The Beguiling Japanese Anemone

by Patrick Muir on September 28, 2011

If you think fall is the season for only mums and asters, then you haven’t been introduced to Japanese anemones.  The flowers are at their peak performance in late summer  through late fall and add a tall, late blooming accent to the garden in pink, rose or white. The light level for these perennials is crucial for their continued success. Part sun is the professional recommendation to spare them the damaging effects of afternoon sun which can burn the foliage and at its worst can eventually kill the plant.

Be also warned that Japanese anemones take a while to establish but once they get going, they can begin to get aggressive and crowd out less aggressive perennials. They spread by underground runners which can be difficult to control so some people think it should only used in a place where it can be  contained. However, some experts recommend dividing every  two to three years to thwart its aggressive nature . So I’d recommend contacting your local nurseryman to see how they recommend growing it in you area.

They are reliably hardy to zone 6 and up to zone 4 with significant winter protection.They average around 4′ and are a stout, upright perennials. They require a rich, uniformly moist soil and do not tolerate drought conditions where the foliage will begin to die and render a messy, ugly looking plant.  So be kind to them with water especially during the summer. Ideally, the deep green, highly ridged  foliage keeps the plant looking beautiful all season long. They are deer resistant and make great cutflowers.

China Not Japan

Japanese anemones are commonly known as windflowers. The word anemone is derived from the Greek word meaning daughter of the wind. It’s very ironic since the perennial anemone should be sheltered from the wind. Somebody in the common name department was  dealing with Asian confusion or generalities along the way because Japanese anemones are actually native to China. The hybrids we know today were developed 125 years ago by English, French and German breeders using Anemone vitifloria and A. hupehensis var. japonica,  so they are completely man developed plants despite their simple appearance. Today breeders are currently working on even larger flowers in deeper shades of purple for the cutflower market but their hardiness is yet to be tested.

'Honorine Jobert'

The most common variety is Honorine Jobert (pictured above and at right) which was discovered as a root mutation of the original hybrid by a French nurseryman in the 1850s. Mr. Jobert named it after his daughter Honorine. Jennifer Bolyard is the head perennial gardener at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden. I’ve used her as a source of information in several columns I have written. She recommends three additional Anemone hybrids for this area.

‘Andrea Atkinson’ sports semi-double, 2″  white flowers with chartreuse centers surrounding golden anthers that adorn tall stems. Deep green, maple-shaped foliage is 2′ tall and 5′ in bloom.

'Queen Charlotte'

With huge 3-4″ double pink blossoms,  ‘Party Dress’ is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction. The petals are ruffled like a petticoat and twice the size of all other varieties. This taller variety of 36″ in height is sarcastically known as the ground cover anemone, so it will require some form of staking.

‘Queen Charlotte’ was introduced in Germany in 1898 and debuted in the US at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It is a semi-double pink with purple undersides with 2″ blooms on a 3′ plant. This charming Japanese anemone won an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. With ruffling like that I think that my new favorite.  Can you imagine this wit burgundy mums and blue asters?. Not your typical fall palette but works for me.

A. robustissima

As the name implies, Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’ is a big, sturdy plant with a height of 48″ and 3″ pink flowers.  Jennifer’s favorite is the only true hardy Japanese anemone hailing from the mountains of Tibet and Western China making it hardy to zone 4 and if heavily mulch to zone 3.  It is reported to be the most sun and drought tolerant of all the varieties.

Horticulture magazine also recommends the white variety ‘Whirlwind’. Their pink selections are ‘ Max Vogel and ‘Serenade’.

So put it in your Google calendar for April 1, 2012 to buy some Japanese anemones (I do that trick all the time). Or track some down from a friend and have them divide some for you. In this area, you need to have all new perennials in the ground by October 15 to allow  enough time for the roots to take hold before winter halts their development. Check with your nursery for the date in your area.

Top Photo Credits: Horticulture  Magazine

Patrick's Garden

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberley September 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

Thank you for reminding me of Anemones. There are a great many planted in the National Gallery’s sculpture garden in Washington, DC, and they were in their full glory when I visited last fall around Columbus Day.

