Learn about anemones or windflowers, including varieties and how to plant and grow them.
part sun, part shade
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
late summer to fall in colors such as white, lavender and pink
Mature Height x Spread
2 to 4 feet x 2 feet
attracts beneficials, deer resistant
Japanese anemones are the crowning glory of a late summer garden. The buttercup-like, pink, lavender or white single or double flowers with yellow centers are held up on wiry stems. The dainty flowers dance in the breeze, hence the common name, windflower. They’re different from the bulbing anemones that bloom in spring. The perennial Japanese anemone is an autumn bloomer and a larger plant adding color to the late summer perennial flower border and cottage garden. Japanese anemone grows well in moist soil conditions and can take part sun or part shade. I find the flower color is actually best with some afternoon shade. The will spread if grown under the right conditions.
Where, When and How to Plant
Japanese anemones grow throughout our region. In colder areas consider planting them close to buildings for added winter protection. It’s easiest to purchase Japanese anemones from the local garden center or get divisions from a garden friend. Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed, until early fall in well-drained, compost-amended, humus-rich soil. Japanese anemone roots don’t like to dry out, so keep the plants moist, and well mulched. Space plants 1 to 2 feet apart.
Japanese anemones are very forgiving of any soil type as long as it’s well drained and stays moist. Fertilize in spring with compost and an organic plant food. Keep the plants mulched with bark mulch each season to maintain soil moisture and keep weeds away.
Regional Advice and Care
Japanese anemones can grow 4 feet tall. Some double-flowered varieties may need staking to keep them from falling over. Japanese anemones spread by underground runners so can be divided every few years to keep them in bounds and produce more plants. Dig entire plants in early spring, divide them into fist-sized new plants, and replant in a similar soil and sun condition or give them away to friends or family. After frost has killed the plants, cut them back to the ground and compost the tops.
Companion Planting and Design
Japanese anemones are great additions to part sun gardens paired with monkshood, hosta, ornamental grasses and bergenia. They look best when allowed to form into groups and have room to spread. Plant them where you can also enjoy butterflies to like to alight on the blossoms. You an also grow them in open woodlands and along wet areas to naturally spread.
“Honorine Jobert” is an heirloom, white colored variety that blooms for weeks in fall. “Bressingham Glow” is a double, rose pink variety. “Whirlwind” is a white variety that only grows 2 feet tall. For a touch of lavender, try “Kriemhilde”. “Max Vogel” has semi-double pink flowers.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.
Late summer can be a frustrating time in the perennial flower garden. The rudbeckias and coneflowers are fading, but the asters and sedums haven’t come into their glory yet. There is often a color gap in the garden. The answer could be Japanese anemones.
Japanese anemones or wind flowers are actually native to China, but were frequently cultivated in Japanese gardens when European explorers first saw them in the 17th century. They quickly became a favorite in the West for their attractive dark green foliage and late summer flowers that seem to dance in the wind on wiry stems. Japanese anemones grow best in part shade in well-drained, moist soil. If they have too much shade, the flower stems may get leggy and flop over. Japanese anemones grow fine in full sun in our area as long as the soil is kept consistently moist. The plants grow 2 to 4 feet tall with single or double flowers ranging in color from white to deep rose.
The Chicago Botanic Garden did a plant evaluation of 28 Japanese Anemone varieties and determined for their climate (which is similar to ours), the white ‘Andrea Atkinson’, pink ‘Max Vogel’ and rose-colored ‘Splendens’ are some of the best performing varieties. Of course, there are many other good varieties as well.
Japanese anemones can spread by rhizomes, but any errant offspring are easy to remove in spring. Plant these dainty flowers in amongst your fall blooming sedums, asters and goldenrod.