Winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis is welcome source of cheery colour at a time when borders can be looking a little bare. The bright, golden yellow flowers, with a characteristic green ruff, appear on ground-hugging plants in early February.
They look best grown en masse in a natural setting, under trees, where they combine well with snowdrops. Winter aconites can be tricky to establish but once settled they will spread naturally. A member of the buttercup family, winter aconite is a tuberous perennial, native to Europe, but there are other species that originate from Asia. After flowering, plants will die back.
Where to plant winter aconites
For best results, grow winter aconite in partial shade in moist but well-drained soil. Plants naturally suit woodland settings – the plants flower before the canopies of deciduous trees come into leaf.
How to plant winter aconites
Winter aconites can be difficult to establish. Although they grow from small round tubers, they’re best planted out ‘in the green’, just after flowering, like snowdrops. You can buy dried tubers, but these are often tricky to get started.
However, planting winter aconites in the green can be expensive. Here, Monty Don explains how to nurture the tubers by planting the tubers into pots of compost before planting into the ground later:
How to propagate winter aconites
Winter aconites are best divided immediately after flowering and replanted. However, once they are established, they will self-seed. You can help them along by collecting seed from the plants and scattering by hand. Or sow immediately in containers.
Winter aconites: problem solving
Generally, winter aconites are pest-free, but can be prone to smuts.
How to care for winter aconites
Eranthis do not need a lot of special care once established. However, if you are looking to create a naturalised carpet of flowers, aim for minimal disturbance of the plants. Allow them to self-seed and spread naturally.
Great eranthis varieties to grow
- Eranthis hyemalis – a native European woodland plant. The golden yellow, buttercup-like flowers, surrounded by a ruff of divided leafy bracts appear in mid to late winter. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
- Eranthis hyemalis ‘Orange Glow’ – this cultivar from the Cilicica Group has larger flowers and finer leaves. This cultivar has deep yellow flowers, appearing above the green ruff. It prefers a sunnier location but tends to naturalise less well. Grow in a shady border
- Eranthis hyemalis ‘Flore Pleno’– has larger double flowers
- Eranthis hyemalis ‘Schwevelglanz’ – very pale creamy yellow flowers surrounded by the characteristic ruff
- Eranthis hyemalis ‘Noël Ayres’ – grows up to 10cm in height and has double greenish-yellow flowers