I never see them in my local nurseries (NE Pennsylvania) or in friends’ gardens, though, so I suspect they may not do well here. Nonetheless, I think I will try to get my hands on a ‘Robustissima” and give it a try. I will indeed put it in my Google calendar–great idea!

When I lived in Albany, NY, my landlady, who taught me much about perennial gardening, had a beautiful pink anemone, which she really babied. It was her pride and joy! If she could grow it in Albany, I *should* be able to grow it here!

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Patrick September 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hey Kimberly,

So good to hear back from you again. I checked out Google images and saw one shot of the NGA anemones. Very nice. Check in with your local nurseryman about its hardiness. My guess is their peak bloom may come too late for your climate? But Robustissima sounds like your best shot.

That Google trick probably will end up costing you $$$ in the long run.

Good luck with ‘em, Kimberly.

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Layanee September 29, 2011 at 4:23 am

Such a thorough post on those anemones. I have grown them and they have not returned reliably to my garden probably due to the Zone 5b status and, perhaps, dryness. They are worth trying again and perhaps, with a bit of global warming, I will finally succeed in convincing them my garden is worthy of their beauty.

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Patrick September 29, 2011 at 4:56 am

Sounds like you need to try robustissima for the winter hardiness and ts pure attractiveness. I hope it takes off for you. Put it in your Google calendar for this winter’s planning purposes. Keep me updated, please. Thanks for stopping by my garden.

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Pauline September 29, 2011 at 6:05 am

Honorine Jobert, my favourite, but I don’t think she is very happy with me, maybe I ought to move her somewhere else, its very dry where she is at the moment, maybe if I moved her to the other side of the garden where there is a bit more moisture she would be happier. What do you think, or would she then start exploring too far?!!

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Patrick April 13, 2014 at 8:45 am

I’d move to the other side and divide frequently if she starts looking too vigorous.

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Diana September 29, 2011 at 7:10 am

Anemone is not a flower that I am familiar with. But you have peaked my interest on them. Very pretty flower. Now I wish that I have them growing in my garden here too.

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Patrick September 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I have a feeling they won’t perform well in your climate. You need to investigate that one. Thanks for stopping by..

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Patrick September 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Hey Pauline,
Sorry, I have no easy answers but I guess it depends on what’s on the other side and if it can defend itself.

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Laurrie September 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I have Robustissima and I love the silvery buds almost more than the pink windflowers when they open. It is still a small plant after two full seasons, not at all impressive, so I was encouraged to read here that they take a while to establish and put on size. I’ll be patient. Anemones really are worth it as your profile highlights.

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Patrick September 29, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Good to hear from you again.Yes te silver buds look dramatic from some pix I’ve seen.. And indeed being patient is not easy to achieve.,.

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Tanya @ Lovely Greens September 30, 2011 at 3:31 am

LOVE the Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’!

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Jennifer@threedogsinagarden October 1, 2011 at 7:19 am

Hi Patrick,
This is a great plant profile. I love the romantic sound of anemone’s common name ‘windflowers’.
I have tried to overwinter anemones for several years with no success. I can’t plan to plant’s hardiness in this case though. It is more the fact that I don’t remember to buy the plants in spring! I tend to by them in late summer instead, when they have less of a chance to establish themselves. I need to create a spring purchase reminder as you suggest.

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Patrick October 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Hey Jennifer,
I’d bet money the fall planting is your issue. Think about all the energy the plant has used to bloom in a pot and then you expect it to root enough to support all that material. Sounds like a lot to ask. So put it in your calendar for next spring,

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Town Mouse October 1, 2011 at 9:14 am

Yes, you sum it up nicely. Perfect plant for fall (and I love that it’s so tall!). Can be tricky to get rid of, and can be a tad aggressive. Also, unfortunately, will flop over when planted in containers… Well, can’t have it all. ;->

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Patrick October 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Hey TM,
Sounds like you’ve had quite a history together and you still love it. That’s cool.

