Epimedium, also known as bishop's hat or barrenwort, are long-lived perennials that deserve to be used more widely. Low-growing foliage of great distinction and delicate spring flowers make epimediums a good garden choice. Flowers sometimes bloom before plants leaf out, in soft colors of white, yellow, rose, and lavender. The foliage makes a trim ground-cover layer. The leaves, somewhat heart-shaped on wiry stems, may be green, purple, or green with red or purple flushes or veining.
How to grow: Epimediums like good, well-drained, somewhat moist garden soil in open shade, though they like some morning sun. They do well under tree canopies but need water if the soil becomes dry. In spring, remove the previous year's foliage if it is spotty and to show off new flowers.
Propagation: By division or from seed.
Uses: Epimediums are good ground covers on slopes, under trees, and in other shady spots. If you have a shaded retaining wall where the flowers can be seen at eye level, they are ideal.
Related species: Epimedium grandiflorum grows about a foot high with white flowers tinged with pink at the tips of the spurs. E. x perralchium Frohnleiten has handsome purplish leaves and is evergreen in the South.
Scientific name: Epimedium species
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