Canada Anemone, My Frenemy

– Posted in: Native/Invasive

I was warned. My friend told me it would spread when she offered me a handful of Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis). I wanted a groundcover for the shrubs in the front porch garden bed, so I thought a little spreading would be fine.

Anemone canadensis, Canada anemone
Canada anemone, looking very innocent

I assumed it would grow about six inches tall, like the anemones that bloom in early spring. I didn’t do my homework, and I was wrong. Two and a half feet is more like it. I had just cut back the rhododendrons to make them more bushy, and the anemones were swallowing them up.

Anemone canadensis overwhelming a rhododendron.
There’s a white-flowering rhododendron in there–can you pick it out?

And yes, it had spread. And spread. Did I mention it had spread?

Canada anemone roots (Anemone canadensis)
Canada anemones have lots of fibrous roots. Young plants appear to have a taproot, which is actually a rhizome.
Growing points on anemone roots
These growing points on the roots enable this native plant to spread.

Canada anemone is native to much of North America, and in the wild grows in “moist to wet meadows, shores and prairies” according to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers, by William Cullina. Those rhizomes enable it to compete in habitats of tightly packed plants. They’re also what enables it to take over in a cushy, well-amended garden bed.

Time to go!

They were hiding the rhododendrons. They were keeping the self-sown poppies from germinating. Instead of a neat carpet under the shrubs, they were clogging up the garden, obscuring the forms of the other plants. I had to get them out of there.

But, it’s a pretty plant. I didn’t want to get rid of it altogether. I carefully dug some plants and relocated them in several wild areas of our property. Hopefully some of them will take.

Anemone canadensis dug up and ready to be replanted
Anemones ready for their new home

I removed the rest of them as best I could. Grabbing and pulling left most of the roots behind, and I didn’t want that. I loosened the roots with a garden fork and used my fingers to feel around for those fibrous roots, but I avoided doing so around the shallow-rooted rhododendrons and hydrangeas. I tried not to disturb the roses and the lilies.

I know I didn’t get all the roots. I know the anemones will be back. But this time I’ll be ready for them. In this garden bed, Canada anemone is a weed and will be treated as such.

I’ll be monitoring the anemones in their new locations, and I might even water them during dry spells. If for some reason none of them survive, I bet I know someone who could give me more.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

~Albert Camus in Albert Camus quotations

Comments on this entry are closed.

commonweeder July 29, 2019, 6:54 am

I volunteer at a small town Park, devoted to native plants and pollinator plants. Before our group began our work we realized we had many many Canada anemones. Not too bad for our purposes, but we still do find ourselves pulling many of them out.

Beth@PlantPostings July 26, 2019, 11:04 pm

I don’t have any, but I love them. There are beautiful carpets of them in particular areas of the Arboretum, and they’re so pretty when they bloom. I didn’t think I had enough sun here, but it sounds like you’ve had “success” in partial sun, too?

Kathy Purdy July 27, 2019, 8:02 am

They get morning sun and a couple of hours into the afternoon. Since they were in the back of the border (but visible from the porch), they got shade before the rest of the bed. One of the areas I’m trying them in has dappled shade. I’ll have to see how they do.

Shirley July 26, 2019, 12:46 pm

Some plants are just not worth it.
Teucrium canadense is one I planted thinking I needed a spreading plant and it went crazy. Ten years later I won’t even share it with friends who think they need it.

Lisa at Greenbow July 26, 2019, 7:19 am

Gosh yes I have several rampant spreaders that I have to pull out regularly. This one is pretty. I can see how it lured you into letting it go. Now you know and can keep it in check.

Mel Bellar July 26, 2019, 6:31 am

I am sure you saw the evil little devil peaking through in the bed under my front porch. I planted it there many many years ago when I just started and was just trying to get some coverage. Little did I know at the time that I would be fighting it 14 years later.

Cate July 26, 2019, 5:20 am

At some point, a previous owner on our farm planted ground elder/goutweed for “decorative” reasons.

I have lost whole growing beds to this thing and swear that plant will survive the end of the world! ha!

Patricia King July 25, 2019, 5:22 pm

I may have this too although at one point I thought it was anemone quinquefolia which looks almost identical. Seed heads are forming so I will try to determine what I have from that. I have been growing my anemone in a fairly dry area and it is slow to spread. Perhaps that is the key.

Kathy Purdy July 25, 2019, 6:03 pm

Anemone quinquefolia is much shorter, according to the sources I checked. It could be I was confusing the two when I imagined my plant would be a low groundcover.

Bi ll A Plummer July 25, 2019, 10:47 am

My big nemesis is Cimicifuga racemosa

Kathy Purdy July 25, 2019, 2:06 pm

Really? I have Cimicifuga simplex and it seems to be a clumper in my garden.

Pat Webster July 25, 2019, 8:32 am

Like you, Kathy, I’ve planted some flowers knowing they would spread and welcoming that… only to find that the spread was more than I wanted. Lysimachia clethroides was one plant that was swallowing a hillside and getting rid of it entirely hasn’t been possible, but keeping it under control has been. And I did manage to find one place where it can spread happily, so I’m content.