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Garden Q&A: Anemones — too many or not any

Japanese anemone called 'September Charm' Jessica Walliser

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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 7:40 p.m.

Q: Why can't I grow Japanese anemones and all my neighbors can? They're downright invasive in their gardens, and I can't get a one to survive. I'm a Master Gardener and I'm stumped!

A: Fall blooming Japanese anemones are lovely plants indeed, and, yes, if they like where they are, they do have the tendency to take over the garden and spread quickly. They do prefer alkaline soil, and our soils here in Western Pennsylvania tend to be on the slightly acidic side. Performing a soil pH test will tell you how much lime to add to raise the pH to a more preferable level for your anemones. You should do this a few months before planting. I have to say, though, that most of the gardeners I know who grow Japanese anemones do not perform this step. They just plant the plants and let them go to town.

Because these plants normally grow so vigorously, I wonder next about how you have started them in the past. They typically don't do well from seed, nor do they always “catch on” when purchased as fully grown plants from a nursery. They tend to suffer from transplant shock. I have had the greatest luck growing anemones from very small divisions. The two patches I have now were started from a friend's plant.

To make a successful division, they should be lifted in early spring when the new growth is only an inch or 2 tall. Each division should have a developing shoot system as well as a piece of spindly brown root at least 2 inches long. It is very difficult to dig out a division and keep any soil on the root, so it is extremely important that as soon as you dig up the division, it immediately gets re-planted either in a pot of potting soil or directly into your garden. Choose a site with dappled shade if possible.

The next important step is to keep it very well watered through the first season. Since it will take several months for that spindly little root piece to develop into a supportive root system, it's important to keep it from drying out.

I have a feeling that in a few years you'll be writing to me asking about how to tame its aggressive growth!

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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