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Flower of the Month: Pasque Flower

Pasque flower, or Pulsatilla vulgaris is a member of the Ranunculaceae family. Ranunculus (my favourite spring flower) is also a member of this family. You can find more information on the Ranunculus flower here.

Pulsatilla vulgaris is a herbaceous perennial flower, that dies back every winter and regrows new stems in the spring.

Pulsatilla-Vulgaris

Pulsatilla Vulgaris
(By Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The name for this flower is derived from the French word for Easter. Medieval monks named it “Pasque” because it always appears around Easter time. It is further connected to easter, since the flowers are used as a dye for easter eggs.

What is most exciting about this flower, is the mystery and intrigue that surrounds it! Pasque flower has mysteriously popped up around boundary borders and old barrows (old burial spots, identified by mounds of earth and stones) in England. Legend has it, that these locations were once soaked with the blood of Viking warriors. Coincidentally, Pasque flower prefers to grow on undisturbed chalk grasslands (thin, lime-rich soil) and this is where these monuments are often found.

Flower of the Month - Pasque Flower

Pulsatilla vulgaris – Seed Head
(By Rror – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pasque flower is a delicate purple flower, with finely cut foliage. It’s leaves and flowers are covered in hair, giving them a silvery or almost furry-like appearance. These hairs help to insulate the flower from the cold and aid in its hardiness. Leaves are arranged in a rosette and a beautiful bell-shaped flower emerges from the centre.

Hardy to zone 4 to 8, Pulsatilla vulgaris will often emerge as the snow melts. It is a hardy alpine plant, that grows well in a sunny location. It prefers well-drained soil and is a beautiful addition to rock gardens.

More about the Pasque flower:

Pulsatilla vulgaris rubra

Pulsatilla vulgaris rubra
(CC BY-SA 3.0)

As in the case of most plants, flower heads develop and bloom after all plant foliage has developed. However, in the case of Pulsatilla vulgaris, the flower will bloom, as the leaves of the plant are just beginning to develop.

Its single flower head appears on a central stem, as bell-shaped and upright or nodding. It continues to grow as the blooming period comes to an end and even looks attractive as a seed head.

  • Height: Can reach a mature height of 9 to 12 inches.
  • Where to grow it: Prefers full sun to partial shade, in calcium-rich, well-draining soil. Plant it in a rock garden and/or sloped perennial bed. In it’s native habitat of Europe and Southwest Asia, it is often found on a sunny slope, or in sparsely wooded pine forests or meadows.
  • Watering Requirement: Medium, allow it to dry out partially before watering again.
  • Blooming Period: April to May and often for 5 to 6 weeks.
  • Pests/diseases: It has no serious insect or disease problems.
  • Special notes: Pulsatilla vulgaris does not like to be divided or moved. When planting, choose it’s final location and plant it there. It grows well from seed, and can be grown in a pot. However, be sure to plant it out into the garden, because it won’t thrive if pot-bound.

I highly recommend adding Pasque flower to your sunny perennial borders or rock gardens. For gardens in the North, this flower will thrive where winters experience a deep freeze and summers are hot or warm.

If you have Pasque flower growing in your garden, I would love to hear about your experience. Please share any tips in the comments section below.

Happy Gardening!


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