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Epimedium (ep-ih-MEE-dee-um)

Common Name:  Barrenwort

Light:  - Part shade to full shade

Soil:  Average to rich, well-drained

Moisture:  Average

Blooms:  Spring and early summer

Zones:  (4) 5 - 8


Epimedium x p. 'Frohnleiten'

Epimedium x v. 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium Description and Cultural Information

Epimedium grandiflorum, long-spurred epimedium. 8 - 15". This is a large epimedium with heart-shaped leaves up to 12" long. Plants have showy, long-spurred flowers in the spring that last for 4 to 6 weeks. 'Rose Queen' has rose-pink flowers. 'Lilafee' has lilac flowers. Zones 5 - 8.

Epimedium x perralchicum, epimedium. 10 - 12". This epimedium has dark green, leathery leaves and bright yellow flowers. 'Frohnleiten' is a vigorous grower with bright flowers and great winter color on evergreen leaves. Zones 5 - 8.

Epimedium x rubrum, red epimedium. 8 - 12". These plants have red leaves in spring along with bright red flowers. They are more compact than other plants in this genus. Leaves turn red again in the fall and are evergreen in the winter. Zones 4 - 8.

Epimedium x versicolor, bicolor barrenwort. 10 - 12". Bicolor barrenwort is one of the earliest to bloom. It has red and yellow flowers held above the foliage. 'Sulphureum' has yellow flowers. Zones 4 - 8.

Epimedium x youngianum, Young's barrenwort. 6 - 8". This is a small, compact barrenwort. 'Niveum' has snow-white flowers. 'Roseum' has lilac-rose flowers. Zones 4 - 8.

How to Grow:  All Epimediums grow well in average to rich, moist soil in part to full shade. They grow from rhizomes that should be planted just below the surface. Some are dense spreading and others are clumping. They are drought tolerant but grow better with some regular watering. Although they tend to be evergreen it is usually necessary to cut the foliage back on most epimediums in very early spring, especially E. x versicolor, to clean them up after the winter and enjoy the flowers. Once the flowers have finished the foliage will be replaced quickly with new growth. Plants are easily divided in late summer to propagate or control their spread.

The only major threat to these plants is infection from Tobacco Rattle Virus. Unfortunately this virus is rampant in Epimedium. If leaves have unusual patterns such as yellow mottling you should throw them in the trash or not purchase them if you see this at a nursery.

Landscape uses:  Epimediums make great groundcover plants in shady spots and will even tolerate dry shade. They work well with hostas, astilbes, wildflowers, spring bulbs, and ferns, or plant them under trees and shrubs or along shady pathways.

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