Photo by Melody

Nodding Anemonopsis

By Audrey Stallsmith (AudreyJuly 17, 2014

It has been my experience that most shade perennials--such as bleeding hearts, lily of the valley, and columbines--bloom in spring. So I was delighted to come across the more unusual false anemone (Anemonopsis macrophylla), which can brighten those shadowy places from midsummer to early autumn instead.

Gardening picture

Anemonopsis macrophyllaIts enchanting 1 1/2-inch waxy and purple-flushed white flowers are composed of two sets of petals, the inner set forming a cup.  Those blooms nod at the end of springy purple stems, like upside-down lotuses.

In his 1908 book Alpines and Bog Plants, Reginald John Ferrar describes anemonopsis as "throwing up great handsome leaves, recalling those of a Cimicifuga, though the whole plant is juicier and less tough.  The flowers are carried on tall, graceful stems and are vaguely reminiscent at once of Anemone and of Clematis. . ."

Anemonopsis macrophyllaFerrar and I probably shouldn't be comparing this plant to others, nor calling it "false," as it is obviously unique in its own right.  Native to Japan and growing from rhizomatus roots, it prefers rich, moist soil in a cool, shady location where it will be protected from strong winds.  In Alpine Plants, W. A. Clark suggests planting it in a mix of equal parts loam, compost, and peat.    

As illustrated below, anemonopsis grows on misty wooded mountains in its native habitat, so it requires very well-drained conditions, but you should never allow its soil to dry out completely.  Perennial in USDA zones 4 to 9, the plant can reach heights from 1 1/2 to 3 feet with 3 to 6-inch ferny leaves, and generally blooms from July through September.

Anemonopsis macrophyllaFerrar apparently had some problems with anemonopsis when he initially tried to coddle it.  As he reports, "Many failures, however, at last disgusted me, and when a final stock came to hand I said I couldn't be bothered to make any more beds or fussments for such an ungrateful creature.  He must go out with other herbaceous stuff to shift for himself in a rich bed of peaty loam fattened with manure."

"I confess," Farrer continues, "I thought Anemonopsis would be much annoyed and sulk even worse than he had been in the habit of sulking when care had been bestowed upon him.  With the amazing contradictoriness of plants, however, that Anemonopsis has simply taken possession of his strip and throws up tall sturdy shoots after the wildest winters."

Anemonopsis macrophyllaAs the plant is still somewhat expensive, I decided to try sowing it instead, only to discover that the furry seeds are pricey themselves and doled out in small amounts.  The company where I purchased mine sent me five, which I placed in a damp paper towel on a warm shelf for three months before moving them into the refrigerator.  After three months of cool temperatures, one of them has sprouted, and I am about to shift the others back into warm conditions again. 

Yes, it probably would be easier--and faster--to just purchase a plant!  But I've found that I tend to place more value on species which I've grown the hard way.  At the moment my sole anemonopsis is just a teensy seedling growing in a flat with some dogtooth violet babies.  Whether it will ever be any more than that remains to be seen. 


The cropped and enhanced thumbnail photo is by C. T. Johannson and the cropped and enhanced last photo by Haragayato, both courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and this license.  The botanical print is by M. Smith from an 1879 edition of Curtis's Botanical Magazine, courtesy of  The second (adjusted) photo is by Clivid, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and this license, and the third (adjusted) photo by Ptrktn, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and this license.


  About Audrey Stallsmith  
Audrey StallsmithAudrey is the author of the Thyme Will Tell mystery series from WaterBrook Press (Random House) and an e-book of humorous rural romances titled Love and Other Lunacies. In addition to digging up plots--both garden variety and novel--the former Master Gardener writes free articles on plant history and folklore for her Thyme Will Tell site and posts her photos at . Audrey also designs hay-seedy stuff and nonsense for her Rustic Ramblings Zazzle store, and indulges in mystery novels, apologetics, cryptic crosswords, old lace, beads, and Border Collies. Follow her on Google.

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