Dirt on Gardening

In the Ozarks, the purple martins are arriving to pick out their summer abodes, the first frogs are peeping their hearts out and naturalized daffodils are beginning to bloom. Daffodils aren’t the only flowers that lighten a dark spot in a flowerbed or wooded area.

One of the earliest bulbs to bloom in the spring is Eranthis hyemalis, commonly referred to as “winter aconite.” The plant is a type of bulb known as a tuber, and is typically planted in the fall for spring bloom. It is a member of the Ranunculaceae family. A native of Europe from Southern France to Bulgaria, winter aconite will thrive in zones three to seven in the U.S.

Winter aconite has a yellow buttercup-type blossom. The small, six-petaled bright yellow flowers have a bright green collar under the petals. These plants will bloom in the Ozarks with or before spring crocus. They can even send new growth shoots up through the snow.

The plants form clumps three to six inches in diameter. After the blossoms fade, a bright green basal leaf forms that will last until summer when the plant goes dormant and dies back completely.

Winter aconite prefers full sun to partial shade with consistent moisture. Like many spring blooming bulbs, winter aconite will do well planted under trees or in areas that are not shaded in the early spring but will increase in shade over time.

There are no serious insect or disease problems with winter aconite. However, the tubers of the plant are poisonous, so children or pets that dig should not be allowed contact with the roots of the plant. Due to their poisonous tubers, moles will not consume these plants.

Prior to planting winter aconite, the tubers should be soaked overnight in water. The tubers should be planted in groups, two to three inches deep about three inches apart in summer or fall. The tubers should be left undisturbed. They will self-seed and naturalize over time.

Due to its small size, winter aconite makes an excellent addition to rock gardens. It can also be planted directly into a lawn for spring bloom prior to mowing season. Winter aconite pairs nicely with snowdrops and hellebores.

Winter aconite is available through the bulb store Van Bourgondien at www.dutchbulbs.com.

Today, look for places in your garden where you can add a bright spot of winter aconite next year.

Questions or comments related to gardening? Contact Joleen at missourigardener@hotmail.com

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