Eranthis hyemalis, or Winter Aconite, is a popular bulb in English gardens. It blooms in late winter – sometimes even in January - hence its common name! Flowers are yellow and look like a small buttercup (they’re in the buttercup family). Since they frequently flower in the snow, they give a very sunny effect that promises spring will soon be here. They are very short – only about three inches tall nestled into a circle of green leaves. The flowers will open during sunny days and close at night or when it’s cloudy.
Winter aconites are poisonous, making them a good bulb to plant if you have a problem with mice or deer eating your plants, but not a good plant if you have dogs or cats that dig in the garden because they could eat them and get sick.
Gardeners frequently have two complaints about Eranthis:
1. They are hard to get established.
2. They are invasive.
These two, somewhat contradictory, complaints are relatively easy to deal with, once you know the secrets of planting winter aconite.
Where to plant Eranthis
Like all bulbs, Eranthis dislike wet soils, so do make sure the soil is well-drained, or add some sand and small gravel to the planting hole.
They like some shade so they do well under deciduous trees.
They don’t like being disturbed so don’t plan on dividing or moving them once they’re established. Avoid planting other things near them, as this will disturb and perhaps destroy them.
Eranthis multiply by dropping their seeds. For this reason, be careful to only plant them in a spot where you won’t mind them spreading. Along a woodland path is perfect.
The yellow flowers look lovely mixed with white snowdrops, another late-winter blooming bulb.
How to plant Eranthis
The bulbs are tiny and look like a piece of bark. They’ll do best if you soak them in some warm water overnight before planting.
Plant them no deeper than 2 inches deep.
Water them well after planting.
Because they’re so small, they’ll look best if planted in clusters of 5 or more, about 2 inches apart.
Like all bulbs, let their leaves die down naturally for more flowers next year.