Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wildflower Wednesday: Anemone virginiana

I have had a love-hate relationship with many plants over the years and Tall Thimbleweed was once one of them.

May 2015

 If you're looking for a showy flower than this may not be the plant for you.

But, if you want a native that offers more than a season of interest, I think Anemone virginiana might be worth a second look. It was for me. It's a charming native that has year round interest, starting with that good leaf shape that many Buttercup family members bring to a garden. The lobed leaves are so appreciated during the "green time" in many of our native plant woodlands. It's an added bonus that they're evergreen in my Zone 6b/7a garden.
 the flowering stalk adds another foot or so to the plant
Tall Thimbleweed has a long flowering period, from early to mid-summer. The rather attractive white-green flower has 5 white sepals (no petals) and numerous stamens that surround a ball of pistils. Expect to see small bees and hoverflies visiting.

This is a plant that needs to be placed in the right space or it can disappear. I made a mistake planting it next to Amsonia, they're both tall and the anemone was practically invisible. Now that it has filled out, it's much prettier. You could mass it for instant drama or be patient and let it fill in (it is after all, a member of the Ranunculaceae family). Full size the plant is about 3 foot tall in bloom with a 20 inch spread.
Wasowski Photo Collection, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center
   Not long after flowering, green, thimble-like fruit replaces the flowers.
 If you sew you'll understand how Tall Thimbleweed got it's name.
The prickly thimbles last a long time and eventually change to cottony tufts. The seeds are wind born and you can expect to see plants growing near and far from the mother plant. Plants are easily transplanted if you don't like where they've planted themselves.
January 25, 2016  cottony seedheads still have seed for winter interest
Tall Thimbleweed seems to be happy in most situations in my garden. Wildflower experts recommend that you plant it in a loamy soil that retains moisture, but, it is drought tolerant here at Clay and Limestone. You can collect seeds and direct sow them in the fall (they need moist, cold stratification) or let the wind carry them around your garden.
May 2015

To sum it up:

This charming native Anemone can be found in dry rocky areas, on wooded slopes and in open woodlands across Canada and the eastern US (Zone 3 to 8). It blooms late spring to early summer and has small green-white flowers atop tall stems. It will tolerate full sun to light shade. While it is drought tolerant that does not mean xeric. To be happiest it needs well drained and moist soil. Although, it's not a super high wildlife value plant, it attracts small bees, hoverflies and it has been said that birds eat the seeds. Not a deer or mammal food.

Expect to be charmed by the flowers, but, astonished by the thimble-shaped seed heads that remain intact from fall through late winter and sometimes into the spring. Now that's talking about year round interest.

Are you charmed by Tall Thimbleweed or unimpressed?

Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday. This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

 Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I think this will have to be added to my garden. I love the seed pods. It is amazing to me that such a plain flower creates an impressive seed pod. No wonder it is good at reproducing. I am fascinated with hoverflies. I could watch them for hours. (I'm such a bug geek!)

  2. I have been eyeing this plant for my white garden...once I redo the layout of the garden there, I hope to plant several....love those cottony tufts.

  3. (this month we chose the same Wednesday)

    That pearly green flower is magnificent!

    I have both fire, and the fire heath that follows it.

  4. Very, very cool. ~~Dee

  5. I have a thimbleweed growing on my land, but I am not sure if it is Anemone cylindrica or Anemone virginiana. It's not evergreen here and I don't remember it looking as lush. Also, if memory serves, the thimbles are a lot smaller. (But I could be misremembering.) At any rate, I didn't plant it and it always looks kind of scraggly. But maybe it would look better if I gave it space in the garden.

  6. I think that is a lovely plant and your photos-delicious!

  7. I quite like the lime flowers. This anemone looks very much like the Anemone canadensis I have in my garden, but the flowers of the Anemone canadensis are white. Interesting that the seed dispersal method seems a bit different even though the flowers are quite similar.

  8. What a gorgeous plant! I love the structure the fruit provides in the garden--lovely photos, as always! I think I need to add this to my garden.

  9. What a charming flower and interesting plant. I love the spiky fruit seed pods. I need more room in my garden!

  10. Oh, I like those cottony tufts! Great plant, especially if it attracts pollinators and birds but not deer/rabbits. Your photos are lovely, as always. :)

  11. I'll bet kids would enjoy picking off all those fluffy seeds too! (You should see our back meadow after the kids get through all the cattails!)

  12. So sad that I know more Japanese anemone than I do about one named after my own state. Thank you for the education.

  13. I am charmed by anemone virginiana, both for its appearance and its name. I've been looking for a plant with 'virginiana' in its name to use in a woodland area that I'm designing as a tribute to my mother and my origins in Virginia. This may be the perfect plant. Thanks, Gail!

  14. I have long been intrigued by this flower after reading about it and seeing a picture in Gardening with Native Plants of the South. I finally got a hold of one at the NC Botanical Garden and I really like it. Luckily the black blister beetles that decimated my other anemones for years have died off so I got to see them bloom. The seed heads are very distinctive and create interest for a long time.

  15. Another lovely wildflower I was unfamiliar with! I really do like the "thimbles" that remain after the flower fades.

  16. Hi Gail, I love the Thimbleweed! Anything that has such along period of interest......what's not to love! It looks like a combination of Echinops and Milkweed...


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson