Winter aconite Eranthis hyemalis
The plant known as winter aconite has a distinctive look, with its bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers that are among the first to bloom in late winter or early spring, providing a cheerful splash of color. The flowers are typically surrounded by a ruff of green, leaf-like bracts, which may sometimes be mistaken for sepals. These bracts sit close to the flowers, creating a collar-like appearance. As the season progresses, the green leaves of the winter aconite emerge, displaying a deeply dissected form that adds texture to the garden. The foliage is somewhat basal, with the leaves growing low to the ground in a rosette shape. The plant itself has a compact, clumping habit, which makes it an excellent choice for naturalizing in woodland gardens or shaded areas. The flowers have an attractive glossiness, catching the light and brightening their surroundings. The contrasting dark green foliage sets off the bright blooms, providing an early source of pollen for bees and other pollinators when few other food sources are available. After blooming, the leaves of winter aconite remain attractive for a while before dying back later in the season as the plant goes dormant.
About this plant
Winter Aconite, Wolf's Bane, Winter Wolf's Bane, Winter Hellebore, Wolf's Bane Aconite.
Eranthis brachycarpus, Eranthis cilicica, Eranthis parviflora.
Winter aconite is considered toxic due to its content of cardiac glycosides and other compounds. Ingestion of any part of the plant can lead to gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There may also be a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, and in severe cases, cardiac problems, and muscle weakness might occur. Contact with the skin can cause dermatitis in some individuals.
Winter aconite is also toxic to pets, including cats and dogs. Symptoms of poisoning in animals may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, ingestion can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, weakness, seizures, and possibly death. Pet owners should keep animals away from this plant and seek immediate veterinary attention if ingestion is suspected.
Color of leaves
0.25 feet (8 cm)
0.5 feet (15 cm)
- General Benefits
- Early Spring Bloom: Eranthis hyemalis, commonly known as Winter Aconite, is one of the first flowers to bloom in late winter, providing early color to gardens.
- Attracts Pollinators: It offers an early source of nectar and pollen which attracts bees and other pollinators that are active in late winter to early spring.
- Low Maintenance: Once established, Winter Aconite requires minimal care and can naturalize in the garden, spreading to create a carpet of blooms.
- Tolerates Cold: Being a winter-flowering plant, it is exceptionally cold-hardy and can thrive in chilly climates where other plants might struggle.
- Decorative Ground Cover: Its dense growth habit makes it an effective ground cover that can help suppress weeds and cover bare spots in the landscape.
- Resilience to Pests: It is generally resistant to pests and diseases, making it a trouble-free addition to the garden.
- Compatible with Other Plantings: Winter Aconite can be paired with other spring blooms like snowdrops and crocuses for a multi-faceted display.
- Medical Properties
This plant is not used for medical purposes.
- Air-purifying Qualities
This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.
- Other Uses
- Eranthis hyemalis can be used to introduce children to the structure of flowering plants, as its large, simple flowers can make botany lessons more engaging and accessible.
- In cottage gardens, these plants provide an early source of nectar for honeybees, often becoming one of the first food sources available as soon as the weather allows bees to forage.
- Winter aconite can act as a seasonal indicator plant for gardeners, signalling when the soil is becoming workable and other springtime garden activities can begin.
- The vibrant yellow flowers of Eranthis hyemalis can be effective in color therapy in landscape designs, offering a cheerful hue that can boost mood and vitality during late winter days.
- These plants are used in competitive gardening and flower shows, especially in displays focusing on early spring blooms and cold-resistant species.
- Photographers might use the bright flowers of the winter aconite as subjects in macro photography to capture intricate details, which can also aid in plant identification workshops.
- Winter aconite's rapid early growth can be a useful case study for ecological studies on plant succession and competition as it occupies and dominates a niche before other species in the spring.
- As a component of biodiverse green roofs, Eranthis hyemalis can add early seasonal interest, support wildlife, and increase the aesthetic value of these sustainable structures.
- During historical times, winter aconite blooms were sometimes used to provide a yellow dye for fabrics, though not commonly used today due to more efficient synthetic options.
