Carolee's Herb Farm

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pulsatilla rubra the red pasqueflower

Pasque Flower

     Pulsatilla vulgaris  is what Linnaeus called this plant.  Linnaeus used the two-part name for he gave every plant he found, classifying them into groups based on their sexual parts.  Recently, taxonomists have begun to regroup and rename some plants, so that now the pasque flower is officially reclassified as Anemone pulsatilla.

     This perky perennial emerges from the ground in very early spring.  The reddish, white or purple (often called “blue”) petals form a cup-shaped bloom.  Some varieties have very pointed petals, some are more rounded.  The gray-green leaves and stems are hairy and form a fern-like clump.  They generally reach a height of 12” and a plant will usually form a clump about 10” wide.   Be sure to leave the blooms on the plant.  Don’t deadhead this perennial, or you’ll miss out on one of the stunning features it provides.  The flowers mature into fluffy, multi-spiraled formation that resemble the “old man’s beard” of clematis.   An added bonus occurs when the blooms are spared, since pulsatilla will self-seed if conditions allow.  The leaves will disappear in late summer, after the seedheads develop.

     Pulsatilla prefers well-drained soils, especially over the winter.  It can tolerate drought if given the light shade it loves here in central Indiana.  In Britain, where it is native and the climate is milder, it grows well in full sun.  Plants should not be moved or divided for many years once they are established.  If you decided to divide, do so immediately after flowering, which occurs in spring (April-May.)

Seed head
Seed Head

     Place pasqueflower along the front of the border, since with its short stature, its pretty blooms and curious seedpods will be lost otherwise.  Be sure  to mark its location, so it is not mistakenly dug up or tread upon once the leaves have disappeared.

     British tradition says that the red pasqueflower grows wild wherever the invading Danes shed their blood.  Many also believe that pulsatilla is a beloved fairy plant, both for its pretty blooms and the fuzzy “beard” later, which could both be used to make fairy finery.

There are several pasqueflowers available in discriminating garden centers.

Pulsatilla vulgaris is the one found most often.  Its predominate form is violet-purple.
P. vulgaris ‘Alba’- the white flowered form, 8”
P. vulgaris rubra-The red flowered form, 10”
P. vulgaris ‘Papageno’ which comes in mixed colors, semi-double form, with fringed petals, 12”.
Pulsatilla vulgaris “Blue Glocke” growing to 12” has been selected for a bluer flower.
Pulsatilla grandis- which has 3” lilac-pink flowers and grows to 12”
Pulsatilla patens- is the hardiest of the group (to Zone 3)  It is the state flower of South Dakota, with delicate lavender flowers.  It grows to about 6”

We expect to have those in bold print.