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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is a Japanese anemone plant? Also known as Japanese thimbleweed, Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis) is a tall, stately perennial that produces glossy foliage and big, saucer-shaped flowers in shades ranging from pure white to creamy pink, each with a green button in the center. Look for blooms to appear throughout summer and fall, often until the first frost.
Japanese anemone plants are a cinch to grow and adaptable to most growing conditions. Read on to learn more about growing a Japanese anemone (or several!) in your garden.
How to Grow Japanese Anemone Plants
Ready to start growing a Japanese anemone? This plant may be available at your local greenhouse or nursery. Otherwise, it’s easy to divide mature plants or take root cuttings in early spring. Although it’s possible to plant Japanese anemone seeds, germination is erratic and slow.
Japanese anemone plants grow in nearly any well-drained soil, but they are happiest in rich, loose soil. Mix a little compost or rotted manure into the soil at planting time.
Although Japanese anemone plants tolerate full sunlight, they appreciate a lightly shaded area where they are protected from intense afternoon heat and sunlight – especially in hot climates.
Japanese Anemone Care
Japanese anemone care is relatively uninvolved as long as you provide regular water to keep the soil consistently moist. Japanese anemone plants won’t tolerate dry soil for long periods of time. A layer of bark chips or other mulch keeps the roots cool and moist.
Watch for slugs and other pests such as flea beetles, caterpillars and weevils and treat accordingly. Also, tall plants may need staking to keep them upright.
Note: Japanese anemone plants are rambunctious plants that spread by underground runners. Choose a location carefully, as they may become weedy in some areas. A place where the plant is free to spread is ideal.
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How to Grow Anemone Japonica Seeds
The Japanese anemone (anemone japonica) or windflower, is a flowering perennial that produces delicate blossoms from white to pink with yellow centers. Japanese anemone seeds and their plants grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 7. They grow in branched clusters, and can produce spread roots that grow stems up to 2 to 4 feet in height. These plants are popular in outdoor gardens thanks to their late bloom, which can brighten up an otherwise fading garden from late summer into autumn. This makes them a great transition plant for gardeners who wish to have color in their garden during every season.
HOW TO GROW FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS ANEMONE HUPEHENSIS
Large, elegant Japanese anemones make a stunning, durable display of large saucer-shaped flowers in a late-season garden.
Many varieties bloom from midsummer, in October through November.
The creamy flowers come in creamy colors to pure white, lilac and a range of luscious pinks – from light blush to bright coral and raspberry pink!
In the centre of the flowers, there is a bright bud of green or golden anthers.
Easy to grow, it adapts to a variety of growing conditions and thrives in a semi-sunny location.
This makes them ideal for gardens in light shade, woods, or mixed with shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendron.
After the petals fall, globe-shaped cotton seed heads form, adding extra interest to the garden through late fall and winter.
Join us now to learn how to grow and care for Japanese anemones!
Here’s what I’ll cover:
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
• Cultivation and History
• How to Grow
• Growing Tips
• Pruning and Maintenance
• Cultivars to Select
• Managing Pests and Disease
• Best Uses
• Quick Reference Growing Guide
CULTIVATION AND HISTORY
Anemones are a genus of the ranunculus (buttercup) family, with relatively few fall-flowering species.
Most of the late flower species known as Japanese anemones are native to the prairie and subalpine grasslands of the wooded highlands of China.
However, it has been bred in Japan for centuries and many of the popular varieties today are native to there.
The most common species grown in home gardens is A. hupehensis, and a number of hybrids collectively known as A. X hybrids.
Other Japanese anemone species are A. tomentosa and A. vitifolia.
A. tomentosa is the most resistant species, it flourishes as far north as Zone 3. A. hupehensis is the most common breeding plant and is still used as the parent plant of the hybrid stock.
With A. vitifolia, A. hupehensis and hybrid varieties are resistant to zones 4 and 5.
The flowers are usually 2 to 3-inch blossoms that float atop long, powerful stems. Shades of pink, purple, or white make a stunning show, especially when planted in large drifts.
Flowers can have single or double petals and have various shapes:
There are some that resemble large poppies or buttercups with broad, pointed petals.
Some have long, concave petals and look like jasmine flowers in summer.
Others have the look of a dahlia with curved petals.
The strong, branched stems have several buds and provide a long flowering period that usually begins in mid-July and continues through October through November.
These perennials grow from hard nutritious roots and tough and short roots, slowly forming clumps of runners underground in tall, attractive vegetation.
These plants are considered an invasive weed in Hawaii because in ideal conditions they can spread and crowd out other plants.
Foliage is constricted, with simple or compound leaves that have sharp or slightly serrated edges and usually have a mound.
There are other types of anemones that flower in spring, such as A. blanda also known as the Greek windflower, which you can learn more about in our guide. (soon!)
