Tall and elegant, Japanese anemones put on a striking and long-lasting display of broad, saucer-like flowers in the late season garden.
Blooming from midsummer onwards, many varieties flower into October and even November.
Flowers come in tones of creamy to pure white, purple, and a range of luscious pinks – from the palest blush to vivid coral and two-toned berry pinks!
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In the center of the flowers is a bright, button of green or gold anthers.
Easy to grow, they’re adaptable to a variety of growing conditions and thrive in a part sun location.
This makes them ideal for light shade gardens, woodlands, or mixed in with shrubs like azaleas and rhododendrons.
And after the petals drop, cottony, globe-shaped seed heads form, adding further interest to the garden through late fall and into winter.
Join us now to learn about how to grow and care for Japanese anemone flowers!
Here’s what I’ll cover:
What You’ll Learn
What Are Japanese Anemones?
Anemone is a genus in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, with a relatively small number of fall-flowering species.
The species Anemone hupehensis, or Japanese anemone, is comprise mostly of the late-flowering varieties that are native to subalpine grasslands and meadows in the high, open woodlands of China.
However, they have been bred in Japan for centuries and many of today’s popular cultivars originated there.
The species most commonly grown in home gardens is A. hupehensis, and a number of hybrids that are collectively known as as A. x hybrida
Other Japanese anemone species are A. tomentosa and A. vitifolia.
A. tomentosa is the hardiest species, thriving as far north as Zone 3. A. hupehensis is the most popular for breeding and is always used as one of the parent plants for hybrid stock.
Along with A. vitifolia, A. hupehensis and the hybrid cultivars are hardy to Zones 4 and 5.
Flowers are typically two- to three-inch blooms that perch atop long, sturdy stems. The shades of pink, purple, or white present a striking display – particularly when planted in large drifts.
Flowers may have single or double petals and sport a variety of looks:
There are ones that resemble poppies or large buttercups with wide, tipped petals.
Some have long, cupped petals and look a bit like the flowers of summer clematis.
And others have the look of shaggy dahlias with recurved petals.
The strong, branching stems have multiple buds and provide a long flowering period, typically starting around mid to late July and continuing into October and even November.
These perennials grow from wiry feeder roots and hard, short rhizomes, slowly forming clumps from underground runners into an attractive, tallish ground cover.
These plants are considered an invasive weed in Hawaii, as in ideal conditions, they can spread and crowd out other plants.
The foliage is understated, with simple or compound leaves that have clean or lightly notched margins and has a mounded growth habit.
There are other Anemone species that are spring flowering, such as A. blanda aka Grecian windflowers, which you can read more about in our guide.
A Note of Caution: Japanese anemones are toxic when ingested, so keep them away from children and pets.
Japanese anemones are best propagated by division, and root cuttings taken in early spring or early fall.
It is possible to start them from seed, but hybrids won’t grow true to the parent plant and they’re much slower to develop than cuttings.
To divide existing clumps, use a garden fork to carefully dig up the entire root system, digging about six inches out from the main stem.
Gently brush off any soil and carefully untangle the roots into two or three smaller clumps, ensuring each clump has its own rhizome and at least one viable stem.
Trim the rhizome close to the crown, leaving two to three inches of root intact. Don’t discard the trimmed root pieces, as these will also produce new plants!
Replant the parent and divisions, spaced 24 inches apart.
Cut the remaining root sections into two- to three-inch long pieces.
Lay the cuttings horizontally in a tray of moist, gritty starter soil and cover them with half an inch of soil.
Cover the tray with a clear plastic lid or place it inside a lightly sealed plastic bag to help retain moisture. Place the flat on a sunny windowsill and new growth will emerge in a few weeks.
Transplant cuttings into larger pots, or out into the garden when all danger of frost has passed.
Alternatively, you may pick up potted plants or bare roots from your local nursery or online.
How to Grow
Japanese anemones thrive in part to full sun locations – the ideal spot receiving morning sun with afternoon shade, or dappled sunlight throughout the day.
However, both intense afternoon sun and heavy shade can inhibit flowering and should be avoided.
They require consistently moist soil, but can’t abide soggy conditions, particularly in winter, which causes root rot.
A loose-textured, well-draining soil enriched with organic matter such as aged compost or well-rotted manure is the preferred growing medium. And plants prefer a lightly acidic pH of 5.8 to 6.2.
Here’s how to plant them:
- Dig an ample planting hole and add in a generous shovelful of compost, leafmold, or well-rotted manure.
- Sprinkle in a tablespoon of bone meal, and mix it in with the compost.
- If needed, mix in a shovelful of landscape sand or pea gravel to improve drainage.
- Take the plants out of their containers and gently place them in the hole, then backfill with soil, gently firming the soil in place without packing it down. In the case of bare roots, you should ensure that the crown is at ground level.
- Top with a two-inch layer of bark mulch or pea gravel to help maintain consistent moisture levels. But avoid crowding the crowns by leaving a two-inch easement around the stems.
- Water gently.
