Windflowers (Anemone spp.) are a group of perennials with colorful poppy-like flowers that flutter in the breeze. There are several distinct forms for gardeners to become familiar with, all of which are very effective when planted in mass.
Windflowers grow underground from tubers or rhizomes to form small colonies. Depending on the variety, the flower stalks grow from six inches tall to nearly six feet. Flower color varies widely, but the blossoms are generally two to three inches in diameter with thin, delicate petals. The deeply divided foliage is dark green and clustered near the base of the plants.
The various forms are useful in woodland gardens, perennial borders, cottage gardens, and rock gardens.
All parts of windflower are toxic. One would have to eat a large quantity to be in real danger, but even a small quantity will cause severe, but temporary, pain in the mouth. Significant exposure to the sap of the plants can cause dermatitis, so it's best to wear gloves and protective clothing when working with windflower.
Windflowers grow best in partial shade. In cooler climates they can tolerate full sun, but in hot climates, it's best if they are sheltered from the late afternoon sun.
These are largely woodland plants, meaning they appreciate rich soil that is high in organic matter. Plant on a mound if drainage is poor and amend the planting area with compost before putting windflowers in the ground.
- Windflowers need regular irrigation to thrive.
- The tall varieties often need staking to keep from falling over.
- All windflowers look best if spent flowers and old leaves are removed periodically. Cut the stalks to the ground after the foliage turns brown in fall.
- Divide them in fall every few years.
Pests and Disease
Windflowers are susceptible to a number of pests and disease though they are rarely fatal. Since the plants grow from extensive underground root systems, often the best solution is to cut the stalks to the ground and let them re-grow in hopes that the pest will have moved on.
Slugs and snails like to feed on windflower leaves. These are best controlled with commercial deterrent, such as Sluggo.
Nematodes are perhaps the most serious pest of windflowers. These are tiny underground creatures that burrow into the roots and can slowly weaken a plant if they are allowed to build up in the soil. If your windflower is looking weak and the leaves are starting to yellow, try drenching the soil with a nematocide.
Types of Windflower
Windflowers are widely available in nurseries with the perennials. Look for some of the following types.
- Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida) - Also referred to simply as hybrid windflowers, these late summer and early fall bloomers grow three to five feet tall and come in white, pink and purple forms. They are useful at the back of a perennial border. Hybrid anemones are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
- Chinese Anemone (Anemone hupehensis) - This variety closely resembles its Japanese cousin, but is more compact, growing just two to three feet tall. It's suitable for USDA zones 4 to 9.
- Grecian Anemone (Anemone blanda) - These are rock garden plants that grow just six to eight inches tall and are typically planted as tubers in the fall. Carpeting shady areas with blue, pink or white flowers in spring, they are hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
- Wood Anemone (Anemone nemerosa) - This variety closely resembles Grecian anemone, but actually goes dormant in midsummer. It's hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.
Windflowers flutter their petals in the wind and bob gently in the breeze, giving a serene feeling to garden spaces. They are an important member of the perennial garden palette, offering many colors and forms to choose from.