The first words that come to mind in describing Epimedium are dainty, finely textured, durable, and easy.

Dainty describes the clusters of small flowers in early spring. Epimedium flowers come in a range of colors including white, yellow, apricot, rose, and lilac. Their size varies from ½" to 3" (E. grandiflorm) in diameter. They are borne on branched stems which lends them the appearance of floating above the ground. The individual flowers are little nodding cups, often with spurs like columbine. Bloom time is April through May. At this time you can cut away the foliage from the previous year to keep it fresh and to accentuate the blooms.

Finely textured describes the foliage of Epimediums. The compound leaves arise from the ground on thin wiry stems. Leaf shape varies slightly from heart shaped to lanceolate. They unfurl in shades of bronze, mottled red or spring green. Most species are evergreen in our climate.

Epimedium wushu nenes 'Spiny Leaf'

Durable describes the Epimedium's ability to tie the shade garden together in some of the most difficult of garden conditions. Especially since they are one of the few evergreen ground covers that can thrive successfully in dry shade! They can grow in partial to full shade with shallow rhizomes that make them perfect for under trees, rhododendrons and camellias.

Generally these tough plants prefer a cool woodland situation under deciduous trees. Watering is always necessary through the first season to help them get established. Please refer to species listing below for drought tolerance. Furthermore, many species can with stand temperatures down to -10˚F (they grow in Maine!) As always check individual species listings for zone ratings.

Epimedium 'Flame Thrower'
Epimedium 'Flame Thrower'"

Wait, there is more! Epimediums are deer resistant and easy low care. To get them off to a good start, amend the top 4-8” of soil with compost (the ratio is 2/3 soil, 1/3 compost.) Add some all purpose or transplanting fertilizer in the bottom of the hole. Keep plants moist through their first season so they can establish. They are best planted in spring, fall or in the cooler parts of an early summer day. Epimediums do not thrive in hot sun. So position them in partial to dappled shade. They can grow in deep shade, but will bear sporadic blooms.

Hostas, ferns, Narcissus and mondo grass all pair well with Epimedium.

Some varieties at Portland Nursery include:

Epimedium 'Dark Side'

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Dark Side'

Dark purple, large blooms with white tips begin in late April lasting through May

Bronze new growth turns to light green, deciduous.

Grows 12-15" tall and wide, drought tolerant.

It has been known to "use the force" to entice it's way into your garden.

Zone 5.

Epimedium 'Lilafee'

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’

A clumping deciduous selection with large 2” dark lilac flowers through out May.

Spring leaves hold copper tints that mature to light green.

Grows 8-12” high and wide, drought tolerant.

Zones 5-9.

Epimedium 'Frohnleiten'

Epimedium x purralchium ‘Frohnleiten’

An evergreen, vigorous spreading variety reachin 14-16” high by 20-24" wide.

Gorgeous bronze new leaves turn green in summer.

2 1/2” bright yellow flowers April-May.

Drought tolerant, Zones 7-9.

Epimedium x rubrum

Epimedium x rubrum

An evergreen vigorous clumping hybrid, growing 10-12" high and wide.

Pointed leaves emerge reddish and mature to green.

Bright red ¾” flowers in May.

Drought tolerant, zones 5-10.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

Evergreen spreader groing 16" high spreading 4-6" per year.

Light yellow flowers in April to May.

Drought tolerant, Zones 5-9.

Epimedium x warleyense

Epimedium x warleyense

Unusual orange blooms in April to May top evergreen foliage.

Growing 20" tall by 30" wide.

Drought tolerant

Zones 5-9.

Epimedium x youngianum 'Nieveum'

Epimedium x youngianum ‘Nieveum’

A slow mounding, evergreen cultivar reaching 8-12" high and wide.

Richly color leaves are bronze in spring maturing to green.

Pure white flowers ¾” across April to May.

Drought tolerant, Zones 5-9

Find the Best Perennials for your Garden

We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.


Lewisia: Bitterroot