Eranthis hyemalis, the aconite with short gold yellow blooms in winter

Winter aconite, eranthis hyemalis

Eranthis hyemalis is a winter-blooming plant with a small golden flower, ideal to bring warm colors to your garden during the cold season.

Eranthis hyemalis key facts :

Botanical nameEranthis hyemalis
PreviouslyHelleborus hyemalis
Common names – winter aconite
Family – Ranunculaceae
Type – perennial

Height – up to 4 inches (10 cm)
Exposure – part shade
Soil – any type, well drained, full of humus

Flowering: winter (January to March)
Foliage: deciduous in summer

Short presentation of Eranthis hyemalis

Winter aconite is one of the tuberous hardy perennials. Its main appeal lies in its flowers that bloom in the middle of winter and all the way to the beginning of spring. About an inch across (2 cm), their hue is a magnificent and warm gold yellow color: perfect to bring light to a drab garden! The cup-shape flower and shape of its petals is similar to those of buttercup (Ranunculus repens).

Note that Eranthis hyemalis is a toxic plant and ingesting it may cause light stomach pain. Simply touching it may already trigger rashes or itching, so we recommend wearing gloves whenever you have to handle it.

There are a few synonyms in the botanical names: Eranthis cilicicus and Aconitum hyemale.

Eranthis hyemalis, or winter aconite, stays short

Planting Eranthis, winter aconite

Eranthis hyemalis copes well with all types of soil. As for the pH, though the plant will survive nearly anything, you’ll get best results in slightly alkaline soil (pH higher than 7).

  • Sprout appearing on a eranthis plantRegarding exposure, winter aconite prefers part shade. It’s also able to grow in full sun on the condition that its base is always in cool soil.
  • Lastly, to make sure it thrives, try planting Eranthis hyemalis in soil that contains lots of organic matter and humus. In general, the plant loves growing in forest underbrush where all the factors that let it thrive are brought together.

Plant in the middle of fall. If you’ve bought tubers in a garden store, there’s a risk that they’re all dried out. If this is the case, soak them for 24 hours in a tub of water: they’ll grow plump again.

  • When planting, space them to reach a planting density of about 8 to 10 plants per square yard or meter.2 and space them by about 6 inches/15 cm. After that, bury the tubers to a depth of an inch (2 to 3 cm), and cover with sieved soil.
  • Its best if you can prepare the soil beforehand, a few weeks before the planting. How should you prepare the soil? Add soil mix or very ripe compost, and sand. Work this into the soil surface with a cultivator.

To lock moisture in the ground, try spreading a layer of natural mulch around the base of each Eranthis hyemalis. A word of caution: don’t use pine bark mulch, this would make the soil too acidic.

Caring forEranthis hyemalis

Even when it snows, winter aconite will bloomOnce it has settled in properly, winter aconite only needs little care. Though it isn’t mandatory, you can remove wilted flowers if you find them ugly.

Over the summer, while the plant is dormant, keep a thick layer of mulch, compensating for the fact that it gets thinner as plant matter breaks down.

Multiplying and propagation

Buds newly formed on Winter aconite about to flowerPropagation for Eranthis hyemalis is typically performed through sowing at the end of spring in a cold frame.
Again, end of spring, it’s also possible to split the tubers when the flowers have wilted away but the plant still has leaves. Note that winter aconite doesn’t like to be disturbed repeatedly. Let it rest for several years before splitting it again.

Diseases and pests that attack Eranthis hyemalis

Winter aconite is a plant that resists diseases well, rarely showing any symptoms. However, if soil moisture is too high, tubers might start to rot. In addition, slugs seem to love nibbling on winter aconite leaves.

Companion planting for Winter Aconite

Different uses for eranthis include flowered winter ground cover and flower bedEranthis hyemalis is a plant that’s perfect for bringing color to a shaded forest underbrush (with deciduous trees), to decorate the base of rose trees and other shrubs, and to garnish edges and flower beds.

Good companions for winter aconite include other flowers that bloom in winter: snowdrop, lungwort, bergenia, hellebore, hosta, tricyrtis, etc.

>> Read also: Decorate your rock gardens with small spring bulbs

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
Pixabay: Hans Braxmeier, Susann Engqvist
CC BY-SA 2.0: Erutuon, Andrew Gray
CC BY 2.0: Josh Egan-Wyer, Charlotta Wasteson