Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla) – The Complete Guide

At the latest when its nodding bell flowers open in the spring sun, the pasque flower (Pulsatilla) can no longer deny its proximity to the anemone.

The delicately hairy foliage and feathery fruiting stem further emphasize the picturesque effect of this pretty rock garden flower.

Planting Pasque Flower Properly

In late summer and fall, the sun-warmed garden soil is especially kind to young perennials. Therefore, August and September are ideal planting times for the pasque flower.

While the still potted root ball dwells in a container with water, prepare the soil fine crumbly in the sunny, sandy-dry location.

The planting pits should ideally be located at a distance of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) and have a width of about twice the size of the root ball.

If in doubt, enrich the excavated soil with a little sand and rock flour. Adding compost is not necessary for these spring flowers.

Do not set the potted plant deeper than the lower leaves. After you consolidated the soil with your hands, water the plant a little.

Care Tips

Planted with expertise, the pasque flower requires little horticultural attention.

During a summer drought, you should water the flower in the bed. In the planter, this measure is necessary periodically when the substrate has dried.

It is not necessary to give any fertilizer to the plants.

To enjoy the eye-pleasing feathery fruits, do not clean out the withered flowers. Only when the spherical fruits have departed, cut the plant near the ground.

During the winter, a Pulsatilla in a pot needs to stay in frost-free winter quarters, where you need to water it only so often that the root ball does not dry up.

Which Location is Suitable for Pasque Flower?

The pasque flower reaches its optimum in sun-drenched stone plants, steppe-heath beds, or roof gardens.

This spring flower does best when the soil is sandy-loamy and dry-textured, with medium to high lime content.

The Right Planting Distance for Pasque Flowers

With an average growth height of 10 inches (25 cm), we recommend a planting distance of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).

If the Pulsatilla colonizes a larger area, you can manage 15 to 17 specimens per 10 sqft, so that the flowers thrive over a wide area.

In the balcony box, you can reduce the distance to the plant neighbor by 2 inches (5 cm), due to the special conditions in planters.

What Soil Does the Pasque Flower Need?

If the soil in the chosen location is equal to the conditions in the mountains, the pasque flower will joyfully stretch its roots. The soil should be poor in nutrients, sandy-dry, and well-drained.

Most of these spring flowers favor a calcareous substrate, so the addition of rock flour or algal lime in the planter is advantageous.

When is Flowering Time for Pasque Flowers?

The central flowering period of a pasque flower extends from April to May. In years with mild winters, in a warm and protected location, the dainty nodding bell flowers present themselves as early as March and last through June.

This pleases bees and butterflies immensely because this early food source is very welcome to them.

Pruning Pasque Flower Properly

Hasty pruning robs the pasque flower of one of its most attractive attributes. Following the bloom, spherical fruits with a decorative feathery tail flourish.

To experience this natural spectacle, the plant should receive its pruning only when the feathery tail flies disappeared and the leaves have yellowed completely.

Prudent amateur gardeners leave the delicate hairy foliage on the plant until late winter, as it acts as a natural winter coat.

Watering the Pasque Flower

In the bed, Mother Nature takes over the watering of a pasque flower in normal weather conditions. Only in the case of prolonged summer drought, does watering can come into play.

Cultivated in a pot or balcony box, water your pasque flower always when the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the substrate has dried out.

Wintering Pasque Flowers

The pasque flower is frost-hardy to -18 °F (-28 °C). If you leave the densely hairy foliage on the plant, this precaution will suffice as winter protection.

If you grow the pasque flower in a tub or balcony box, it should spend the cold season in bright, frost-free winter quarters. There you need to water it from time to time.

Propagating Pasque Flower

Thanks to its powerful rhizomes, the pasque flower provides vital material for propagation on its own.

The long roots stretch far in the soil and allow numerous offspring to thrive at some distance from the mother plant. When these have reached a height of 2-4 inches (5-10 cm), dig up the young plants.

Planted in a lean substrate, water your offspring occasionally while a new root system develops. Once the pot is fully rooted, plant out the new pasque flowers.

Compared to this vegetative propagation, generative propagation by sowing is more complex. Since they are cold germinators, only a stratification puts the seeds in a germination mood.

You can do this by placing the seeds in a plastic bag with moist sand in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks. Following this cold stimulus, the usual protocol of sowing comes into play at a semi-shaded location at a constant 68-73 °F (20-23 °C).

Is the Pasque Flower Poisonous?

Since the pasque flower belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), it is, unfortunately, one of the poisonous plants. All parts of the plant are suffused with toxic protoanemonin.

If flowers and leaves are eaten, dramatic poisoning symptoms are the result. Not enough, the plant sap causes inflammation, blisters, and swelling when it comes into contact with the skin.

Therefore, be sure to wear gloves during all planting and maintenance activities. Children and pets should not be allowed near a pasque flower unsupervised.

Good to know

The name pasque flower comes from the Hebrew word pasakh, referring to the flowering period around the Jewish Passover or Pesach holiday.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Blue Bell (Pulsatilla vulgaris): A charming variety with bright blue-colored bell flowers.
  • White Swan (Pulsatilla vulgaris): The variety blooms from March to early May in pure white. It stretches up to 16 inches (40 cm) in height.
  • Red Bells (Pulsatilla vulgaris): The name of the variety says it all. Its red flowers announce spring from March onwards.
  • Haller’s pasque flower (Pulsatilla halleri): This variety is native to the European Alps. It blooms from May to July with blue-purple, hairy flowers.
  • Meadow pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris): Also known as meadow anemone. This variety trumps with extra-large, 2 inches (5 cm) flowers in rich black-purple and pure purple.