How to grow spring-flowering anemones
Charming, cheery and colourful, these compact, early flowering anemones thrive in sun or light shade, producing saucer-shaped or daisy-like blooms. They’re ideal for growing in containers, at the front of borders and under trees.
- Grow in sun or light shade
- Compact, so ideal for small spaces
- Most like rich, free-draining soil
- For borders, containers and under trees
- Plant in autumn or spring
All you need to know
What are spring-flowering anemones?
These compact anemones brighten up gardens in spring with their small daisy- or buttercup-like blooms in a range of colours, from white to mauves, pinks and blues, with a central boss of stamens. Most grow from underground rhizomes or tubers and originate in woodland, alpine and Mediterranean areas.
The most popular and widely available anemones are also the easiest to grow, and include our native wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), bold and colourful A. coronaria, and daisy-like A. blanda and A. apennina, which all have lots of attractive cultivars.
There are many other species too, some more tricky to grow than others in the UK climate. The more specialist, tuberous or alpine types, such as A. biflora and A. bucharica, are rarely available and best kept in an alpine house to protect them from rain.
A. coronaria, and especially De Caen Group, are often grown as cut flowers, as they produce showy blooms in an array of rich, jewel-like colours, with a dark central boss of stamens, on long clear stems. They can also be ‘forced’ indoors, to produce an early display of spring flowers for the home.
Choosing the right anemones for you
Spring-flowering anemones are compact plants, ideal for growing in containers, small gardens or planted en masse in larger areas. Some are sun-lovers, others need dappled shade.
The most popular and widely available Mediterannean anemones are A. coronaria, especially De Caen Group, often known as garden anemones, and the peacock windflower A. pavonina. These produce showy flowers in a range of bright colours, with dark centres, on stems up to 40cm tall.
Give them a sunny, sheltered spot in well-drained soil, such as at the base of a south-facing wall. They won’t survive in damp conditions, especially when dormant. They grow well in containers too, as these can be moved to a sheltered spot after flowering, protected from excess rain and harsh frosts.
These are ideal for dappled shade under trees, in informal, naturalistic plantings. They form clumps or low carpets, 10–30cm (4–12in) tall. They dislike damp soil, especially in winter, and often need a dry spell in summer after flowering, when they go dormant.
Woodland anemones are easy to naturalise and will spread via creeping rhizomes or tubers. Popular, easy-to-grow choices include:
Anemone nemorosa AGM – our native wood anemone has single flowers, usually white or tinged pink, in March–May; many cultivars are also available, often double flowered; it spreads vigorously
A. blanda AGM – thrives in a woodland setting, where it forms large clumps of blue, pink or white flowers. Will also grow in sun
Anemone ranunculoides AGM – another European native, it has the same creeping twig-likerhizomes as the wood anemone, but produces bright yellow flowers in April
Rhizomes are creeping swollen root-like structures that are actually adapted stems. Roots, stems with leaves and flowers are produced along its length. See plants such as Anemone nemorosa, bamboo, canna, border iris.
Anemone x lipsiensis ‘Pallida’ AGM – the pale creamy-yellow flowers of this vigorous wood anemone are pretty in dappled shade
A. apennina AGM – this usually blue-flowered anemone (sometimes white, flushed with pink) has feathery foliage and blooms in April; it has become naturalised in Britain
Many woodland anemones have an RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), which shows they performed well in RHS trials, so are reliable choices.
To browse photos and descriptions of all kinds of anemones, go to RHS Find a Plant. You can also search by height, flower colour, growing position, RHS Award of Garden Merit, Plants for Pollinators, and more, to help narrow down your choices.
How and what to buy
Spring-flowering anemones may be sold as dormant rhizomes or tubers, usually in autumn, or as potted plants in spring, as they’re coming into flower.
You’ll find a limited range in garden centres, and a wider choice of cultivars from specialist suppliers online.
To find specific anemone species or cultivars, use RHS Find a Plant.
When to plant
- Plant dormant rhizomes or tubers of woodland anemones, to flower the following spring. Suitable species include Anemone blanda and A. nemorosa
- Plant tubers of A. coronaria De Caen Group in pots indoors for flowers in early spring, to display in your home – see our guide to forcing bulbs
- Plant tubers of Mediterranean Anemone coronaria De Caen Group, A. coronaria St Brigid Group and A. pavonina outdoors
- Plant containerised anemones, as they’re coming into flower
Where to plant
- Woodlanders such as Anemone nemorosa like rich soil, containing plenty of organic matter, and dappled shade under deciduous trees and shrubs, where they can flower before the leaves appear above them to cast shade. Because they go dormant in summer, they can usually cope well with the drier conditions under trees
- Mediterranean and alpine anemones, such as A. coronaria, like free-draining, sandy soil and full sun. Give them a warm, sheltered spot, in containers or in the ground, such as at the base of a sunny wall. In cold areas, it is best to provide winter protection, in a frost-free greenhouse or alpine house, or with a thick covering of insulating mulch. They also dislike damp conditions, especially when dormant
How to plant
- Before planting dry rhizomes or tubers, soak them for several hours, or overnight, to rehydrate them and encourage them into growth
- Plant potted anemones into ground enriched with plenty of garden compost
- When planting Mediterranean anemones such as Anemone coronaria and A. pavonina in containers, use a free-draining compost mix, with plenty of added sharp sand or perlite
- Newly planted anemones should be watered regularly until settled in, especially in dry conditions, but take care not to overwater as they dislike prolonged dampness
- Many anemones need a dry spell in summer when they go dormant
- Anemones in containers need regular watering during the growing season, as the limited amount of compost dries out quickly, especially in hot weather. But take care never to leave them in waterlogged compost
Water: collecting, storing and re-using
RHS video guide to watering efficiently
Anemones growing in soil that is rich in organic matter shouldn’t need additional feeding.
Mediterranean species such as A. coronaria may not be fully hardy in colder areas, so if growing in the ground lay a dry mulch of straw or compost over the area to provide winter protection, and if growing in a container, bring indoors to keep frost free and avoid excess winter rain.
By dividing rhizomes and tubers
Most spring-flowering anemones grow from rhizomes or tubers, and can be propagated while dormant:
- Dig up established underground rhizomes or tubers
- Cut them into several sections, each with at least one growth bud
- Replant straight away, before they dry out, into pots of free-draining compost
The new plants should flower the following year and will be exactly the same as the parent plant.
- Seeds should be sown fresh, straight after harvesting, into trays of moist, gritty, free-draining compost
- With cultivars, the offspring may differ from the parents, although this can produce interesting variations
- Some woodland species, including Anemone nemorosa, A. apennina and A. multifida, usually self-seed naturally
Seed: collecting and storing
RHS guide to sowing seeds indoors
By dividing clumps
Anemones that form fibrous-rooted clumps – particularly the woodland types – can be easily propagated by division, usually when dormant or as the leaves die down.
Pests and diseases
Spring-flowering anemones are usually healthy, trouble-free plants when given the right growing conditions.
Some are vulnerable to the following diseases, especially when the ground is very wet or dry, or plants are overcrowded:
A few pests can be troublesome, especially to more delicate plants and new young growth. Look out for:
Controlling pests and diseases without chemicals
Preventing pest and disease problems
Get more gardening advice
If you’re a member of the RHS, you can use our online Gardening Advice Service, via MyRHS, for any gardening problems or queries.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.