I was familiar with the spring-blooming daffodils, tulips, lilacs, and peonies, but I was recently unaware of another spring flower, the anemone. Coming in an array of colors and sitting atop sturdy stems and lacy foliage, anemones had somehow flown under my radar until last year. It wasn’t until I started researching cut flower varieties that anemones piqued my interest. Their spring bloom time, beautiful flowers, and long vase life won me over, and I decided to try growing them.
Anemones are native to all continents’ subtropical and temperate regions except Antarctica, New Zealand, and Australia. They are a part of the buttercup family and are commonly called windflowers. The three main types of anemones are Spring flowering, tuberous Mediterranean, and Fall flowering, totaling over 120 species. Some have daisy-like flowers, and others resemble poppies. The Spring flowering varieties, which are grown from corms, are a favorite of flower farmers as they make lovely cut flowers and are popular with florists and brides. Besides their beauty and long vase life, these Spring flowering varieties are workhorses in the garden, often producing up to 30 flowers per corm.
Anemone corms are otherworldly looking, resembling dried-up mushrooms or dates, and must be soaked and rehydrated before planting. Place them in a mesh bag and soak corms in room temperature water for three to four hours. Be careful not to oversoak the corms, or they will rot. Instead, you can use an aquarium bubbler to oxygenate the water and help prevent rotting. As they rehydrate, they will plump up and usually double in size. In warmer climates (USDA Zone 7 and above), anemone corms can be planted in Autumn and successfully overwintered with protection from a frost cloth or low tunnel. But in colder climates, they need protection from the cold, so they don’t freeze; this requires a lightly heated hoop or waiting to plant until early Spring.
Since I live in USDA Zone 5b, I cannot plant my anemone corms out in the Fall. So instead, I started them indoors in early February. I soaked them with a bubbler and then planted them in a shallow tray filled with moist seed starting mix. I kept the tray in a cool, dark location (in my basement) for a few weeks to allow them to grow roots. This method is called presprouting and is done before planting out to help the flowers bloom several weeks earlier. You can soak the corms and immediately plant them out in early Spring, but then you risk the plants going into dormancy before blooming if warm temperatures move in.
At the end of February, I transplanted the rooted corms into individual pots for them to grow larger before transplanting outdoors. It was hard to believe that they were ready to be planted in early March, but I threw caution to the wind and gave it a go. With snow still on the ground, I planted my anemone seedlings in a prepared bed and covered them with low hoops and heavy plastic. Amazingly, they survived snowstorms, thunderstorms, and high winds over the next month. Each time a storm was over, I expected to open the low tunnel and see that they had perished. But, to my astonishment, they made it through every time! They produced their first buds by mid-April and were flowering in early May.
Spring-blooming anemones come in violet, pink, white, and red. I’m not usually a fan of red flowers, as I gravitate towards a more pastel color palette. However, by the time I decided to give anemones a try, the red and white variety was all I could find. Despite my misgivings about the color, I was pleasantly surprised to find this variety quite stunning. I especially liked the white blooms with just a hint of red. They remind me of large tropical umbrellas or beautiful flowing skirts. And the flowers certainly are a welcomed sight in Spring.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that what they say about the long vase life is true. They look beautiful in a vase for a week to ten days when freshly cut.
If I had to name one, my only complaint is that they do not tolerate the heat well. High temperatures will shut down anemone plants and cause them to go dormant. Due to climate change, we have been getting some hot weather in May in recent years. Temperatures in the upper eighties and mid-nineties are enough to stop anemone flowers from blooming. So, in my opinion, the bloom time was short in relation to all of the effort required. However, most flower farmers grow their anemones in a hoop house, allowing the plants to establish and bloom earlier and last longer before the warm weather arrives, equipment that I, unfortunately, do not have.
Call me crazy, but I plan to grow anemones again next season, despite the effort required. I will experiment with saving my corms from this season and also plan to grow the violet-colored anemones I’ve already ordered. Next year, I will try soaking and presprouting my anemone corms in January so that my plants are larger when transplanted. Perhaps this will lead to an earlier and longer-lasting bloom time before the temperatures rise.
I love experimenting with new plants in the garden. It keeps the beds ever-changing and gives me opportunities to learn new growing methods. Plus, I experience gorgeous flowers in my landscape and bring them indoors to enjoy. So, when it came to deciding whether to give anemones a try, I said yes, because Thistle Be the Day!