HOW TO PROPAGATE FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
Japanese anemones are best propagated by division, and root cuttings are taken in early spring or early autumn.
Photo by Lorna Kering.
It is possible to start from seed, but the hybrids do not grow faithfully to the parent plant and are much slower to develop than cuttings.
HOW TO PROPAGATE FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
To divide the existing lumps, use a garden fork to carefully dig the entire root system, digging about six inches off the main stem.
Gently loosen any soil and detangle the roots into two or three small clumps, making sure each cluster has its own rhizome and at least one viable stem.
Cut the rhizome near the crown, leaving two to three inches of the root intact. Do not throw away the cut roots as it will also produce new plants!
Re-plant the parent and the sections spaced 24 inches apart.
Cut the remaining root portions into 2 to 3-inch long pieces.
Place the cuttings horizontally in a basin of loose, moist starter soil and cover them with a 1/2 inch of soil.
Cover the tray with a clear plastic wrap or place it in a slightly airtight plastic bag to help retain moisture. Place the flat on a sunny windowsill and within a few weeks, new growth will appear.
Move the cuttings into larger pots or in the garden when the danger of frost has passed.
Alternatively, you can purchase potted plants or bare roots from your local nursery or online.
HOW TO GROW FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
Japanese anemones thrive partially in full sun locations – the ideal place to receive morning sun with noon shade, or dappled sunlight throughout the day.
HOW TO GROW FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
However, both the intense midday sun and dense shade can prevent flowering and should be avoided.
It requires constantly moist soil, but cannot tolerate wet conditions, especially in winter, which cause root rot.
Loose, well-drained soil enriched with organic matter such as old compost or well-moulded compost is the preferred planting method. Plants prefer a mild pH from 5.8 to 6.2.
Here’s how to plant it:
1. Dig a wide hole and add a large shovel of compost, tree leaves, or well-rotted compost.
2. Sprinkle a tablespoon of bone powder and mix with compost.
3. If necessary, mix in a shovel filled with landscape sand or pea gravel to improve drainage.
4. Take the plants out of their containers and place them gently in the hole, then backfill them with soil, and fix them gently in place without packing them. In the case of bare roots, it must be ensured that the crown is at ground level.
5. Apply a layer of bark mulch or pea grit at a height of two inches to help maintain constant moisture levels. Avoid crowding the crowns, however, by leaving a 2-inch band around the shins.
6. Water gently.
Maintain even moisture, and do not let the soil dry out or be submerged in water. If you grow it in full sun, you will need to be extra vigilant about watering.
These plants are light feeders but appreciate applying fertilizers in early spring. Use an organic fertilizer or a balanced fertilizer.
Plants rarely require standing in place, and if they get a little tall, it may be due to too much shade. Prune the branches of trees and shrubs nearby to allow more light in.
Tall varieties with large flowering value protection from strong winds. If wind is a problem, plant it near support structures such as fences, foundations, sheds, logs, retaining walls, etc.
It can also be grown in containers, which can be helpful if you are concerned about its spread. You will need a container 12 to 14 inches wide, at least 10 inches deep to allow the root system to spread.
Make sure the container you choose has sufficient drainage holes on the bottom. Use a well-draining potting mixture, and remember to be more vigilant about watering, as containers dry out more quickly than soil in the garden.
TIPS FOR GROWING FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
• It grows in part to a full sun location, with some protection from the wind.
• Grow in soil that is rich in organic matter and with good drainage.
• Maintain moisture in the soil but do not allow it to get soggy.
PRUNING AND MAINTENANCE FALL-BLOOMING JAPANESE ANEMONE FLOWERS
When established, these plants require little maintenance.
Deadheading does not need to be used, as it will not encourage further flowering, but spent flowering can be removed to arrange plants if desired.
But if you make a deadhead, you will miss the attractive seed heads that add winter interest, and provide a popular nesting material for hummingbirds and little songbirds – visitors are always welcome in the park!
Japanese anemones appreciate deep snow cover to protect the roots from cold temperatures and dry winds. If you don’t have reliable winter snow, provide 4-inch thick mulch to protect from the cold.
In early spring, clean the plants by removing old stems and leaves, and cutting them back 2 to 4 inches above soil level.
Remove any winter mulch and gently rake the ground to remove any dead or decaying matter.
As mentioned, plants propagate by underground runners but rarely need division, unless you wish to propagate new plants.
Those who grow in full sun may need to split every three to five years, while those who live in partial shade can be divided every eight to 10 years.
CULTIVARS TO SELECT
You can learn more about the exciting varieties in our roundup of the best anemones (soon!), But here’s a little to get you started:
‘Fantasy Cinderella,’ A. x hybrida, has long branched stems with pink princess flowers and bright yellow stamens that bloom from late summer through fall, with fluffy white seed heads that add a delicious interest in a late-season garden.
