Winter Aconite–Eranthis

This little flower is more familiarly known as the Winter Aconite, for it does in fact come into bloom early in the new year. With its yellow cup-shaped flowers of the utmost brilliance, each nestling in a frill of green as if seeking protection from the winter winds, the aconite is a most colourful little plant and besides its earliness its claim to distinction must lie in its ability to flourish in almost any soil and in damp, shady places. In the town shrubbery, in soil polluted by fumes and soot deposits, how well the Eranthis flourishes!

Even a fall of snow seems to have no effect on their hardiness for as soon as a thaw sets in and the snow departs, there the vivid yellow and green flowers are ready to greet the sedate rays of the winter sun. Nor do they mind a heavy, damp soil. This does not mean they will flourish in a water-logged soil, but a soil with a high clay content and which has been brought into as favourable a condition as possible by the incorporation of some peat and sand, gravel or grit, will grow the winter aconite to perfection. And those dull corners, too, may be enlightened by the golden glow of this flower.Winter Aconite

Holding its bloom full face to the sky, even a very few will give an attractive display, but where possible, plant with abandon, in the cracks of crazy paving, along the edges of a window-box, in a trough or tub, down the side of a path, under trees and shrubs and in the lawn or in any grass which is kept short – and here they look delightful planted with Galanthus Elwesii, the snowdrop, which blooms during January and February. Or try it with crocus chrysanthus, Warley White with its unique throat of gold. And if a sunny corner can be found, plant crocus etruscus with its rich blue flowers, which in a warm position will open in February.

The winter aconite is also a charming plant for naturalizing in the woodland garden and planted about a lawn or orchard where the grass is kept short. Flowering so early, its foliage will have died away before the lawn is cut late in spring.


The small bulbs should be planted as near to September 1st as possible. They bloom very early so should be given ample time to form a strong root system. The depth to plant should be about

in., but as with all small bulbs, err on the side of shallowness rather than depth. If the soil is unduly heavy, sprinkle under and over the bulbs before replacing the soil or turf, a handful of a mixture of peat and coarse sand.

Indoors Planting

To flower indoors at the beginning of the year, plant half a dozen bulbs round a small bowl, using a loam and peat mixture to which is added some fine shingle. The bulbs should be planted early September and be allowed to remain outdoors under a thin zovering of ashes or sand until mid-December. The protective covering should then be carefully shaken from the top of each bowl before they are placed in a cool, light window where they will come into flower as soon as Christmas has passed. Whereas the snowdrop and crocus denote that spring is with us, the winter aconite heralds the shape of things to come, it tells us that out of the darkest days of winter will soon come a re-awakening of life.

To spread the flowering season over January and February plant: Eranthis eilicia. This species blooms during February. It bears deep buttercup yellow flowers set in a ruff of bronze. It multiplies freely and is the best variety for massing in grass.


  • E. Guinea Gold. This is a new hybrid winter aconite, the only one which carries a distinct perfume. It bears deep golden flowers and bronze serrated foliage and is at its best early in March. As yet it is expensive.
  • E. hyemalis. A native of Europe and extremely hardy, blooming in protected places very early in the new year. The flowers are lemon yellow and the ruff is deep green. They open no more than 2-3 in. above the soil level.
  • E. Tubergeri. One of the few small bulbs to receive an Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Throughout February the flowers are borne on stems slightly longer than the other species and are of a brilliant golden colour, almost the colour of a sovereign and very large.

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