Epimediums, My Collection

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

. Epimedium pinnatum subsp. colchicumEpimedium pinnatum subsp. colchicum, evergreen.


Nan Ondra at the fabulous blog Hayfield recently praised my blog saying: “If you want to see how beautiful a spring garden can look here in southeastern Pennsylvania, I highly recommend popping over to Carolyn Walker’s blog, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. It’s where I go when I need a good dose of primroses, spring phlox, and other early-blooming beauties.”   A lot of Nan’s readers took her advice and visited my blog.  I have been trying to think of what I could do to thank Nan, not just for the recommendation, but for her advice when I started my blog and numerous consultations on selling my photos.  I decided that if she needs a dose of spring flowers, then epimediums are what she should have.  Nan, this post is for you!


Epimedium x rubrumEpimedium x rubrum spreads at a moderate pace and can be used as a groundcover, leaves flushed red in the spring.

I try not to let myself collect too many types of plants because it can interfere with good garden design.  But epimediums, also known as barrenwort, bishop’s hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, and rowdy lamb herb, are a plant I love so much that I collect them.  According to my records, I have almost 30 varieties.  That might seem like a lot, but there are actually hundreds of types of epimediums.


Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ is the fastest spreading epimedium I have and makes an excellent groundcover, semi-evergreen.

Epimediums are native to Asia, Europe, and North Africa.  They are long-lived and easy to grow in part to full shade and are a great plant for dry shade.  Some of the more available varieties like ‘Sulphureum’, E. x rubrum, E. x warleyense, and ‘Frohnleiten’ spread readily but not quickly to form an attractive groundcover.  I grow mine all over my garden but mostly as specimens on the steep hill  in back between all my hostas (yes, I collect those too).  Their flowers are small but quite beautiful, elegant, and abundant.  Epimediums are a plant that needs to be viewed close up.  This time of year I walk around mesmerized by their beauty.


Epimedium cantabrigienseEpimedium x cantabrigiense, semi-evergreen.

Epimediums bloom in April and May, and their flowers are breathtaking as you can see from the photos.  However, their leaves are just as beautiful with their elegant, unusual shapes.  They often come out flushed with bright colors in the spring, and many varieties have great fall color too.  Some are semi-evergreen to evergreen.  Epimediums range in height from 8 to 16″.

Epimedium pubigerumEpimedium pubigerum, semi-evergreen.

Epimediums are perfectly suited to our mid-Atlantic climate, especially our new hotter, drier, drought prone climate.  A quick survey of the epimediums listed in the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder indicates that they are hardy from zones 4 or 5 to 8 or 9, but you should do your own research if you are not in the mid-Atlantic.  I usually choose a well-drained location because like hellebores they don’t tolerate poor drainage, and add compost at planting.  They are great under shallow-rooted trees and are deer resistant.


Epimedium x warleyenseEpimedium x warleyense, spreading, from Miss Wilmott’s garden Warley Place, England, evergreen.

I sell up to 10 different types of epimediums at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens depending on the year.  There are seven for sale right now and now is the best time to view them in my garden.  But if you get hooked, then you need to know about Garden Vision Epimediums in Templeton, Massachusetts, 978-249-3863, epimediums@earhtlink.net.  Their catalogue lists at least a 150 epimediums and is encyclopedic with comprehensive descriptions and color photos plus zone information for each variety.  A visit to their Open Nursery Weekends, this year May 3 to 5 and 10 to 12, from 10 am to 4 pm, is a magical experience.


Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten'Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’, tough and shiny evergreen leaves.

All the photos in this post were taken in my garden today.  I hope that you too will come to love this wonderful genus:


Epimdium x versicolor 'Cupreum'Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cupreum, look at those gorgeous leaves, semi-evergreen.


Epimedium x 'Kaguyahime'Epimedium x ‘Kaguyahime’, probably my favorite epimedium for its lovely two-tone purple flowers and dagger-like, purple-mottled leaves, evergreen.