Strong and robust, the plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and make a great addition to cottage and garden plots.
It is also well suited for shaded gardens or in beds, borders, containers and padded woodland places.
‘Fairy Cinderella’ thrives in Zones 5-8.
With stunning white flowers tinged with a few pretty pink and golden stamens, ‘HonorineJobert’ (A. hupehensis) adds majestic presence to the late summer garden.
HonorineJobert was awarded Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.
Three to four feet tall plants look great in cottages and landscaped gardens, forest settings, or mass planted in beds, borders, and containers.
Plants like a full or partly sunny location and thrive in moist, humus-rich soil. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
“September Charm”, A. x hybrida, is a vigorous grower with many sparkling silver-pink flowers with a purple-pink underside and a shiny golden centre.
This variety was awarded a Garden Merit Award from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.
Flowers appear in midsummer and bloom in mid-autumn.
Plants grow 24 to 48 inches tall at maturity and make an impressive display in cottages and landscaped gardens, landscaped or mass-planted places in the backs of flower beds, in borders and in large containers.
“September Charm” does best in even, moist, well-drained, partially sunny soils and is very hardy in Zones 4-8.
MANAGING PESTS AND DISEASE
Japanese anemones are usually not bothered by a lot of pests and diseases. The plants are resistant to deer and rabbits, so these herbivores tend to look elsewhere.
Garden invaders, such as slugs and snails, may enjoy chewing on new growth.
Pick by hand and get rid of these pests. Then create an effective barrier with a 3-inch-wide layer of abrasive material like diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshell, or crushed oyster shells.
Find out more information on how to protect your garden from slugs and snails here.
In addition, black beetles, caterpillars and Japanese beetles can deform plants.
Handpick the caterpillars and beetles – but remember to wear gloves for vesicular beetles – and dispose of them. You can place diatomaceous earth around plants to help prevent infection.
Root rot can occur in waterlogged conditions, especially during the winter months.
Thanks to their slender appearance and large flowers, Japanese anemones are a good partner for mixing with shrub plantings such as azaleas, hydrangea, and rhododendron.
They are a great addition to containers and perennial flowerbeds, and they are a complement to plants such as asters, astilps, raspberries, chrysanthemums, monkfish, snacrot, and shade-loving ornamental grasses.
They also make excellent cut flowers that are long-lasting, while keeping color well – a much loved feature in a fall garden!
QUICK REFERENCE GROWING GUIDE
|Plant Type:||Flowering perennial||Flower / Foliage Color:||Pink, purple, white green|
|Hardiness (USDA Zone):||4-8||Soil Type:||Organically rich|
|Bloom Time / Season:||Late summer to early fall||Soil pH:||5.8-6.2|
|Exposure:||Full sun, part shade||Soil Drainage:||Well-draining|
|Spacing:||12-24 inches||Companion Planting:||Astilbe, azalea, hosta, rhododendrons, other shade tolerant specimens|
|Planting Depth:||Same as root ball||Uses:||Beds, borders, containers, cut flowers, mass planting.|
|Tolerance:||Salt, frost||Species:||hupehensis, tomentosa, vitifolia, x hybrida|
|Pests & Diseases:||Blister beetles, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, slugs root rot|
Splendor in the Fall garden
With a slender, elegant profile, long flowering periods, and beautiful flowers, Japanese anemones add a touch of glamor to a fall garden.
Wonderfully low maintenance, some shade in a full sun location and moist, well-drained soil are nearly all they need for reliable and repeatable performance.
And don’t forget to plant often – they look beautiful in fall blossoms!
Do you grow Japanese anemones in your garden? Let us know in the comments section below!
Which Anemones Are These?Pink Japanese Anemones
Although there are over one hundred species of perennial anemones in the genus, some of which are ground hugging and bloom in the spring, in my garden I have had the most success with the taller, fall bloomers that have fibrous roots. These are the anemone I am writing about here. They are a hybrid cross between the Japanese Anemone hupchensis and the Himalayan A. vitifolia.
The cultivars are characterized by star or cup shaped flowers in shades from white to mauve and dark pink. The flowers may be single, semi-double or double.
The dark green leaves have hairy undersides. The plants form a robust clump that reaches about 5 feet in height.
With a few exceptions, like white Anemone hup. Honorine Jobert*, the individual cultivars are often not named when you see them in plant nurseries. Rather, they are all labelled “Japanese Anemone” or A. x hybrida. It is a good idea to buy these plants in bloom so that you can be sure to get the colors and flower shape you want.
As an extra bonus, Japanese Anemones attract butterflies and are salt, deer and rabbit resistant. It’s hard to resist a perennial plant with so much going for it!
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.