Are you looking for a beautiful plant that will spruce up your garden during the chilly spring months? Meet Eranthis hyemalis plants a.k.a. Winter aconites – the ideal ornamentals to begin your warm season with. And why is that? Well, they are one of the earliest spring bloomers out there, filling your landscape with small, but attractive yellowish flowers that can last for several weeks.
Want to know more about winter aconites? Keep reading our guide and you will see that these plants have more to offer beyond their looks!
Eranthis hyemalis plants, otherwise known as the winter aconites, winter wolf’s banes, or winter hellebores, are species of flowering perennials in the Ranunculaceae family. These pretty flowers originate from the calcareous woodlands in Italy, France, and the Balkans. However, they have become widely naturalized and popular ornamentals in the remaining regions of Europe.
When it comes to their general demands and what they need from their owners, winter aconites are super friendly and forgiving. These flowers can thrive in a wide variety of light conditions, temperatures, and soils. If you are growing them in environments that mimic their native habitat, they will even become somewhat tolerant of drought for short periods. In fewer words, having Winter aconites around is much easier than you might expect!
About Winter Aconite
- Their genus name “Eranthis” is a compound of the Greek elements “er” and “anthos”, which mean “spring” and “flower” and refer to their early blooming time. Moreover, the specific epithet “hyemalis” means “winter-flowering” in Latin.
- Prized for their petite and delicate overall appearance, the E. ‘Guinea Gold’ cultivar and other winter aconite species have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Winter aconites make for adorable additions to various landscape decorations including cottage gardens, rock gardens, beds, borders, and near walkways or paths. They are also great as ground covers and potted specimens.
- These species can become an aesthetically pleasing yellow carpet that will make your garden look full of life. In addition to that, their flowers are rich in nectar, making them highly attractive to pollinators like bees.
- The medicinal benefits of winter aconites typically limit to homoeopathic use. These plants contain cardiac glycosides. Some say that these organic compounds can stimulate the heart when administered in small quantities, but it’s not recommended to consume these plants in any way.
- Winter aconite plants can produce severe toxic effects on humans or other mammals when consumed in very large doses. For safety purposes, it’s best to grow them in a protected spot where your kids or furry friends won’t reach them.
- Winter aconites will look absolutely gorgeous when planted alongside other plants that bloom at the same time such as Early Crocus, Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’, Helleborus ‘Angel Glow’ or ‘Anna’s Red’, Persian Violet, and Snowdrop.
Winter Aconite Features: An Overview
- These plants belong to the Eranthis genus that consists of exactly eight species of flowering plants. Although all species deserve attention, winter aconites are the somewhat representative species of this small genus.
- Winter aconites are herbaceous perennial plants that grow from tuberous roots. They can reach up to 6 inches (15 cm) in height and about 4 inches (10 cm) in width.
- In general, winter aconites bloom from late winter to early spring. During this period, they bear cup-shaped, upward-facing, six-petaled, and bright yellow to golden flowers that measure about 1.18 inches (3 cm) in diameter.
- The foliage of winter aconites appears only after their flowers have blossomed. Their long, narrow, glossy, rich green leaves come with a white venation and surround the flowers.
- In some cases, winter aconites may self-seed and naturalize with time.
- These plants usually go dormant during the last months of spring and they reemerge in autumn or over the following year.
Growing Winter Aconite
Winter aconites are much stronger than they appear at first sight. In fact, once you find the right place to grow them, they will do well with little to no effort on your part. But first, you should get more familiar with their growth requirements!
In their natural habitat, winter aconites usually grow in dappled light and spread on the forest duff. Due to this, they can grow just fine in a wide range of lighting conditions. Although these flowers are very tolerant of full sun to partial shade, they will perform best under direct sunlight exposure. Make sure you grow your plants in an area where they can receive five to six hours of bright and direct light daily.
What makes these buddies truly irresistible is their ability to change the state of their blossoms depending on the environmental ambience. The flowers of winter aconites open in sunny and warm weather and remain closed in cloudy and cold conditions. As a general rule, these plants are winter hardy in the USDA zones 3 to 7. Even if their season of interest is late winter and early spring, they also enjoy warm spring to grow and bloom at their best.
Winter aconites are typically carefree when it comes to fungal diseases or pest infestations. However, some issues may occur but only if it happens to overcrowd your tiny flowers. You should plant the tubers at about 4 inches (10 cm) apart to provide good air circulation and avoid any future surprises.
Planting Winter Aconite
If you want to be the happy owner of thriving winter aconites, you must pay attention to their planting schedule. Like most other spring-blooming species, the perfect season to plant your young companions is autumn. This will help your plants to settle in their new environment and also prepare for the following growing season.
These plants will benefit tremendously if you soak their tubers overnight before planting them. Moreover, you should plant the winter aconite tubers 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) deep to protect them from harsh winter temperatures.
In terms of growing medium, winter aconites are as low-demanding as promised. These plants can withstand a wide variety of soil types. Still, they will show the best results in alkaline soils that are rich in organic matter, such as hummus. Because they prefer to have their feet constantly moist, make sure you look for substrates that also come with excellent drainage. If you want your flowers in pots, plant them only in those that have drainage holes at the bottom.
Fertilization-wise, winter aconites are pretty independent and do not need regular applications to be all healthy and happy. The ideal way to support your beloved plants is to amend their growing medium with some organic manure or compost. Repeat this process once every year in spring and you will provide them with a fresh boost of nutrients for best growth.
Watering Winter Aconite
Yes, these flowers are big lovers of moisture during the entire year. But! As long as you have managed to find the perfect soil for your winter aconites, regular watering is not mandatory. They are susceptible to root rot, so providing your plants with drinks very often will affect their overall health. Especially if you are not growing them in well-draining soil.
In regions with very hot and dry climates, however, winter aconites will need more attention and water than usual. If you want to avoid over-watering your babies, the solution is actually pretty simple. All you have to do is check their soil in-between waterings. Once the top 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) of the substrate has dried out, this is the best time to give your Winter aconites a generous session of watering.
Propagating Winter Aconite
With their cute appearance and easy-going style, it is more than obvious that winter aconites have won many gardeners’ hearts. This means that once you become familiar with these charming buddies, you’ll soon want to have more of them around you. Or maybe some of your family members or friends saw them in your collection and would like to add them to their plant collection as well?
Either way, you can obtain more winter aconites by easily propagating them through division. This method requires no previous experience in the gardening world and little to no effort on your part. Basically, you will have more Winter aconites in the blink of an eye. But now let’s get to the real work, gardener!
As a general rule, make sure you always divide your plants only after their blooming period has come to an end. As a first step, you must dig up your winter aconites from their growing medium using a good old spade. Once you have your beauties out of the soil, carefully divide their tubers (roots) into two or three new clumps. Each section should have at least one stem emerging from it to ensure proper growth.
For best results, replant your tiny winter aconites into their permanent locations as soon as possible. Moreover, do not forget to spoil them with a nice drink to help them settle in their new environment.
If you’re looking for a delicate early-spring blooming plant, winter aconites are the perfect option! Give these petite, but stunning ornamental flowers a chance and your garden will be full of life in spring. Once they reach maturity, you can easily share them with your loved ones. Winter aconites are very easy to grow, care for, and, luckily, even propagate, so they are the perfect garden companions.