Japanese anemone: care, propagation & most beautiful varieties

Edward
Edward
Edward
Edward

With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

Japanese anemones are some of the most beautiful autumn-flowering plants. With double and single flowered varieties available in white and pale pink through to almost red, these perennials can extend the flowering season in your garden right up until November.

A Japanese anemone plant in flower
Japanese anemones can provide great autumnal colour [Photo: aquatarkus/ Shutterstock.com]

Japanese anemones (Eriocapitella japonica) are great ornamental plants that add a burst of colour to your garden as summer draws to a close and the summer blooms begin to fade. Read on to learn more about Japanese anemones, their characteristics and the best varieties to grow.

Japanese anemone: origin and properties

Autumn flowering Japanese anemones, or Japanese windflowers as they are also known, are members of the Ranunculaceae family. They originate from Asia, especially China with hupehensis deriving from the Hupeh (Hubei) Province in Central China. However, being widely grown in Japan they have come to be known as Japanese anemones and were not introduced to Europe until the 19th century. Anemone x hybrida and Anemone hupehensis, which have recently been re-classified as Eriocapitella x hybrida and Eriocapitella hupehensis, are also types of Japanese windflowers.

A pink Japanese anemone plant
Depending on the variety, Japanese anemones can flower from July until November

Japanese anemones bloom from late July until October, producing stunning pollinator-friendly flowers with a contrasting centre. They can grow from 60 to 150cm tall and will spread from the rhizomes if you let them. Japanese anemone leaves are mid-green and palmately lobed. The saucer-shaped flowers come in a variety of colours, from white and pale pink to dark and dusky pink. Being perennial, Japanese anemones die back as the temperatures drop in winter and require little care throughout the year.

Tip: Japanese anemones can spread by their rhizomes. To prevent them from taking over, you can grow them within a root barrier or in pots or containers.

Are Japanese anemones perennial and when do they flower?

Yes, Japanese anemones are perennials. The flowers bloom from late summer right up until the first frosts of October, after which the foliage dies back over winter and fresh new growth appears the following year. Japanese anemones can be very long-lived, and with the right care and conditions, some varieties can last for many years, even decades.

Japanese anemone pink flowers.
With open flowers Japanese anemones are loved by pollinators

Propagating Japanese anemone

The best way to propagate Japanese anemones is by division. The best time to do this is in spring, but as with many plants, they may take a season or two to recover and establish themselves before blooming again. It is also possible to grow Japanese anemone from seed, although not all varieties produce seeds, hence why dividing is the preferred method.

While Japanese anemones thrive in partial shade, they can also grow in full sun, making them ideal for most gardens. That said, they do require rich and moist, but well-drained soil and will struggle if grown on compacted ground or soil that is prone to waterlogging. They prefer fertile soil, so an annual mulch of organic matter in spring is highly recommended. If growing on poorer soil, it may be a good idea to apply a balanced fertiliser as well. Our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is ideal, as it is easy to apply and will help provide the necessary nutrients throughout the growing season.

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Sold in many forms, Japanese anemones are often available as mature potted plants, but can also be bought as bare roots or plug plants, which require growing on before planting out. Where possible, it is best to plant Japanese anemones in spring to give them time to establish before they hopefully flower later in the year.

Double windflower blooms are decorative
Japanese anemones can single, semi-double or double flowers [Photo: Anna Gratys/ Shutterstock.com]

Japanese anemone plant care & hardiness

Being fairly disease resistant, Japanese anemones are easy to care for and require little maintenance throughout the year. However, they do require moist soil, especially whilst getting established. They will also require watering during prolonged dry spells. Generally speaking, Japanese anemones do not need fertilising, although an annual mulch of organic matter is recommended to help conserve moisture and improve the soil. When winter draws in, the dead foliage can be cut back to the base or left until early spring to provide winter interest and shelter for overwintering insects.

Is Japanese anemone winter hardy?

Japanese anemones are fully hardy. With most varieties being rated H7, they can withstand temperatures as low as -20 °C and the worst of the UK’s winters. Although happy to be planted in either a sheltered or exposed location, you are better off protecting young plants from heavy frosts with a layer of fleece whilst they establish themselves.

Can Japanese anemone grow in the shade?

