or can be treated as annuals.
Meaning and symbolism of anemones
In ancient Egypt, China, and during the Middle Ages in Europe, anemones symbolized illness and death. In ancient Rome, however, the flower was considered a good luck charm against fever. And in the floriography of Victorian England, anemones symbolized forsaken love and affection.
6 awesome anemone facts
- A Swedish children’s song, “Blue Anemone,” honors the beginning of spring.
- In Greek, “anemone” means “daughter of the wind,” hence the name “windflower.”
- In Greek mythology, Aphrodite’s mortal lover, Adonis, was killed by a wild boar. Anemones grew where her tears fell, mixed with his blood.
- During the day, anemone flowers open wide for pollination; at night, however, the flowers close their tepals and “nod” their heads.
- Anemones do not have any fragrance, but they do attract bees and butterflies.
- As beautiful as anemones are, all parts of them are poisonous.