How to grow the winter aconite - Eranthis hyemalis

The winter aconite - Eranthis hyemalis, is a tuberous-rooted herbaceous perennial native to the woodlands of France, Italy and the Balkans. Noted for its yellow, cup-shaped blooms. it is valued as a garden plant for being one of the earliest of all flowers to appear in the spring.

How to grow the winter aconite - Eranthis hyemalis
It is considered to be a spring ephemeral plant. This refers to perennial, usually woodland plants that emerge quickly to bloom in the spring and then die back to their underground parts after a short growth and reproduction phase. This life cycle exploits the still leafless deciduous woodland canopy, when the maximum amount of sunlight can reach the woodland floor.

Growing to approximately 15 cm tall, Eranthis hyemalis bears deeply cut, pale-green leaves. The flowers are held above a collar of 3 leaf-like bracts and in the United Kingdom will appear from February onwards. The blooms close at night and reopen in the morning. On particularly cold days the flower buds will remain closed.

Eranthis hyemalis is usually purchased as bulbs in the late summer or as flowering specimens in the spring. The bulbs should be planted as soon as they are available 3 cm deep and 10 cm apart. They will perform best in a well-drained, but moisture retentive soil - preferably a heavy loam. As you would expect they will do well planted underneath deciduous trees or between shrubs in full sun to semi-shade.

Be aware that they can be difficult to establish if the soil is allowed to dry out during their spring growing period.

Eranthis hyemalis received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993. The sterile hybrid cultivar 'Guinea Gold' also gained the Award of Garden Merit in the same year.

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