- Eranthis hyemalis can be used artistically in pressed flower crafts for making bookmarks, greeting cards, or decorative pieces, capitalizing on their early bloom time and vibrant color.
- Feng Shui
The Winter Aconite is not used in Feng Shui practice.
- Zodiac Sign Compitability
The Winter Aconite is not used in astrology practice.
- Plant Symbolism
- Resilience and Hope: Eranthis hyemalis, commonly known as winter aconite, often blooms even through snow, symbolizing perseverance and the hope that spring will soon arrive.
- Renewal: As one of the early bloomers, winter aconite represents the idea of renewal and the cycle of life, heralding the end of winter and the beginning of a new growing season.
- Anticipation: With its bright yellow flowers, winter aconite embodies the anticipation and excitement for the upcoming spring, as it's often the first hint of color after a long, grey winter.
- Cheerfulness: The vibrant yellow bloom of the winter aconite is associated with cheerfulness and joy, bringing a smile to faces at the tail end of winter’s gloom.
Winter aconite requires even moisture, especially during its growth and flowering period. It is best to water these plants deeply once a week, providing about 1 inch of water each time. Overwatering can cause the tubers to rot, so ensure the soil is well-drained. Once they go dormant after flowering, reduce watering as they do not require as much moisture during this time. In periods of drought, occasional watering may be necessary to prevent the soil from becoming too dry.
Winter aconite thrives best in partial shade to full sun. It is ideally situated in a spot that receives morning sunlight and is shaded during the hottest part of the day. An eastern or northern exposure that offers bright, indirect light proves beneficial for the plant, mimicking its natural woodland habitat.
Winter aconite performs well in a temperature range between 35°F and 70°F. It is cold-hardy and can tolerate winter temperatures down to about -20°F. The ideal temperature for inducing flowering is between 45°F and 65°F, as it is a cool-season bloomer.
Winter aconite typically does not require extensive pruning. After the blooms have faded, it is important to allow the foliage to die back naturally, as this process helps the plant to store energy for the next season. Removal of dead or yellowed leaves can be done as needed, and tidying up the plant should occur once it has completely entered dormancy.
Winter aconite thrives in well-draining soil rich in organic matter; a mix with leaf mould and loam is ideal. The preferred soil pH for winter aconite is slightly acidic to neutral, around 6.0 to 7.0.
Winter aconites are not commonly grown in containers and therefore do not require regular repotting. They are perennial and prefer to be left undisturbed in the garden.
- Humidity & Misting
Winter aconite is tolerant of a range of humidity levels and does not have specific humidity requirements, as it is typically grown outdoors.
- Suitable locations
Ensure cool temps, indirect light, and moist soil.
Plant in partial shade, moist, well-drained soil.
- Life cycle
Eranthis hyemalis, commonly known as winter aconite, begins its cycle with the germination of a tuberous corm in late winter or early spring, emerging through the snow or cold ground. The plant quickly develops a rosette of dark green leaves and a cup-shaped, bright yellow flower blooms above the foliage as one of the earliest flowers in the garden. After flowering, the plant is pollinated by early-season insects, leading to the formation of a green fruit that contains several seeds. When the seeds mature, they are dispersed into the surrounding soil. With the arrival of warmer spring weather, the above-ground parts of the plant die back, and the corm enters a period of dormancy throughout the summer. In the following winter or early spring, the corm will once again sprout, repeating the life cycle.
Propogation: Winter aconite, which refers to Eranthis hyemalis, is typically propagated through division or seed. The most popular method involves the division of its tubers, usually performed after the plants have died back in late spring or early summer. To propagate by division, carefully dig up the clumps of tubers and gently separate them by hand, ensuring each division has at least one bud. These divisions should be replanted as soon as possible at a depth of approximately 2 inches (about 5 centimeters) in well-drained soil with some added organic matter. The planting site should be in partial shade to mimic the woodland conditions preferred by winter aconite. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, as winter aconite tubers are prone to rot in excessively wet conditions. With proper care, these divisions should establish quickly and bloom the following spring.