European Wood Anemone, My Collection

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

. Anemone nemorosa 'Vestal'European wood anemone ‘Vestal’, Anemone nemorosa


My last post highlighting my epimedium collection was very popular.  It set a new record for views in a single day.  It was also quite helpful in allowing me to document the collection in photographs.  That has inspired me to do a similar post introducing another relatively obscure group of plants blooming right now, European wood anemones or Anemone nemorosa.  I first saw them in Charles Cresson’s garden in 1995, and he gave me five cultivars to take home.  I have since increased that number to 13 (15 if you count the two that died).  I want to share this special plant with you and discuss its culture and garden uses.


Anemone nemorosa 'Vestal'‘Vestal’ is a moderate spreader.

European wood anemone is what is often called a bulb ally.  It springs from skinny, stick-like rhizomes that spread through  leaf litter to form patches of beautiful flowers and leaves.  You can buy the dried rhizomes in the fall like other bulbs or you can buy growing plants in the spring from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens or other specialty nurseries.  Wood anemones grow in part to full shade and like woodland soil with lots of organic matter. I have never watered them, but I do mulch them with a covering of ground leaves in the fall.  The various cultivars spread at different rates in my woods from slow to fast.  I will indicate what type of spreader each one is in my garden, but it may depend entirely on my conditions and where each variety is planted


A. nemorosa 'Robinsoniana'‘Robinsoniana’ is a gorgeous blue but a slow grower in my garden.

European wood anemones are a spring ephemeral.  They take advantage of the sunlight before the woody plants leaf out and then go dormant when it gets hot and shade prevails.  Although they disappear, they are still a good groundcover because the rhizomes are so thickly matted that no weeds can grow.  Just plant later emerging plants like ferns or hostas around them if the hole will bother you after they disappear.


Anemone nemorosa 'Leeds Variety'‘Leed’s Variety’ spreads moderately.


Anemone nemorosa 'Leed's Variety'‘Leed’s Variety’ has the biggest flowers, about 2″ wide, of any of my cultivars.


European wood anemones bloom in the mid-Atlantic for the whole month of April and sometimes into May, depending on the weather.  Their plentiful flowers are 1 to 2″ wide and generally white, blue, and pink and can be double or semi-double.  Many of the cultivars are very similar in appearance.  The Royal Horticultural Society’s plant finder lists almost 100 varieties.  There are some closely related yellow-flowered forms as well as some weird green-flowered varieties, ‘Virescens’ and ‘Green Fingers’, both of which I have killed.  Wood anemones’ leaves are an attractive dark green with three deeply incised segments.  They form compact mounds about 6 to 8″ tall.

Anemone nemorosa 'Wyatt's Pink'‘Wyatt’s Pink‘ is a moderate grower.


Anemone nemorosa 'Wyatt's Pink'‘Wyatt’s Pink’


A patch of wood anemones really lights up a woodland opening, and I like to let mine develop as big a swathe as they can manage.  They are native to the woodlands and shady banks of western Asia and the northern temperate zones of central Europe, including England where many cultivars have been selected.  According to the RHS, they are hardy to zone 5 and another source says zones 5 to 9, but you should do your own research before planting them if you are not in the mid-Atlantic.


Anemone nemorosa 'Bractiata'‘Bracteata’ is a fast grower.


Anemone nemorosa 'Bractiata'‘Bracteata’ is an unusual and very elegant form with the white flower color extending into the leafy bracts.


European wood anemones are quite easy to grow and well worth adding to your garden if you can find them.  Here are some of my other cultivars:


Anemone ranunculoidesYellow wood anemone, A. ranunculoides, is closely related to A. nemorosa.  It is the first to come into bloom and spreads quickly but not aggressively, even self-sowing.


Anemone ranunculoidesYellow wood anemone


Anemone nemorosa 'Lychette' ‘Lychette’ is a moderate spreader.


Anemone nemorosa 'Allenii' ‘Allenii’ is similar to ‘Robinsoniana’ but more silvery blue in color.  It is a moderate spreader.


Anemone nemorosa 'Alba' ‘Alba’ spreads slowly for me.


Anemone nemorosa pink formI acquired this Anemone nemorosa from the old Heronswood Nursery in Washington with the name “pink form”.  It is a moderate grower.


Anemone nemorosa 'Alba Plena'‘Alba Plena’ is very similar to ‘Vestal’ but it is a faster spreader.


Anemone nemorosa 'Alba Plena'‘Alba Plena’


Anemone x seemaniiAnemone x seemanii is a cross between A. ranunculoides and A. nemorosa, producing this lovely pale yellow flower.  It is a moderate grower.


Anemone x seemaniiAnemone x seemanii


Anemone nemorosa 'Blue Eye'I will end the profiles of my cultivars with this photo of the absolutely exquisite ‘Blue Eyes’, which I also got from Heronswood.


