Water avens – planting, care and tips

Water avens
Water avens - by Tigerente

The nodding flowers of the water avens radiate a special charm. Here you will find important tips for planting and maintaining Geum rivale.

Profile of water avens:

Scientific name: Geum rivale

Plant family: rose family (Rosaceae)

Other names: purple avens

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: potted plants can be planted all season

Flowering period: April to July

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower garden, natural garden, water garden, flower beds, pond planting, borders

Winter hardiness: hardy

Bee and insect friendly: yes

Plant characteristics and classification of water avens

Plant order, origin and occurrence of water avens

The water avens (Geum rivale) is a native wild perennial. It is found all over Europe and is mainly found on wet meadows, on streams, in ditches and riverside forests. As an ornamental plant, it was brought into the gardens early on. The perennial, also known as purple avens, belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae).

Characteristics of water avens


The overhanging flower stems emerge from a basal leaf crest. They stand up to 40 centimeters (16 in) above the 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in) high foliage. The cluster become a little wider than they are high.


The feathered leaves of geum rivale are finely hairy and serrated on the edge. The small end leaves are usually three-part and strikingly large. The foliage remains winter green.


Although the nodding flowers of the water avens are small, they attract attention. This is due to the pretty bell shape and the subtle structure: the reddish petals on the outside and the shimmering yellow on the inside show out of a brown-red colored calyx. They appear from April to July.


The crested seed heads, also called nutlets, look like a mini wig. The decorative fruit has a biological meaning: the hooked, elongated style easily gets stuck in the fur of animals. So the seed will be wide-spread.

Water avens – cultivation and care


One can put the undemanding species both in the sun and in partially shaded areas.


In nature, the water avens is an indicator for nutrient-rich soil. It prefers humus-rich and moist soils. In nature, Geum rivale even populates bog meadows. Nevertheless, the meadow plant can cope with any regular garden soil.

Propagation / Sowing

If flowering and vitality of the plant decrease, one should divide them. To do this, dig out the cluster immediately after flowering or in spring with the garden fork and cut it into several pieces. Cut out old or woody parts and only replant the young parts elsewhere. Put some compost in the planting hole.

The propagation corresponds to the division if the plant clusters have become too dense. You can also sow the wild species and the whitish-green form named ‘Album’.


Potted plants can be planted all season. Immerse the water avens in water until no more bubbles appear. For plants that prefer fresh soil, it is particularly important that the root ball is soaked with water before it comes into the soil.


If the planting site have no extreme conditions, water avens are easy to care for. They are watered at regular intervals with the neighboring flowers.


A few handfuls of compost are sufficient as fertilizer in spring. Horn shavings, mixed into the top soil, achieve the same effect. Composting on poor sandy soils is necessary. This light earth offers too little nutrients and causes purple avens to disappear after a few years.


Purple avens do not require any pruning measures. However, the perennials will flower better if regular faded shoots are cut off. It is recommended to remove the seed heads, if one don´t want it self-seeding. The removal of the seedlings turns out to be laborious gardening.

Diseases and pests

The water avens knows hardly any plant diseases and pests. It is not even endangered by snails.


Water avnes is hardy. No winter measures are necessary.

Use in the garden

The nodding posture of the flower heads loosens up a bed planting in a natural way. Place the wild perennial with the pretty leaves on the edge of the bed. You can very well combine water avens and its varieties with each other and with other types of avens. The filigree beauties also go well with forget-me-nots, columbines and other classics of rural gardens. The moisture-loving meadow plants in combination with water are particularly attractive. You can even let them overgrow along streams and pond edges. And also on the near-natural wooded edge or as an underplant of nostalgic rose bushes, the winter-green flower cuts a fine figure.

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