Eranthis winter aconite
Height 10cm (4in)
Planting distance 7.5cm (3in)
Flowers mid winter to
Well-drained, moisture retentive
Sun or partial shade
Tubers available in early and mid autumn
These small hardy perennials are some of the earliest plants in the garden, sometimes appearing in mid and late winter. Their enchanting buttercup-likestand 10cm (4in) above ground, surrounded by deep green ruffs. For greatest impact, plant them in large groups to form a carpet. A sunny or partially shaded site with plenty of humus-rich soil is best.
Eranthis hyemalis has lemon-yellow flowers that appear in late winter; flowering time can be earlier in mild areas. It stands 10cm (4in) high and its tubers should be planted 7.5cm (3in) apart. As a woodland species thriving in dappled shade, it is best grown in a semi-wild setting below deciduous trees or in between shrubs.
Eranthis x tubergenii has robust, slightly larger rich golden-yellow flowers that emerge in early spring. It tolerates sunnier conditions than E. hyemalis and can be grown in a rock garden or at the front of a border, provided there is plenty of humus in the soil. Two varieties are available: ‘Guinea Gold’ with bronze leaves and stems and large deep yellow fragrant flowers that appear in early and mid spring, and ‘Glory’ with slightly less fragrant flowers appearing in late winter and early spring, and with bronze-tinted young foliage.
Plant the tubers as soon as they are available in early autumn, set-ting them 5cm (2in) deep, and 7.5cm (3in) apart in groups. Some nurseries offer plants ‘in the green’ in mid spring; these establish themselves quicker than dormant corms. They grow best in well-drained moisture retentive soil, preferably a heavy loam. Incorporating leaf-mould into the soil at planting time is often a good idea. An ideal site for winter aconites would be below deciduous trees or between shrubs where the ground will be cool and moist in summer, but where the sun will reach the plants in winter and spring. Avoid too much disturbance after planting and water, if necessary, during the growing season, until the leaves die down.
When the plants die down, lift the tubers, divide the large knobbly ones into several pieces and replant immediately. Original tubers should not be propagated from for three to four years to allow them to swell in size. Winter aconites will also spread rapidly to form colonies by self-seeding.
Pests and diseases
Birds sometimes damage opening flowers.