Epimedium: Barrenwort, Fairy Wings, Bishop’s Hat, Horny Goat Weed, Rowdy Lamb Weed, Yin Yang Huo, Oh My!

Laura’s garden in spring with blooming Epimediums

An excellent shady groundcover, Epimedium is a humble perennial that produces sprays of small, starry, winged flowers in spring.  Foliage of some species emerges reddish and colors up in fall; some species are evergreen.  An acquired taste, the charm of Epimedium species is difficult to resist if you garden in the dappled shade of deciduous trees.

Yellow flowers and bronze foliage of Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ mingle with red flowers and green leaves of Epimedium x rubrum

About 60 species of Epimedium are native to shady, moist valleys, hillsides, and some dry rock outcroppings in China and other parts of Asia.  Most Epimedium species in cultivation spread by rhizsomes, forming excellent ground covers, while others clump, spreading only slowly.  The Epimedium species and cultivars recommended here  prefer dappled or part shade, do not require irrigation, but tolerate more sun if kept moist.

red flowers of Epimedium x rubrum

Laura’s shade garden in spring with Epimedium blooms

Although Epimedium is not native to North America, it is related to native American wildflowers: Jeffersonia (Twin-leaf), Podophyllum (May-apple), and Caulophyllum (Blue Cohosh); all are herbaceous members of the Barberry family (Berberidaceae).

Yellow flowers and bronze foliage of Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’

Yellow flowers and bronze foliage of Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’

My shady border in spring with orange flowers of Epimedium x warleyense (L)


My shady border in spring with Epimedium pubigerum, Helleborus purpurescens, Saruma henryi,  orange flowers of Epimedium warleyense, and Arisaema ringens (Jacks) behind 

Brilliant orange flowers of Epimedium warleyense with broad orange sepals; cup and short spurs are yellow. Evergreen foliage is purple tinted in spring and fall.

Epimedium x ‘Asian Hybrid’


Epimedium acuminatum

Among the largest Epimedium flowers, this selection of Epimedium acuminatum from Heronswood Nursery is one of the darkest.  The inner petals are long-spurred and strongly arched inward, of a rich purple-violet, set off by pale pink sepals. E. acuminatum is evergreen and clump forming.

CULTIVATION

Epimediums can be divided spring and fall to increase planting.  Prune off old foliage in late winter or early spring before flowers emerge.

Sources:

Plant Delights

Edelweiss Perennials

Articles

An-overview-of-Epimedium

no20_barrenworts

3 thoughts on “Epimedium: Barrenwort, Fairy Wings, Bishop’s Hat, Horny Goat Weed, Rowdy Lamb Weed, Yin Yang Huo, Oh My!

  1. So much inspiration! I love Spring, before all the plants get out of hand. Here in southern Ireland, we had very warm weather in February and March, forcing many plants into flower. Now it’s nearly to freezing at night, and I’m hoping it doesn’t get any colder. Seeing hail on the primula is lovely, though.

  2. Thanks for the info about epimedium! I’ve been enjoying them so much this spring. Nice to have some background information.

    • I’ll trade you a division of E. x warlyense, the orange flowered for, E.‘Frohnleiten,’ the yellow with bronze foliage, somehow lost track of this one in the move. Also, four pots of Epimedium new to me arrived today–more to share.

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