Maintain even moisture, and don’t allow the soil to dry out or become waterlogged. If you are growing them in full sun, you’ll need to be more vigilant about watering.
These plants are light feeders but appreciate an application of fertilizer in early spring. Use organic compost or a balanced fertilizer.
Plants rarely require staking and if they do become a bit leggy it’s probably due to too much shade. Trim branches of nearby trees and shrubs to let in more light.
The tall, large-flowered cultivars appreciate protection from strong winds. If winds are problematic, plant them close to supporting structures like fences, foundations, sheds, stumps, retaining walls, and so on.
They can also be grown in containers, which can be helpful if you’re worried about them spreading. You’ll need a 12- to 14-inch wide container, at least ten inches deep to allow the root system to spread.
Make sure your chosen container has adequate drainage holes in the bottom. Use a well-draining potting mix, and remember to be more vigilant about watering, as containers dry out more quickly than soil in the garden.
- Grow in a part to full sun location, with some protection from wind.
- Plant in organically rich, well-draining soil.
- Maintain even moisture in the soil, but don’t allow it to become waterlogged.
Pruning and Maintenance
When they are established, these plants require very little maintenance.
Deadheading isn’t required, as it will not encourage more flowering, but spent blooms can be removed to tidy up the plants if you wish.
But if you do deadhead, you’ll miss the attractive seed heads which add winter interest, and provide a popular nesting material for hummingbirds and small songbirds – always welcome visitors to the garden!
Japanese anemones appreciate a deep snow cover to protect the roots from cold temperatures and drying winds. If you don’t have reliable winter snow, provide a thick, four-inch mulch for cold protection.
In early spring, clean plants by removing old stalks and leaves, and cut them back to two to four inches above soil level.
Remove any winter mulch and rake the ground lightly, removing any dead or decaying matter.
As mentioned, plants spread by underground runners but rarely need to be divided, unless you wish to propagate new plants.
Those grown in full sun may require division every three to five years while those in a part shade location can be divided every eight to 10 years.
Cultivars to Select
You can read about exciting cultivars in our roundup of the best anemone varieties, but here are a few to get you started:
‘Cinderella,’ an A. x hybrida cultivar, part of the Fantasy™ series, has tall, branching stems with princess-pink flowers and frilly yellow stamen that bloom from late summer into fall, with fluffy white seed heads that add delightful interest in the late season garden.
Sturdy and strong, plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and make an excellent addition to the cutting and cottage garden.
They are also well-suited for shade gardens or in beds, borders, containers, and naturalized in woodland settings.
‘Cinderella’ thrives in Zones 5-8.
You can find bare root plants available at Burpee.
With stunning white flowers lightly tinged in pink and pretty, gold stamen, ‘Honorine Jobert’ (A. hupehensis) adds a stately presence to the late summer garden.
‘Honorine Jobert’ received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.
The tall, three- to four-feet plants are fabulous in cottage and cutting gardens, woodland settings, or mass planted in beds, borders, and containers.
Plants love a full to part sun location and thrive in humus-rich, moist soil. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Find bare root plants available at Burpee.
‘September Charm,’ A. x hybrida, is a vigorous grower with multitudes of shimmering, silvery pink flowers with a purple and rose reverse and a frothy, golden center.
This cultivar was a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
Flowers appear in midsummer and bloom into mid-autumn.
Plants grow 24 to 48 inches at maturity, and make an impressive display in cottage and cutting gardens, naturalized settings, or mass planted at the rear of beds, in borders, and large containers.
‘September Charm’ does best in evenly moist, well-draining soil in part sun and is hardy in Zones 4-8.
You can find bare root plants available at Burpee.
Managing Pests and Disease
Garden raiders such as slugs and snails may like to munch on new growth.
Handpick and dispose of these pests. Then create an effective barrier with a three-inch-wide layer of abrasive materials such as diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells, or crushed oyster shells.
Find more info on how to protect your garden from slugs and snails right here.
Also, black blister beetles, caterpillars, and Japanese beetles can defoliate plants.
Handpick caterpillars and beetles – but remember to wear gloves in the case of blister beetles – and dispose of them. You can apply diatomaceous earth around plants to help prevent infestations.
Root rot can occur in waterlogged conditions, particularly during the winter months.
They also make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers, with good color retention – a much appreciated feature in the autumn 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|
|Common Pests:||Blister beetles, caterpillars, Japanese beetles, slugs||Common Diseases:||Root rot|
Splendor in the Fall Garden
With a tall, elegant profile, long bloom times, and pretty flowers, Japanese anemones add a touch of splendor to the fall garden.
Wonderfully low maintenance, a part shade to full sun location and moist, well-draining soil is about all they need for reliable, repeat performances.
And remember to plant plenty – they’re beautiful in fall flower arrangements!
Do you folks grow Japanese anemones in your garden? Let us know in the comments section below!
And for more information about growing flowers in your garden, check out these guides next:
- How to Grow and Care for Candle Anemones
- How to Grow and Care for Garden Geraniums
- How to Grow and Care for Dreamy Delphiniums
Photo by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Burpee. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.