Epimedium grandiflorum 'Yubae'Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Yubae’, produces a second flush of leaves and flowers.


Epimedium stellultum "Long Leaf Form"Epimedium stellulatum “Narrow Leaf Forms”, the first to bloom in my garden like a “flurry of small stars suspended above the spiny evergreen foliage”, Garden Vision catalogue.


Epimedium x rubrum 'Sweetheart'Epimedium x rubrum ‘Sweetheart’, later-blooming, notice the red rim around the semi-evergreen leaves.


Epimedium grandiflorum 'Tama No Genpei'Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Tama No Genpei’, I love this one too, re-blooming.


Epimedium x versicolor 'Cherry Tart'Epimedium x versicolor ‘Cherry Tart’, semi-evergreen.


Epimedium grandiflorum var. violaceumEpimedium grandiflorum var. violaceum, chocolate leaves in the spring.


Epimedium grandiflorum 'Album'Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Album’, large pristine white flowers.


Epimdium grandiflorum var. higoense 'Bandit'Epimedium grandiflorum var. higoense ‘Bandit’, later blooming but I had to show it, white flowers and tiny leaves rimmed with a dark purple band.


Epimedium alpinum 'Shrimp Girl'Epimedium alpinum ‘Shrimp Girl’, I love the name and the coral-orange color on this diminutive but spreading cultivar, semi-evergreen.


Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen'Epimedium x warleyense ‘Orange Queen’, evergreen, here with Pulmonaria ‘Benediction’.

Here are some shots of mature patches of epimediums so you can get an idea of what they look like in the landscape:

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'‘Sulphureum’ just coming into bloom.  The leaves are just emerging too and will get much larger.


Epimdium x rubrumEpimedium x rubrum with Spanish bluebells and early emerging Hosta lancifolia.


Seven varieties of epimediums will be for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens’ open hours this weekend: Friday, April 19, 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 20, from 10 am to 2 pm.  If you are not local or you want some of the really special cultivars,  you can order them from Garden Vision Epimediums.



Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  The Miniature Hosta Mail Order Catalogue, containing choice selections of miniatures for shipping all over the US, is now on my right sidebar here, and we are ready to ship. Next up locally is our hosta, fern, and hardy geranium open house sale on May 11—look for an email if you are on my customer email list (different than a blog subscription).

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57 Responses to “Epimediums, My Collection”

  1. This is what I truly love about spring – so much colour and variety. Each bloom out doing the other! What a lovely garden you have for spring!!

  2. I enjoyed seeing so many of your epimediums in bloom and am anxiously awaiting signs of life on the several plants of mine that were completely foliage burned in the extreme heat last season after having been transplanted in the spring and despite conscientious watering. To me, this will be an extreme test of what they are made of…. whether in fact dormant buds will in fact allow them to live on… I’m quite anxious about this but unfortunately, our continued very cold spring will leave me without an answer for some ttime to come. We are again forecast with snow tomorrow and lows to 26 degrees.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this plant, but I wonder why if some grow up to zone 9. Maybe I just need to look a bit closer at some of the gardens around here. Possibly I just overlooked them. I especially love Cupreum. Those leaves are fabulous!

    • Holley, I don’t vouch for them growing in zone 9. I would consult the Garden Vision Epimediums catalogue regarding zone issues. Epimediums are quite unusual and not readily found for sale anywhere. Cupreum is one of my favorites. Carolyn

  4. Paula Burns Says:

    I love epimediums and yours look lovely! See you Friday:)

  5. They are so dainty and pretty. I don’t have any but they would be a nice addition to my shade garden especially if they do good in dry shade.
    Also love the primroses in the last post. I’ve always wondered why some of mine come back and others don’t. The ones I get from box stores are usually the ones that don’t come back.

  6. Bill Plummer Says:

    Epimediums are one of my favorite plants as well. In my garden E x rubrum rather than sulphureum is the one that spreads. I use it to line the driveway and paths and have over a hundred lineal feet. Every garden is different which makes life interesting.

