Snowdrop Anemone: Anemone Sylvestris

The Snowdrop Anemone is another Powerful Perennial every gardener should know well. Affectionately called snowdrop or windflower ( the Greek meaning of the word “anemos” means “daughter of the wind”). this delicate blossom is at its best when a breeze causes it to nod softly.

Anemone forms cottony puff ball, seed heads that reseed in many places but hasn’t naturalized in my Utah and Idaho gardens. The cottony material traps the seeds in their fabric but can be easily removed along with the seed.

Anemone’s foliage stays small and tidy as long as it is planted in a shade garden. The foliage glistens in the sunlight for it is covered with fine silky hairs on the underside of the leaves.

anemone foliage

Anemone sylvestris’s clump of palmate-lobed or hand-shaped leaves forms a tight bun after blooming but the foliage stays nice all season and often sends up another satiny flower or two throughout summer and again in fall.

The simple buttercup shape of anemone’s five or six-petaled blooms on twelve-inch stems are native to Central and Western European mountains.  Anemone’s glistening delicate flower’s charm is like that of turning on a light switch in a shady garden spot.


Most Buttercup or Ranunculus family members contain compounds that are toxic to humans and animals giving them wildlife resistant qualities.  They contain acrid oils so use caution as handling the plants may cause a skin irritation or allergic reaction.

Propagation of anemone is best done by spring division since allowing the seeds to naturalize in western gardens is “iffy.” Some seeds may germinate but divisions of the rhizome root ball are a better method in the Rocky Mountains.  Dig the roots in spring for fall dividing does not give the plant enough time to get its root system fully developed before the onset of winter.anemone buds

As anemones start to bloom, they form buds when the stems are at half-mast. These downward facing buds resemble the spring bulbs called snowdrops so the name was attached to the anemone.

anemone spring buds

Two weeks later the buds have opened and the stems are starting to stand straight and holding the blooms that have opened wide to the sun, another example of the wonders of nature.

Snowdrop anemone are excellent rock garden plants and could be called alpines for their hardiness and long-lived abilities. While they do not grow especially well from harvested seeds, they are easy to divide. The velvety texture and small tidy size makes them excellent in containers as long as they are placed in shade such as in a courtyard where it can be enjoyed and easily viewed.

Anemone makes an excellent rock garden perennial under the shade of a tree as it is not fussy about soils or pH elements. Allow it to send out suckers so it will grow as a ground cover. A huge swatch of this plant’s brilliant white colored bells will really draw attention to the classiest area in a rock garden.

Small, compact perennials that are dependable and care free like the anemone are not always readily available, so they may need to be ordered a year ahead from a grower. They deliver the promise of spring into a garden.

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