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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pulsatilla vulgaris is one of our most reliable and striking early spring flowering perennials. The Pasque Flower is a native of Europe where it grows in meadows and grasslands.  It also thrives in many areas of North America.  As the common name implies, this member of the Buttercup family flowers in spring around Easter.
Mixed colors
The Pasque Flower is an attractive three-season perennial that emerges as fuzzy flower buds in early spring, followed by a spectacular bloom of nodding, large flowers with yellow centers.  The most common flower color is a deep, rich purple but it also occurs in dark red, white and many shades of pink.
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rote Glocke'
 After flowering, showy seed heads develop before the wind-dispersed seeds are finally borne off in the mid-summer breeze.  Meanwhile, a handsome clump of deeply dissected, fernlike foliage forms a low mound that will persist until late fall when the foliage dies back to the ground.  You can see barely visible buds through the winter months.
Tucked against a rock in the rock garden
 One of the surprises about the delicate appearing but very tough Pusatilla vulgaris is that it thrives in a sunny site.  It is also fairly drought tolerant, probably due to its large, thick root system.  Plants are difficult to transplant and are best left undisturbed where they will grow for many years.
Growing in our raised screed bed
 Another surprise is the Pasque Flower’s adaptability. Pulsatilla vulgaris is quite cold hardy and can also be grown in warmer climates although the flowers last longer where spring conditions are cool.  I have grown it successfully in the clay soil of our perennial garden and the gritty soil of the rock garden, but our biggest specimen grows in a raised, scree bed in a mixture of crushed rock, sand and compost.  That individual had over 50 flowers last season and is almost 2 ft across.
The fringed petals of Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Papageno'
 One of the reasons Pulsatilla vulgaris isn’t more widely available is that it isn’t amenable to vegetative propagation and is generally grown from seed.   As many of you know, we love growing from seed and we always try to have Pulsatilla vulgaris plants available.  Our love of this group is growing and there are a number of lesser known Pulsatillas and closely related Anenomes that we hope to offer later this season or next.  We are keeping a close eye on our seed pots for signs of seedlings.  I will keep you posted of our successes.


  1. I first saw this charmer a few years ago, in April, at The Oregon Garden and added it to my 'Must Have' list for Pittock's Rock Garden. Two plants found their way from Wild Ginger Farms to comfortable pearches high on the sunny end of the garden. Now it seems they may need a companion or two for variety.... Skip

  2. Thanks, Skip. I'm sure they look great on the rocky slope!

  3. Those flowers seemed wild but they're absolutely stunning, its uniquely special. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I've seen these on a couple of blogs this spring, and I'm fascinated with their fuzziness. Can't find them at the nursery though. Hope you had success with your seeds.

  5. I love their fuzziness, too. The next generation of plants are in their seed pots where new seedlings are emerging every day. They are good growers and will be transplanted into individual pots within a few weeks. Sometimes these first year plants give us a bonus flowering period during their first fall. For local customers, we still have some plants available at the nursery that are too big to ship.