Do you grow Pulsatilla?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAJanuary 26, 2014

I'm considering adding it in the spring and I just noticed the description says it needs alkaline soil with a PH of 7 or 8. I'm pretty sure my soil is a PH of 6 at the most. I'll never remember to 'lime' it every year. Anyone have any experience with this?

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I grow several of them and the one that does best is close to the brick edging on the bed - the bricks are laid on top of a base of compacted limestone screenings. That would certainly make the immediate area a little more on the alkaline side. But the others do OK too. While I haven't tested the soil here, based on what grows well, I assume it is neutral-to-alkaline. As long as your soil isn't strongly acidic, I would think they would do OK.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Our soil is on the alkaline side.

I used to use various Pulsatilla vulgaris cultivars, but haven't done so for ten or so years.

The reason, I find, is that numbers of other spring perennials give much better "bang for the buck", notably in terms of vigour and longevity; e.g. primulas, pulmonaria and brunnera. Their spread seems to fit with the larger (later) spring bulbs.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 6:13PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

So THAT'S why I never have much luck with them! I've tried them a number of times, but they always seem to Peter out. Guess I should have read up on them. PM2, I should have a few in the garden still, albeit small and not necessarily thriving, but I can dig one or two up for you so you can experiment.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 6:44PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I like their fluffy, soft foliage too, SB, so grow them for that as much as the flowers.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 7:25PM
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It's one of my favorite plants, and they grow wild where my brother lives in the foothills west of Denver. I've grown them, and they usually disappear after three or four years. I don't know if it is our soil or the voles; either is possible though they usually look healthy. I'll probably plant them again when the one I currently have disappears. I do supplement the area I plant them in with a lot of organic matter, and so it's probably less acid than most of our soil.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 7:50PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Well, that's interesting. I am getting a soil test in the spring so that should help to figure out if I have a place to put them. And they are so cute, in and out of bloom, even if they petered out, it would be fun to have them awhile. I don't have any bricks near where I want to put them, but maybe if I added some lime and compost at planting time, that might give them their best chance. I also keep forgetting to give the lilacs some, so maybe two birds with one stone.

Thanks Thyme2dig, maybe you could try a little lime with yours and see if that makes a difference?

Thanks everybody. :-)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:11PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Oh, Sunnyborders, I have Pulmonaria which I'm getting bored with after 8 years, I haven't tried Brunnera yet, and would LOVE to grow primula but the couple of times I've tried, they haven't come back for me. I think I am just too dry for them. There are SO many pretty ones too.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 9:20PM
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I tended a garden some years ago, on sandy soil. Pulsatilla did ok there, were great with the heat and dry summer.

A key factor could be drainage, they seem to prefer light soils and probably start to rot on a very heavy soil.

In Europe they are nativ to dry/ xeric grassland, so probably are resilient and thrive on a lean diet but are just not terribly competitive.

Bye, Lin

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 1:32AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

I have sandy acidic soil and the pulsatillas prefer to be snugged up next to the sandstone rocks that line the paths. (No lime there.) They're shortlived but will reseed if happy.

This post was edited by laceyvail on Tue, Jan 28, 14 at 6:53

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 6:08AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I have clay soil too, but like Babs, I'm putting some time in this spring to increase the organic matter in the bed I was planning to add the Pulsatilla to.

Laceyvail, that's a good point, that they can reseed. I imagine not having mulch around the plants would help.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 7:12AM
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Lin and Laceyvail's comments about sandy soil, xeric conditions and good drainage probably are a good part of what makes it happy. I have sandy soil and both places I've grown it has been at the top of a wall or slope that gives it good drainage. My brother's location is a steep southeast facing slope with decomposed granite soil, and the area gets much less precipitation that we get here. Perhaps you can raise it up a bit with rocks to improve drainage.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 10:16AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Babs, the bed I was thinking of putting it in, is a little raised with a rock edge to it. I have another area that has pretty good drainage to try too. I'm thinking of starting some from a $2. packet of seed, so that might be an inexpensive experiment. And if they end up being easy to start from seed, then getting a few years out of plants would be worthwhile too. Sort of like using them like an annual.

It has been eye opening to see how those who have success with this plant have some of the conditions that they prefer.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 3:16PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Those with clay soil should not dismay as I have grown and had pulsatilla survive several years (2-3) in my clay soil beds without any additional drainage amendments.

The purple-flowered pasque flower is SD state flower and being a SD native I want to have it in my beds. My plants come from winter sown seed as have not had any self seeding. Haven't had any red ones but have had/have the purple and the white blooms.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 4:02PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I have had a couple of pulsatilla for a couple years now - very cheerful little spring plant and I enjoy the ferny foliage during the remainder of the season.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 8:22PM
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put a piece of chalk near the planting hole. I don't know why that would be easier to remember than adding lime, but you won't have a huge bag taking up room in the garage or shed.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 12:20AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Re reseeding--I do mulch, and quite heavily with wood chips.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 6:56AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Interesting idea about the chalk, idabean. Too late, I already have one of those big bags of lime taking up space in the garage and rarely used. (g)

Good to know it reseeds despite mulch, laceyvail.

Here's a link for seeds for the white pulsatilla native plant at Prairie Moon Nursery in case anyone is looking for it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pulsatilla Seeds at Prairie Moon Nursery

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:24PM
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Campanula UK Z8

They grow wild near me on calcareous meadowland so yep, alkaline soil with very good drainage is key, when they will happily seed around. I have lots at my allotment, from collected seeds (they are easy to grow from seed). The flowers are lovely, but the gorgeous fluffy seed heads are like having lots of tiny kittens - irresistably tactile. I have mine in a scree beds with lots of alpine grit as well as the sandy soil.

I am trying geum triflorum (prairie smoke) for a similar effect.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 5:45PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Yes, I love Prairie Smoke too. I wondered if they were related?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 6:52PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) makes a nice small area groundcover--it spreads slowly and is exceedingly easy to control.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 6:41AM
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Campanula UK Z8

apparently unrelated - pasque flowers, clems (fluffy seed heads) are ranunculaceae....geums are in the rosaceae family.
Looking forward to the geums - they (triflorum) are never seen over here (thanks GW, again).

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 7:08AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I'm so glad to have seen this post! I never notice people mentioning this plant and was wondering if it was difficult or not.... Sounds like its not all that tough to grow. Probably should have looked into that before I ordered a half dozen packets of seed in a seed exchange! They've been stratifying outside for about a month and with any luck I'll have a bunch of seedlings come springtime :)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:19PM
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