Most of the plants in my woodland are allowed to form large patches for a natural look, and European wood anemone fits right in.  Here are some photos of how I use it:


Anemone ranunculoidesYellow wood anemone filling a large area in front of Virginia bluebells and Celandine poppy.


Anemone nemorosa 'Bracteata'‘Bracteata’ edging a path with hellebores and checkered lily, Fritillaria meleagris, another self-seeder in my woods.


Anemone nemorosa 'Lychette'‘Lychette’ on a shady slope with Celandine poppy.


Anemone nemorrosa 'Vestal' and Anemone ranunculoides‘Vestal’ and Anemone ranunculoides edge a woodland path with ‘Alba’ across the way to the right of the Virginia bluebells.


European wood anemones are for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  If you are not local or you want some of the really special cultivars,  you can order them from Arrowhead Alpines in Michigan, a great mail order nursery for unusual woodland plants.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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63 Responses to “European Wood Anemone, My Collection”

  1. Wood anemones grow wild here in Italy, in my area they are often associated with old Etruscan sites where one can imagine they were admired by a people we know so little about. Here the flowers are usually more simple and to my eye more beautiful. I definitely think your clients with shady gardens would benefit from having them. Christina

    • Christina, I am not sure I really understand your comment because Anemone ranunculoides is a straight species and Alba, Leed’s, and Lychette are plain white flowers very similar to the straight species A. nemorosa. It is always preferable to see large groups of plants in their native habitat, but since these anemones are not native here, that’s not happening. Carolyn

  2. faye brunet Says:

    I so enjoyed this blog-wish you could ship to Nova Scotia

  3. Wood anemones are such an ephemeral plant, I really enjoy them while they are with us, mainly white and blue ones, so pretty on the woodland floor.

  4. I have a few of these wood anemones but thus far they haven’t done a lot… Vestal is just holding on for me but doesn’t thrive… not certain what the problem is. What a wonderful collection you have! Larry

  5. The white anemone is almost synonymous with May woodlands here in Denmark, so I’ll probably never grow it in my garden deliberately – though I wouldn’t weed it out. I just can’t match the sight I can get in the forest 200 meters away when the anemones come out in their thousands…

    Where I grew up there was also a lot of yellow anemones in the local forest, but that seems to be more regional than the white anemone.

  6. One of the things about your woodland garden that I like so much are those large patches. So lovely! I don’t have any of these but I like the idea of bulb ally and wow, they are so pretty.

  7. As you say, Blue Eyes is exquisite. What a lovely collection of anemones.

  8. nwphillygardner Says:

    Those look really wonderful… Looking at the foliage, I’m also reminded of the spring ephemeral Cardamine quinquefolia, which has lavender flowers in April. Have you tried that in your garden? I got a few pieces from WynEden in Chadds Ford.

  9. Marcia Brown Meigs Says:

    Simply marvelous photos especially of the woodland views showing the use of these anemones in the gardens. I do find anemone ranunculoides invasive. Always look forward to the next blog concentrating on a species in your gardens. Thank you, Marcia

    • Marcia, Federal law defines invasive this way: “Invasive species” means an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. I would also include non-native plants that when you want to remove them you can’t. A plant like yellow wood anemone, even if it spreads aggressively in your garden, is not invasive as long as you can remove it when you want to. Carolyn

  10. Thanks for yet another great article Carolyn, for me wood anemones are synonym with spring, growing up in Norway we had both white and yellow single forms growing everywhere, so common that I don’t think anyone would put them in their gardens, unless they had a particularly big garden with a more wild woodland area. After coming here to Britain I realised there were different coloured cultivars too, and I just love some of the double varieties. Your ‘Bracteata’ is just gorgeous, I have never seen it here. I have seen ‘Vestal’ and some of the other on your list. I have thought about adding them as a carpet under my camellia, would be lovely if I could get them established there, but it would take a fair few plants to cover that area.
    I have however many other plants on my wish list for my woodland corner, on the top is a couple of trillium grandiflorum snowbunting – so lovely flowers, but they are just so expensive, I think they will have to wait until next year.
    Have a lovely week-end, take care, Helene.

    • Helene, It is so funny. Familiarity breeds contempt. Obviously they are not native here so that makes them rare and desirable. Around here we have no native plants left so the only way to see them is to grow them in your garden. I grow many plants native to our area in huge swathes in my woods. As far as the wood anemones go, with Alba Plena, Brateata, or the yellow form, you could start with one plant and have a groundcover quickly. However, I know every space in your garden is precious and they do go dormant so maybe not the best use of a small space. Carolyn

  11. Carolyn these are just gorgeous in the clumps growing naturally…I love the cheery flowers…I have some other anemones and especially love my native Canadian anemone…I will have to check these out.

