Last Updated on October 19, 2023 by Plant Mom Care
Winter aconite or Eranthis hyemalis, a flowering perennial from the Ranunculaceae family, is indigenous to southern Europe and has become widely naturalized in other places.
It was introduced to northern areas of Europe in the 1500s, becoming popularly cultivated elsewhere in the 1700s, when landscape gardening became popular.
It flowers early in spring, even before crocuses. The yellow flowers have six petals and are cup-shaped, appearing before the narrow dark green leaves that grow in a distinctive “ruff” below the flowers. It grows about 6 inches high and not more than 4 inches in diameter. The plant becomes dormant in summer, with all the foliage completely dying down.
Like most spring flowering plants, these plants grow from tubers that store nutrients, allowing the plant to survive harsh winters by hibernating. The tubers are best planted in autumn, around 4 inches away from each other and 2 – 3 inches deep to protect them from cold winter temperatures to flower in spring.
This plant needs very little maintenance and thrives on neglect after it’s planted. It is practically disease and pest-free, rabbit and deer-resistant, and can endure various amounts of light exposure. Once it gets established, this plant will self-seed and become naturalized in time, almost becoming invasive.
This plant is good to plant in rock gardens, woodland gardens, flower beds, and alongside walkways or pathways, and also grows well in containers. The flowers should be placed in an area where they may be enjoyed even in cold weather because they are eye-catching in big numbers.
As mentioned, this plant can tolerate a broad range of lighting, from partially shaded to full sun conditions; however growth will be much better in a location that receives a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of direct sun each day.
Keeping potted plants near bright, sunny windows, about 1 foot away from south-facing windows help them thrive as they will not tolerate low light.
These plants require water when the topsoil is dry throughout the year and might need supplemental watering in hot or dry spells, particularly for potted plants. If they are planted in appropriate soil, they will not require frequent watering.
This plant can tolerate wide variations in humidity.
This small perennial is hardy in zones 4 to 9. The flowers are temperature-sensitive and flower best in warm and sunny weather in temperatures above 50°F and close in cold or overcast weather. It can suffer damage in temperatures below 5°F.
This plant is resilient and tolerates most types of soil but grows better in alkaline soil. In their native habitat, they thrive in consistently moist soil high with organic matter. To mimic their natural environment, planting them in reasonably fertile and humus-rich soil will help them thrive.
The plant needs repotting after it either doubles its size or once every year to replenish soil nutrients. Repotting is best done after flowering when the foliage naturally dies. You can reuse the same container if you divide the plant or get another slightly larger container.
This plant is easily propagated by division or from seeds, although a few varieties are sterile hybrids and don’t produce seeds.
Propagation by division
If the plant is growing in your garden, use a spade to dig it up and divide the plant after flowering or when the foliage dies down.
Remove the dead leaves and separate the tubers into several clumps. If you purchased the tubers, soak them before replanting them for better results. Replant the separated clumps in a suitable location, at a depth of about 4 inches, and water well.
Propagation from Seed
The seeds need cold stratification with temperatures between 25 – 40°F to germinate. Best plant the seeds in the garden straight after they ripen in summer.
Prepare the location in the garden by amending the soil with compost before sowing the seeds and covering them with an inch of soil. The cold winter will break dormancy and the seedlings will appear around January but it will take around 3 years for the plants to start flowering.
These plants do not need regular fertilizing. The easiest way to promote healthy growth is by amending the soil with manure or compost every spring to provide the plants with enough nutrients for the whole season.
They are also very low-maintenance and do not require pruning other than removing dead or withered leaves but no further pruning beyond that.
As suggested by its name, this plant can tolerate frost and cold weather. You don’t need to take the plant indoors in the winter, but if there is exceptionally heavy snowfall, lightly protect the plant with a frost blanket or tarp from suffering damage.
While the plant is generally free from disease, it can be infected by smut that is caused by a fungus that attacks the plant, producing soot-like spores on the foliage. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed.
Aphids might be a problem in warm winters. Severe infestation might make the entire plant become sticky and attract fungi infections. Spray the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil solution to control and eliminate the pests.
The plant is also rabbit and deer-resistant although birds might damage the plant by pecking at the flower buds and flowers.
Is winter aconite a perennial?
This tuberous perennial comes back every year after becoming dormant in summer.
How long does the plant bloom?
The flowering season usually lasts for two weeks and is one of the first plants to set out flowers. However, some Polish researchers studying the plant have noted that the flowering season can extend for almost two months.
Is winter aconite invasive?
Usually, plants growing from bulbs tend to be slow in establishing large colonies. When growing in optimum conditions, this plant can easily reproduce and spread by its tubers as well as from self-seeding, not exactly invasive but it can spread if it is planted on the borders of a lawn.
Do bees like winter aconite?
Its flowers are an early source of food for bees and other insect pollinators foraging for pollen and nectar.