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Gardening 101: Poppy Anemone

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Gardening 101: Poppy Anemone

March 10, 2018

Poppy Anemone, A. coronaria: “Lilies of the Field”

Of the more than 100 species of perennial anemones, the colorful poppy anemone is one you are likely to see in spring gardens (and to covet for yours). With its large, velvety petals and wide range of colors, Anemone coronaria flowers also find their way frequently into florists’ refrigerator cases and bridal bouquets. But be warned: This charming cut flower has a short vase life (from three to five days, on average).

Are poppy anemones the right flowers to grow in your garden (or your container garden)? Read on.

Photography by Christin Geall.

Anemone coronaria ranges in color from white, to purple, to magenta and red. The plant’s fine deep green foliage lays low as the flowers emerge.
Above: Anemone coronaria ranges in color from white, to purple, to magenta and red. The plant’s fine deep green foliage lays low as the flowers emerge.

A favorite since ancient times, anemones were made mythic by the ancient Greeks (the scarlet red flower symbolized the blood of Adonis, Aphrodite’s lost love) and their habitat extends throughout Mediterranean climates. Botanists and Bible scholars have long debated whether the New Testament’s injunction to consider the carefree nature of “the lilies of the field” referred to poppy anemones rather than to lilies.

Anemones are best known today as a large group of plants grown for decorative purposes. The species A. coronaria (‘corona’ refers to the crownlike arrangement of the stamens), is grown as a cut flower, seen most commonly in its black-centered purple, red, or white form. It’s available in single, double, and semi-double forms.

Easily grown, the tiny corm-like tubers of A. coronaria can be planted in the fall (in warm climates) and in spring (in colder regions). They are hardy to USDA growing zone 7 in light soils.

Anemones send up many stems at once, each flower gradually unfurling before opening to the sun.
Above: Anemones send up many stems at once, each flower gradually unfurling before opening to the sun.

Cheat Sheet

  • To grow poppy anemones, soak dried tubers until they become plump (this may take a day). Keep the water running at a drip, to provide oxygen.
  • For container plants, place the tubers directly into deep pots filled with loamy soil. To grow poppy anemones out in the garden, keep them cool (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) in a tray of damp coir until they sprout. This could take upwards of two weeks.
A pre-spouted anemone tuber is ready to plant in the garden.
Above: A pre-spouted anemone tuber is ready to plant in the garden.
  • After poppy anemones sprout, choose a sunny site in the garden with light fertile soil, amended with a balanced organic fertilizer. A. coronaria likes free draining soil, so avoid wet ground.
  • A. coronaria produces a tasteful rosette of deeply cut leaves before sending up flowers. Snip flowers at the base of their stems and the plant will deliver numerous blooms.
  • On arid hillsides where they grow wild, anemones go dormant after blooming when the weather heats up. If you live in USDA zones 7 or warmer, the tubers can overwinter in the ground. (I lift mine in the Pacific Northwest in midsummer after the foliage has browned off, hang the tubers in mesh bags to dry, and pre-spout them again in the fall for winter planting under cover. Occasionally I miss a few in my garden beds and they re-sprout in January of their own accord.)
An Anemone coronaria flower is ready to be picked. Notice how the sepals have formed an open ‘ruff’ around the flower.
Above: An Anemone coronaria flower is ready to be picked. Notice how the sepals have formed an open ‘ruff’ around the flower.

Keep It Alive

  • Nurseries carry plants in spring. These can be popped right into a sunny location in the garden or planted into a pot.
  • To harvest, cut the stems from the base of the plant when the green “ruff” of sepals surrounding the flower is at least 1/4 inch from the base of the bloom. (You also can cut anemones after the flowers are open, but they won’t last quite as long).
  • Support the stems of anemones in a tall vase while they open and treat them as you would any cut flower: keep them out of direct light and change the water often to discourage the buildup of bacteria.
Try harmonizing the dark centers of anemones with matte black or plum-colored foliage and flowers such as heucheras, Sambucus nigra, and Fritillaria persica.
Above: Try harmonizing the dark centers of anemones with matte black or plum-colored foliage and flowers such as heucheras, Sambucus nigra, and Fritillaria persica.

N.B.: For more about spring flowers, our Garden Design 101 guides, including our primer on Bulbs & Tubers 101, can help answer your questions:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for poppy with our Poppy: A Field Guide.

Additionally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for japanese anemone with our Japanese Anemone: A Field Guide.

Interested in other bulbs and tubers for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various bulbs and tubers with our Bulbs & Tubers: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various perennial plants with our Perennials: A Field Guide.

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