Gardeners are always looking for signs of spring. Although the calendar tells us it is officially spring, Mother-Nature can sometimes send mixed messages.
The brightly colored yellow flowers of the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) covering the ground might be just the sign that spring has arrived - at least we hope. Winter aconites are a bulb that will naturalize, creating a blanket of yellow flowers for all to enjoy. In fact, the bees were busy visiting one flower after another while I was out enjoying a walk around the Toledo Botanical Garden.
The winter aconite is in the family Ranunculaceae. The plant prefers full sun to partial shade. One of my favorite sites to enjoy a naturalized stand is in a woodland garden that later this year will be dominated by shade produced by the mature trees, but in late winter and early spring it is just the perfect setting for these bulbs to show their horticultural-stuff.
It is also thought that the winter aconites can be grown among black walnut trees and that deer don't particularly care for them. I have even enjoyed them peaking up through a blanket of snow. Thank goodness that wasn't the case when I captured the images earlier this week.
If you are establishing this plant in the landscape, you will want to plant tubers 2-3" deep and 3" apart in late summer to early fall. It is recommended that you soak tubers overnight before planting. Once established, you may notice some self-seeding and naturalizing over time in optimum growing conditions. They tend not to like being disturbed or moved frequently. It is best to identify the location and let them live out their lives in that spot.
The plant is native to Europe. The genus (Eranthis) comes from the Greek words er meaning spring and anthos meaning a flower for its very early flowering. The specific epithet (hyemalis) means of winter or winter blooming.
Winter aconites can make a great addition to the front of perennial or shrub borders, in among the rocks in a rock garden, alongside pathways or walkways, and will also do well in containers. They are eye catching in masses and large numbers. Just remember that because they bloom so early in the season, don't tuck them away in a far corner of the garden, but rather plant them somewhere they can be appreciated and enjoyed even if it is cold outside.