Thimbleweed Information: Growing Anemone Thimbleweed Plants

Thimbleweed Information: Growing Anemone Thimbleweed Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Image by F. D. Richards

Tall erect stems and deeply cut leaves topped with creamy white flowers describe tall thimbleweed. What is thimbleweed? It is a North American native plant with vigorous growth and a spreading characteristic, although not considered as bad as some of its other anemone relatives. The fun thing about this plant is its long bloom season, from spring to early fall. Read on for some tips on how to grow thimbleweed and enjoy the flowers in your garden.

What is Thimbleweed?

You may find tall thimbleweed growing wild in the central to eastern United States and southern Canada in moist, rich prairies, the edges of forests, savannah and among thickets of other native plants. The name comes from the distinct thickly populated yellow pistils that resemble a thimble. The plant is perfect for native flower gardens and caring for tall thimbleweed is a breeze with its easy going nature.

Thimbleweed is an anemone plant. In fact, its botanical name is Anemone virginiana. It might be confused with Anemone cylindrica, but A. virginiana has a longer central fruiting cluster. The plant can grow 2 to 3 feet (.61 to .91 m.) tall, with slender, erect stems and lobed leaves with fine serration that bears rounded edges.

Growing anemone thimbleweed offers several seasons of interest. The “thimble,” or fruiting body, disperses fluffy seeds that add a quirky detail to the plant in fall.

Important Thimbleweed Information

This wild plant is spurned by animals due to its blistering sap. Even deer will avoid browsing the plant because all parts have a chemical which causes pain, blisters and irritation of the mouth that can develop into vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.

It is considered toxic when eaten in large quantities due to the presence of Protoanemonin, a caustic compound in the sap. Use caution when growing anemone thimbleweed around young children or curious pets. There are no noted cases of topical burns, but it is wise to use gloves and eye protection when handling or harvesting the plant.

How to Grow Thimbleweed

Thimbleweed grows in dry to moderately moist soils, in partial shade or full sun. It prefers acidic to neutral soils and has best growth where there is plenty of organic matter in soil. Once established, this plant is quite drought and cold tolerant.

Anemones grow quickly from seed or division of older plants. If you do not wish the plant to populate randomly, then caring for tall thimbleweed will require cutting the plant back in fall to prevent seeds from spreading.

It has few disease or pest issues and is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 2 to 8. This is a lovely flower for dappled light gardens filled with other wild perennials.

Read more about Anemone
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