  12. These are so pretty. I could just imagine a woodland filled with these. Like something out of a fairy tale.

  13. I do love the Wood Anemones. I have Alba here and like you said, it is a slow spreader. They are some of the first flowers opened in our Spring and bloom alongside the Muscari and Hyacinths. I do like your variety though and would like the blue ‘Robinsoniana’.

  14. debsgarden Says:

    I am very impressed with ‘Blue Eyes’! I planted some wood anemones in my woodland garden several months ago. They were simply labeled Wood Anemone, but they look like your ‘Lychette’. The flowers are quite small but charming. They seem to like their location, so I am hopeful they will spread well.

  15. Carolyn, now I don’t know whether I want more Epimediums in the woodland or should I introduce Wood anemones, your collection is just amazing. Well to be quite honest, I don’t have the space in the woodland area to make any impact, however I do have an east facing border which only comes alive in Summer. Could have a good show in Spring, although it may be too wet.

    • Alistair, The wood anemones don’t really take up any room per se because you can plant them between hostas and ferns which will come up and cover the anemones after they have gone dormant. I don’t know about wood anemones and wet. Mine are all in fairly dry areas. Carolyn

  16. yours wood anemones are beautiful Carolyn and thanks for mentioning they can be slow to grow, I planted some dry bulbs labled blue anemones some years ago, they are still there but do need a bit of attention from me as some other plants have moved in on them, a great post again, thank you, Frances

  17. Says:

    dont know how to order from your website    cant bring up sidebar   cant find prices or ostage   any help apprecaited  thanks lee fitchett   

  18. Oh my, you sure tempt me with these. I think I could interplant some of these beauties with my ferns. Lovely.

  19. Hi Carolyn, i am sure it is really an experience to be visiting your garden. I envy those people who are near there. I remember though the snowdrops and crocus more.

  20. Carolyn – I aspire to have a woodland garden like yours including plane trees and beautiful swathes instead of my one cherry blossom and brambles. Is the woodland part of your personal garden or for your customers?

  21. Carolyn,
    I am thrilled to find your woodland information and beautiful photos! Always had a long list of plants I wanted…finally moved into the contemporary style house we wanted and 2 acres of woods I needed. Now I see you offering what I wanted and more. Am adding to my wish list, also refining the original list. Thank you – I really look forward to more from you and I’m seriously considering the hellebore and snowdrop seminars next year.

    • Hi Bonnie, Are you local because you can visit the nursery? You may want to sign up for my customer email list. Subscribing to my blog doesn’t do this—that is for my readers all over the world as well as my customers. To get customer news of events, seminars, catalogues, etc., you need to send your name and phone number to me at I have nothing to do with the blog subscription process and those emails do not come from me. Carolyn

      • Carolyn,
        I’m not really local, but I am in Pennsylvania – the other side of the state – and we can travel that kind of distance occasionaly. Would love to see your beautiful and inspiring woodland – it’s what I’ve been dreaming of creating ever since daily childhood walks in the woods behind the home I grew up in.

  22. Carolyn,
    Do you offer any in-print catalogs? I am new to email and don’t know how to do much with it on my phone (no computer). Signed up for your blog but not sure I understand what that is…

  23. Just wonderful! I like them all, and now, I want them all! Thank you SO much!

  24. curbstonevalley Says:

    Sometimes I wish I lived on the other coast! I never see these out here. We do have a diminutive native anemone here, but you usually have to squint to find them growing wild in the woodland here. Nothing as dazzling as Wyatt’s Pink, and I’ve never seen a yellow wood anemone either…stunning!

  25. What an absolutely beautiful plant. I’m new to anemones (only just bought one a year back – sylvestris) and this type looks delightful. So many beautiful blooms but really interesting foliage as well.

  26. I love that Wyatt’s Pink and how they spread wide. These are beautiful, and I thank you for telling us more about them. What a precious plant.

  27. Hello Carolyn,
    Thanks for a lovely post, and your guide to vigour is really helpful. They are such pretty flowers, and come at a really good time, after the first bulbs have finished. You’ve persuaded me we should get a few more! Particularly since they seem to have been unfazed by the really cold spring whch we’ve had so far.

  28. […] European Wood Anemone, My Collection ( […]

  29. […] European Wood Anemone, My Collection ( […]

  30. Shaunia Says:

    I am not able to find Rue Anemone in Louisville, Ky. Can you help me find it as a ground cover leading to a pond? Thanks.

  31. Melissa L. McWhinney Says:

    I have a friend who grew up in Finland. She used to pick wood anemones for her mother, who died in December. Do you have wood anemone bulbs for sale now? I would to get some for her. We’re in Boston. Many thanks!

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