May's plant of the month: Perky pasque flowers

The rich, colourful blooms of Pulsatilla are not the only alluring feature of this plant

Pulsatilla vulgaris is a beautiful member of the buttercup family and closely related to the anemone, and the similarities are easy to see. Flowering early in the year, from late April and well into May, this attractive plant also has many other features giving it a much longer season of interest.

Leaves and seeds

The very finely divided leaves emerge in early spring along with the flower buds, both of which are covered with incredibly fine downy silver hairs, these glint in the sun and catch water on misty days adding to the beauty of the plant. From late April the flower stems lengthen and the vivid purple blooms appear, lasting for several weeks. The flowers are later followed by very impressive seed heads that resemble the clocks of a dandelion but persist for longer and thus extend the all-round season and interest of this underused plant.

Growing at Harlow Carr

Although the most common colour is purple there are a few cultivars that offer white, wine red and several shades in-between. Most of the ones we have at RHS Garden Harlow Carr are rich purple and can be seen growing in the limestone rock area. These have been here for many years and have developed into vigorous large plants putting on an impressive display each year and adding to the rich collection of plants growing in that area.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.