Hepatica vs Anemone: What’s the Difference?

Hepaticas and Anemones are commonly considered one and the same. Hepatica seed packets are often labeled as “Anemone” even though it’s a distinctly different species. This begs the question, what’s the difference between Hepatica vs Anemone?

The answer is relatively straightforward: all Hepatica are Anemones, but not all Anemones are Hepatica. In other words, Hepaticas are a type of flowering plant in the genus Anemone. The genus comprises more than 200 species with varying bloom periods: Spring Flowering, Tuberous Mediterranean, and Fall Flowering. Hepaticas are spring flowering plants.

This article lists the unique qualities and characteristics of Hepatica to help you with their growth, care, and identification.

Brief Overview of the Genus Anemone

Anemone is a genus of flowering plants in the Ranunculaceae family, also known as the Buttercup family. Anemone comes from the Greek word anemo, meaning “wind.” Because of this, all species in the Anemone genus are referred to as windflowers.

Anemone plants can be found in all subtropical and temperate regions of the world except for New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica. There are over 200 different species of Anemone, with varying bloom times. Some bloom in spring (spring-bloom flowers), while others bloom in summer (tuberous Mediterranean flowers) or fall (fall-bloom flowers). 

Plants of the Anemone genus have poppy-like flowers that sway in the faintest breeze, hence the name windflower. They grow easily from bulbs, corms, or as herbaceous perennial plants in garden centers. Many varieties thrive under full sun, but a considerable amount prefers shady areas.

Anemone plants come in dozens of shades and forms. Common colors include white, red, pink, purple, yellow, and blue. They appear in single and double-bloomed forms from five to upwards of 20 petals each, depending on the species.

Anemones have been around for hundreds of years and have long since been a favorite among florists and home gardeners. They’re beautiful and easy to take care of, with minimal soil and watering needs. They thrive in moist, well-drained soil and a balance of sun and shade.

Related: Rue Anemone vs. Wood Anemone: What’s the Difference?

Brief Overview of Anemone Hepatica

Hepatica flowers
  • Botanical name: Anemone hepatica var. Japonica f. Japonica
  • Family: Ranunculaceae
  • Common names: Liverwort, kidneywort, pennywort, round-lobed hepatica
  • Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature size: 2 to 6 inches tall

Anemone Hepatica, also known as liverleaf, liverwort, kidneywort, or round-lobed hepatica, is a species of early spring ephemerals.

It’s native to hardwood forests of Europe and often grows in shady woodland floors. In the US, it’s found in rich woodlands from Maine to Minnesota to Northern Florida west to Alabama. Apart from the Skunk Cabbage, it’s the first “true” wildflower to bloom in the tri-state region. 

At the time of writing, there are around 12 species under Hepatica. Some of the most common include:

  • Hepatica acutiloba: Blossoms in mid-February. Mostly white but can take on shades of pink and purple
  • Hepatica americana: Blossoms from April to May. Commonly blue, but can also be found in shades of white and pink
  • Hepatica maxima: Blossoms from February to March. Largest and rarest of all Hepaticas, growing up to 5.9 inches across. Native to Korea and Japan.
  • Hepatica nobilis: Blossoms from February to May. Can be distinguished by their extremely hairy stems. Most common species and easiest to grow.
  • Hepatica transsilvanica: Blossoms from February to March. Native to mountainous areas of Romania and other parts of eastern Europe
  • Hepatica henryi: Blossoms from February to March. Native to mountainous and seaside areas of China and Japan.
  • Hepatica x media: Blossoms from March to May. Hybrid flowers with a deep blue coloration.

Depending on the leaf edge, Hepaticas can be divided into two subdivisions: Series Triloba and Series Angulosa. Triloba leaves have three lobes and a smooth leaf edge, while Angulosa leaves have three to five lobes and a crenated edge.

Due to their leaves’ uncanny resemblance to the human liver, Hepatica plants were once thought to be an effective treatment for liver disorders such as liver enlargement, jaundice, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. Today, the leaves and flowers are used as an astringent, a diuretic, and a demulcent for slow-healing injuries.

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Hepatica Care Guide

Hepaticas are among the most striking species in the Anemone genus. They’re relatively easy to take care of and grow well with other woodland wildflowers.

Light Requirements

Hepaticas thrive in partially shaded areas. They’re best placed under deciduous shrubs and trees, where they can safely bask in the early morning sun without being burnt by direct light.

Soil Requirements

Like most Anemones, Hepaticas aren’t too picky with their soil. As long as they’re grown in moist and well-draining soil, they’ll bloom when the time comes. However, they have a preference for fertile, humus-rich soil.

Water Requirements

Hepaticas need plenty of water during their growth period. They have to be watered regularly to maintain consistently moist soil throughout spring. Well-rotted compost and leaf mold can help them retain moisture for longer periods.

They don’t need as much water during summer as this is when they fall dormant. Cut back on the watering but make sure the soil is lightly moist so the plants won’t dry out.

Temperature and Humidity

Since they’re native to European woodlands, Hepaticas prefer cool, temperate climates of between 50 to 55°F (10 to 13°C). They don’t do well in excessive humidity, heat, and heavy rain, so if you live in an area that experiences all three, you might want to plant them in a greenhouse.

Fertilizer Requirements

If planted in fertile soil, Hepaticas don’t need additional fertilizer. Otherwise, they do well in a fertilizer mix of fish emulsion, blood meal, calcified seaweed, and bonemeal. Fertilize during early spring to encourage growth.

Final Thoughts

We hope our guide on Hepatica vs. Anemone helped you distinguish the difference between the two plants.

Anemone is a genus of flowering plants under the Ranunculaceae family. It has over 200 species and is found across all temperate and subtropical regions of the world except New Zealand and Australia.

Hepatica is one of many species under the Anemone genus. It has 12 subspecies, which include the Hepatica acutiloba, Hepatica nobilis, and Hepatica maxima