Comprehensive Guide: Growing and Caring for Epimedium Plants

The Epimedium group is described as carpeting plants. These spring-blooming plants are native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. They come in a variety of colors and grow well in rock gardens and shade gardens. The woody rhizomes of most plants will slowly fill in the desired space without overtaking the garden or crowding other desired plants. The epimedium is a great addition to the garden. It can be used as a ground cover plant in areas that are partially shaded, where other plants might not grow.

The leaves of most Epimedium plants are heart-shaped, arrow-shaped, or have red markings. In the spring they produce four-petaled flowers. They appear to float above the plant and mimic butterfly wings. The flowers are borne on leafless stems that arch upwards. The flowers are available in a variety of colors, including red, pink and purple. They also come in white, yellow and orange. At first glance, they may look like orchid blossoms. Epimedum species have been used for Chinese traditional medicine. However, research on the plant’s medicinal properties is still limited.
Common Name Epimedium (barrenwort), fairy wings, Bishop’s Hat, horny Goat Weed
Botanical name Epimedium
Plant TypePerennial, groundcover
Mature Size 8-12 inches tall, 12-36 in. Wide: 12 to 36 in.
Sun ExposurePartial, shade
Soil type Loamy or sandy, moist, but well-drained
Soil pHAcidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Purple, White
Hardiness Zones 5-8 in the USA
Native Area Asia and Mediterranean
Epimedium Care
Plants of the epimedium family are easy to maintain. Mediterranean varieties often have evergreen foliage and are a showy addition to any garden. These varieties are more drought-tolerant than Asian varieties, which die off during the winter. The foliage can turn yellow, red or bronze depending on the type. The easy-going plants are not usually plagued by pests or disease. Slugs and rabbits nibble the leaves, but they rarely cause any lasting damage. These plants can be affected by vine weevils or the mosaic virus.

The epimedium will thrive in an environment that mimics the natural woodland habitat. The resulting leaf mulch and dappled shade from trees is what they love. It is best to plant them close to trees, and add compost or leaf mould yearly.
Plants with heart-shaped leaves in bright green with red markings.

Plant with purple jester-hat-shaped flowers
Plant with pink and yellow flowers and arrow-shaped leaves.
Epimedium stems with tiny orange or yellow buds at the ends
These plants prefer partial lighting or dappled light. These plants are good for shade gardens, but they are not suitable for locations with full sun. They grow well under trees and near structures that provide shade from the harsh afternoon sun.

Plants like Epimedium thrive in dry, rocky soils. The Mediterranean varieties are drought-tolerant. Planting them near trees is a good idea, as they can handle the root competition. They can tolerate rocky soils but they do best in soils that drain well and are fertile.

The preferred soil pH level depends on the type of plant being grown. Most Epimediums are tolerant of neutral or slightly acidic soils.

Once established, Epimediums are drought-tolerant and do not require a regular schedule of watering. Water only when soil starts to dry, ensuring that it drains well and doesn’t pool. Consistent watering of young plants is necessary to establish the plants.

Temperature and Humidity
Epimediums can be grown anywhere from USDA zones 5 to 8. They can tolerate a wide range in temperature and humidity. Leaves can be scorched by intense heat such as the sun in the summer.

Epimediums are usually found in wooded areas or growing under trees. They benefit from compost or leaf mould being worked into the soil every year. Each spring, add this or a fertilizer with a slow release.

Epimedium Types
Epimedium Pink Champagne: This evergreen, vibrant variety is known for the spikey, pink flowers and reddish-bronze leaves.
Epimedium perralchicum: The leaves of this variety turn beautiful bronze color in spring and fall. In the spring, it produces yellow flowers.
Epimedium Amber Queen: The ‘Amber Queen variety is known for the amber-yellow blooms that appear in spring, and continue through mid-summer.
Epimedium is only evergreen and does not require pruning. It is best to trim the foliage down to the ground in early spring before the flowers appear. These varieties don’t shed their leaves so fading leaves should be removed to promote healthy, new growth.
Propagating Epimedium
The ground cover will fill in the desired area eventually. Dividing Epimedium is an excellent way to contain the plants and provide additional plants in other areas. Divide in spring, after the flowers have finished blooming or late summer/early fall. You will also need gloves, a garden snips, and a shovel.

Use the shovel to gently loosen soil around the plant.
Remove the plant gently once the soil has been loosen and the roots can be moved.
Cut through the root system with the shovel and scissors to divide the plant. Make sure that each division has healthy roots and foliage.
Plant each division at its desired location.
How to grow epimedium from seed
Epimedium can be easily and quickly started from seeds. It is important to remember that seeds are likely to produce a different plant than the mother. Propagation by division works best for identical plants. Follow these instructions if you want to start them as seeds:

Watch the plant carefully to collect the seeds. They are easy to miss because they fall while green.
As soon as the seeds appear, immediately collect them and plant them. Don’t let the seeds get dry.
Cover them gently with soil but don’t bury them deeply. This can be done outdoors, and the winter will help the seeds to stratify. Place the pots of seeds that are being planted indoors in the fridge for three months.
If you plant outdoors, germination will take place in the spring. Germination occurs after the plants are removed from the fridge if they were planted indoors.
Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Plant seedlings indoors outside after the danger of frost is past.
Repotting and Potting Epimedium
Epimediums are a good choice for container gardens because of their slow growth and hardiness. If you choose a container for your garden, make sure that it has drainage holes to allow water to freely flow from the bottom. Before planting, add compost or leaf mould to the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. If the Epimedium grows too large for the container, divide it.
Plants that grow epimedium can withstand cold winters. Some Epimedium varieties die naturally during the winter, while others are evergreen. Epimediums do not need any special care to survive the winter as long as they’re grown in the right zone.

How to get epimedium to bloom
This genus produces delicate four-petaled flowers which appear to hover over the plant. These flowers are available in a variety of colors, including red, pink orange, yellow purple or white. Some flowers have spiky petal shapes, while others are smooth and round. These plants have a delicate and elegant appearance.

Plants of Epimedium usually bloom in spring. In order to encourage the plant to bloom, give it compost or fertilizer during the spring. Also, provide the best conditions for the plant, including light, water, and air.

Epimedium: Common Problems
Epimediums are hardy plants that are usually trouble-free. Root rot can be a problem, in addition to the pests mentioned above.

Discolored, Wilting Leaves
Root rot can cause yellowed, small, discolored leaves, stems that are soggy, and roots that are dark and soft. Too much moisture in soil is the cause. This problem can be fixed by gently removing the plant. Cut away any affected areas. To increase drainage, soil amendments like compost or sand should be used.

Are Epimedium plants invasive?
Epimediums are spreading ground plants. Most varieties are slow-growing and don’t have the same invasive characteristics as many other groundcover plants.

Epimediums are evergreens?
Some Epimediums remain evergreen, while others are resenescent in the winter. It depends on the type. Most Asian varieties are evergreen, while Mediterranean varieties tend to die back.

Where can Epimedium plants be found?
The epimedium is native to Asia and Mediterranean. They can be found in woodlands with dappled light and soil that drains well.