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Barrenwort Epimedium

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
ep-ih-MEE-dee-um
Description

Bishop's Hat is a group of herbaceous rhizomatous perennials in the barberry family.  Commonly called Bishop's Hat or Barrenwort, the genus name is of unclear origin and meaning, however it has been suggested that the common name has been derived by the belief that the roots from the plant cause women to become barren. 

Most species are native to China but there are some that are native to the Mediterranean areas.  This plant has been cultivated and hybridized for over 150 years and includes up to 58 species.  It can be grown in many locations where other plants would not survive.  Deep shade and drought conditions are not an issue for established plants.  Its shallow roots can even compete with the roots from surrounding trees without suffering any consequences.  

The species has small, charming, four-pointed flowers that can come in shades of red, pink, white, and yellow, blooming between May and June. Although considered frost-tolerant, early blooms can be damaged by late frost.  Habits include mounding and spreading.  With some deciduous varieties, flowers can bloom before the foliage open in the spring.  In general, the Asian varieties are deciduous and the Mediterranean ones are evergreen to semi-evergreen. There are many hybrids and cultivars to choose from.

Division should be accomplished every 3 to 4 years to ensure that the plant maintains it vigor.

Most Epimediums prefer shade to part shade in moist but well-drained fertile soils. Use these plants as a ground cover in the shade or woodland garden. In northern areas, they can tolerate more sun but will need more water in the summer. Propagation is best done in late summer by division.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No significant problems. Slugs, vine weevils and the mosaic virus can affect these plants. 

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Water Feature Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Muscadine Bed Woodland Walk Juniper Level Botanic Gardens: Muscadine Bed
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Akebono'
    Red flushed leaves in spring, two toned flowers.
  • 'Amber Queen'
    Long bloom season, evergreen
  • 'Domino'
    Evergreen, bronze/green leaves, abundant flowers.
  • 'Kaguyahime'
    Maroon/red young foliage, two-toned flowers.
  • ‘Pink Champagne’
    Deep strawberry pink flowers
  • 'Pink Elf'
  • 'Pretty in Pink'
    Evergreen, Bronze/purple leaves in spring and fall.
  • 'Rubrum' Epimedium x rubrum
    Rosy red sepals with snowy-white petals
  • 'Songbirds'
    Evergreen, deep green leaves speckled with light purple spots.
  • 'Spine Tingler'
    Low-growing, Bronze/pink spring foliage, yellow flowers.
'Akebono', 'Amber Queen', 'Domino', 'Kaguyahime', ‘Pink Champagne’, 'Pink Elf', 'Pretty in Pink', 'Rubrum', 'Songbirds', 'Spine Tingler'
Tags:
#evergreen#deciduous#low growing#pink flowers#red flowers#yellow flowers#shade garden#rabbit resistant#disease resistant#ncemgva2018#edging#deer resistant#low growing plant#frost tolerant#hybrids#groundcover#long lifespan#evergreen groundcover#shade border#dry soils tolerant#HS302#shade flowers#woodland garden#dry shade#insect resistant#shade perennial
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Akebono'
    Red flushed leaves in spring, two toned flowers.
  • 'Amber Queen'
    Long bloom season, evergreen
  • 'Domino'
    Evergreen, bronze/green leaves, abundant flowers.
  • 'Kaguyahime'
    Maroon/red young foliage, two-toned flowers.
  • ‘Pink Champagne’
    Deep strawberry pink flowers
  • 'Pink Elf'
  • 'Pretty in Pink'
    Evergreen, Bronze/purple leaves in spring and fall.
  • 'Rubrum' Epimedium x rubrum
    Rosy red sepals with snowy-white petals
  • 'Songbirds'
    Evergreen, deep green leaves speckled with light purple spots.
  • 'Spine Tingler'
    Low-growing, Bronze/pink spring foliage, yellow flowers.
'Akebono', 'Amber Queen', 'Domino', 'Kaguyahime', ‘Pink Champagne’, 'Pink Elf', 'Pretty in Pink', 'Rubrum', 'Songbirds', 'Spine Tingler'
Tags:
#evergreen#deciduous#low growing#pink flowers#red flowers#yellow flowers#shade garden#rabbit resistant#disease resistant#ncemgva2018#edging#deer resistant#low growing plant#frost tolerant#hybrids#groundcover#long lifespan#evergreen groundcover#shade border#dry soils tolerant#HS302#shade flowers#woodland garden#dry shade#insect resistant#shade perennial
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Epimedium
    Family:
    Berberidaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It is used in herbal medicine. Make a great ground cover.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Asia and the Mediterranean
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Shade
    Edibility:
    The leaves are edible, however, should be soaked and boiled prior to consumption to reduce its bitter taste.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 8 in. - 0 ft. 10 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 1 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Horizontal
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The 4 parted flowers have 4 colorful sepals with the true petals inside and 4 stamens giving it the look of a bishop's hat. It has a wide variety of color options including two-toned.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Deltoid
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Produces both basal and stem leaves. Most leaves are compound with 3 or more leaflets and often have spiny margins. Most are heart or arrow-shaped. The basal leaves are
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Wiry green stems held above the foliage
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Edible Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Diseases
    Dry Soil
    Heavy Shade
    Insect Pests
    Rabbits