April 2010 Plant Profile: Epimedium

April 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

It has taken me almost three years to get the chance to feature one of my most favorite of all blooming shade perennials and with a wide assortment of them beginning to hit their peak, I will discuss the entire genus. Known as” Barrenwort” to some, “Fairy Wings” to others and “Horny Goat Weed” to herbalist, I am talking about the enchanting Epimedium.

“Eppies”, as I often call them amongst fellow plant geeks, have long been known as a tried-and-true perennial for dry shade. Typically planted under trees in a woodland setting, we have a wide assortment of various species and selected cultivars that thrive in various conditions just to demonstrate how adaptive they can really be in many landscape settings here in the Pacific Northwest. With many recent introductions from China finding their way into the market, many unusual forms and hybrids are beginning to turn up.

Within the Soest Garden, we have about 10 different species and named cultivars on display. Most of them are evergreen and reside underneath a large red oak tree and a handful are deciduous that have evident buds ready to spring into full bloom in the month of April.

Every landscape deserves an Epimedium. You really can’t ask for a more elegant, tough and reliable perennial.

  • Common Name: Barrenwort, Fairy Wings
  • Location: Soest Garden Beds 2, 6, 7 and the dry shade bed under the large red oak. Two species in the Fragrance Garden (thought no Epimedium is fragrant, unfortunately)
  • Family: Berberidaceae
  • Origin: Asian and Eastern European species and some of garden origin
  • Height: 6-12″
  • Spread: Can form tight clumps after several years
  • Bloom Time: Usually mid-late March onto April and sometimes into May.
  • Bloom Type/Color: Various
  • Exposure: Part-Full Shade
  • Water/Soil: Well drained, moderately moist. Asian species and their hybrids tend to prefer more water.
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