Japanese anemones grow and flower best in partial shade. That said, they can tolerate a south facing spot in full sun as long as the soil is not left to dry out. They may tolerate a shadier spot, but are likely to produce long leggy stems trying to reach the light and may not flower quite as impressively.

Japanese anemones in a border
Japanese anemones can be effective when planted as part of a herbaceous border or cottage garden [Photo: PJ photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Japanese anemones companion plants

Popular choices in cottage gardens and informal planting schemes, Japanese anemones can add a touch of elegance to a bed or a border. They are often planted with ornamental grasses such as Calamagrostis and Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa), or other late flowering perennials like Michaelmas daisies (Aster and Symphyotrichum) and Monk’s hood (Aconitum), which can also be at their best in late summer. Japanese anemones can also look great when grown as part of an herbaceous border or when planted in drifts in a prairie-style planting scheme.

Japanese anemone varieties

With Japanese anemones available in a wide array of sizes and colours and with either single or double flowers, it can be difficult to choose. Do note that, once planted, Japanese anemones do not like being moved so, if possible, it is best to plant them in the final position first time round. When considering which variety to choose, be aware that all Japanese anemones have a tendency to spread, so only plant them where they can do so freely or consider using a root barrier or growing them in a container. Here are some of the best Japanese anemones to grow here in the UK:

White Japanese anemones

  • Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’: Perhaps one of the most well-known cultivars, ‘Honorine Jobert’ is a long-standing favourite originally bred in France. Producing classic white semi-double flowers with a yellow centre on tall and slender stems above dark contrasting foliage, it really is an elegant plant. Flowering from August to October, it can grow to an eventual height of 1.2 m. Having been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit, it has proven to perform reliably well in the garden.
Japanese anemone Honorine Jobert
Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ produces classical white flowers on tall and slender stems [Photo: Gardens by Design/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Anemone ‘Wild Swan’: The winner of the Chelsea Flower Show’s New Plant of the Year in 2011, ‘Wild Swan’ is thought to be a cross between possibly Anemone rupicola and Anemone hupehensis. Producing single white flowers with five petals from May until September, which appear blue when closed, ‘Wild Swan’ is a smaller cultivar growing to only 60cm tall.
White flowered anemone Wild Swan
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ displays simple white flowers with five petals [Photo: Ian Grainger/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’: With twisted white petals on ornate double flowers from August until October, ‘Whirlwind’ is ideal for growing in a border. Growing to a height of 60 cm, although possibly taller in certain conditions, this perennial can flower for weeks on end on tall and slender stems.
White flowered Japanese anemone Whirlwind
Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’ produces white double flowers with slightly twisted petals [Photo: Danny Hummel/ Shutterstock.com]

Pink Japanese anemones

  • Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Prinz Heinrich’: With deep pink semi-double flowers that bloom from July until September, ‘Prinz Heinrich’ certainly adds a burst of colour. A smaller cultivar, growing to a final height of 80 cm with a compact growth habit, this Japanese anemone is suitable for the middle of a border or a large container.
Pink Japanese anemone 'Prinz Heinrich'
Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Prinz Heinrich’ is slightly more compact with vivid pink flowers [Photo: Kristine Rad / Shutterstock.com]
  • Anemone hupehensis ‘September Charm’: Producing pale to mid-pink flowers with a yellow centre from July until September, ‘September Charm’ is a stunning cultivar that was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Growing to a height of 90 cm with dark foliage and tall stems, it is reliable and free-flowering.
Pink anemone ‘September Charm’ flowers
Anemone hupehensis ‘September Charm’ prolifically produces pale pink blooms [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’: The ‘Robustissima’ Japanese anemone is from mountainous North China. As an Anemone tomentosa, it is very similar to the other Japanese hybrids, except that it can flower from a little earlier in the summer. This anemone produces pale pink single blooms with a darker reverse on tall, red stems that grow up to maximum 1.2 m high.
Pink Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima’ flowers
Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’ produces pink flowers on almost red stems [Photo: Alex Manders/ Shutterstock.com]

Japanese anemone toxicity

Japanese anemone plants can be mildly toxic when handled or ingested. We advise wearing gloves when handling this plant and keeping an eye on children and pets around it to make sure they do not accidentally ingest any.

Japanese anemones, along with other perennial plants, can bloom for years on end if grown in the right conditions, given enough nutrients and cared for correctly. See our article on autumn flowering perennial plants to discover more beautiful perennials.

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