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Corner Garden Sue October 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Hi Patrick,
I enjoyed your post. I have avoided planting the spring blooming anemone, because of how much I’ve heard it spreads. A few years ago, I planted ‘September Charm’, a pink fall bloomer. It didn’t spread much the first couple of years, but now, it wants to go beyond the area I have for it. I keep it in check by pulling it out around the edges. I hope I can continue to do so, and that it stays pulled.

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Patrick October 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Sue
The more comments I receive about it’s invasive nature the more I’m thinking it has to be in a contained area. or you have to be so diligent like yourself to physically contain it

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Randy October 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Patrick,

We planted root cuttings last year, soon we’ll have our first blooms. Really enjoyed your article and learned more about these plants. We are in a drought zone luckily our plants are very close to a big rain barrel.

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Patrick October 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hey Randy,
Glad you enjoyed this post and I’m sure you’re eager to see it bloom for the first time. Thank goodness it’s by a rain barrel.

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Christina October 3, 2011 at 3:24 am

A great post about one of my favourite plants. Mine have taken 3 years to estabish here, I WISH they would be invasive! Honerine Jobert may be one of the most widely varieties but it is also the most beautiful. Christina

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Patrick October 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Christina,
I don’t think I’ve heard a gardener wishing a plant would be invasive but after seeing my first a couple of years ago I understand where you’re coming from.

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Karen October 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm

The anemone has such a beguiling bloom; this is one plant I have yet to have much luck with, though. I did not know they can be invasive, so maybe I’m fortunate they haven’t been exactly ecstatic to be living here in our garden. The fact I have them planted in a rather dry area may be part of the problem (or solution) depending on how you look at it. I love the blooms.

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tina October 5, 2011 at 4:33 am

These are so beautiful in the garden. I did not know it takes them time to settle in-that explains why mine are so slow starting. Thanks~!

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Patrick October 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Tina,thanks for stopping by my garden again. Yep, give them some time and then you’ll be cursing me. Get in line ….

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Jayne October 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm

At those prices it is tulipmania all over again! A great post on bulbs…I must get moving on planting them!

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Patrick October 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hey Jane,
You’re right, it does feel like tulipmania all over again.Just get out there and plant, my friend.

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Kimberley September 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Patrick, you helped me identify a mystery anemone. My family knew I’ve been wanting one, and bought one for me on clearance at Home Depot. It is labeled ‘September Charm’, but it has an almost double flower, and long, daisy-like petals. I think it’s really ‘Queen Charlotte.’

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Patrick September 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Hey girl,

Mislabeled at HD?

Gettaouttahere!!!!!

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Keith Piper September 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

Why do pink and white japanese anemone’s not mix in the same border? I cannot get both varieties to grow together. I have tried growing them in four different soil types and four different locations but white always seem to predominate.
Please advise

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Patrick October 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Haven’t tried to mix them up before. Normally it’s the inverse where the white is the weaker child. Sometimes I think we’re spoiled by annuals hybridized for uniformity and expect the same out of perennials. Just doesn’t always work that way. The anemones are so robust and will quickly crowd out any other suitable complimentary perennials. Try to enjoy the bold punch of bright white in that locale.

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David March 26, 2014 at 8:44 am

Patrick, I have a question. Where can I buy Japanese anemones (Anemone japonica) They are very hard to find. I had a bunch growing in my garden and they were wiped out when we excavated for a new addition to the house. Help, would love to find some more they are terrific and no one seems to carry them. I only found them in UK garden sites which cannot ship here.

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Patrick April 9, 2014 at 8:50 am

Somehow your question on my blog about sourcing japanese anemones must have fallen through one of those proverbial cracks so am responding directly to your question via your email as well. Only one I found was one at White Flower Farm:
http://www.waysidegardens.com/honorine-jobert-windflower/p/48977/
Based on past experience, will probably be a pretty small specimen for the price. Some of the local independent garden centers here in KC stock it. Have you checked locally ? Look out for the pink ‘September Charm’ Good luck,
Patrick

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Patrick July 29, 2013 at 6:32 am

Agreed.

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