  7. Fun to see so many. I’ve never really see any in my life not in person.

  8. Nan Ondra Says:

    Ahhh, yes, that was a wonderful treat, Carolyn – thank you! I’m *finally* to the point of adding a few epimediums here, but it will be many years before mine look half as good as yours. Happy spring to you!

  9. You have a wonderful collection and I am glad you showed the Epimedium growing in your garden now. Spring really sprung in PA. I hope a bit sticks around for when I visit.

  10. Epimediums are a favorite. They seem to like my woodland very well, and after taking a couple years to get established, they are spreading nicely. You have a wonderful assortment! They are a little hard to find here. Fortunate are the gardeners who live close to your nursery!

  11. Your epimediums are absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed the stroll through your garden. Thank you for sharing your blooms.

  12. They are all so pretty! I have only one in my garden as the epimediums don’t do that well here. In fact, you almost never find them for sale in stores. The one I have I may have bought in Maine. Mine is ‘Sulphureum’. I noticed it is blooming and has actually spread a bit after I divided it last fall. It sure has a nice bloom. Wowser on all of yours! An awesome spring garden indeed.

  13. I have ONE sort of epimedium. Now I am enlightened and need more, especially the ‘rubrum’ one with the edged leaves. I had no idea of the choices. ( I also love Vancouveria hexandra, a native in Oregon which I think is related.) Now I must go build a transporter machine (like in Star Trek) so I can visit your nursery Carolyn!

  14. Beautiful! Will incorporate into all shade gardens.

  15. I have one, very plain specimen. I can see I will need more. Do you recommend cutting the foliage back before the blooms emerge? I was told years ago to do so, but I am not sure it is necessary.

    • Les, It is not necessary to cut back the leaves for cultural reasons, but I always do it for aesthetic reasons just like hellebores. I don’t like the old battered leaves mixing with the lovely new flowers. The best time to do it is in late winter before the flower stalks begin to elongate. Carolyn

  16. I’ve been meaning to plant E. rubrum for years, maybe I’ll do it this year. They’re lovely, Carolyn!

  17. lovely little flowers Carolyn, Frances

    • Frances, Do you grow epimediums on your island? Carolyn

      • no I do not have any Carolyn and I can’t recall seeing any in other gardens but then not many people here garden, most just leave it to grass. after reading your post I did a search for them and found Beth Chatto has several so I might order a couple when I order from her in the autumn.
        I did a search on the P. sieboldii and finding a primrose nursery that will acutally deliver to my Scottish island I decided to order a couple. I think the british nurseries I have bought from after reading your blog should pay you a commision, your customers are so lucky having someone like you, thank you very much, Frances

      • Frances, All commissions are welcome. Seriously though, you have much different climactic conditions on your Scottish Island than I do here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I would be interested to find out how different plants that you try do. I am glad you are so adventurous, that’s the fum of gardening for me too. Maybe you should write an eBook

          Unusual Garden Plants for the Outer Hebrides

        (I think that’s where you live). Carolyn

      • thanks and yes that is where I live, Frances

  18. I have epimediums in my garden, too. So much beauty from such a tough plant. 🙂

  19. I started collecting mine a few years ago and they are still blooming but may need to be moved to make more of an impact. You have gotten me thinking I need a few more.

    • Donna, My very large stands of Sulpureum definitely stand out when they bloom and because the leaves are so unique. But I am not sure that my less common epimediums make an impact on visitors who don’t know about them unless I point them out. However, I love them. Carolyn

  20. So many beautiful varieties, it is difficult to choose only one. I have tried epimediums in my clay-loam shady soil and they have never done much. Too much of a good thing perhaps.

  21. Unfortunately for me Epimediums do not do well in my garden site, but I love them just the same. You’ve shown me many varieties that I have not seen before and they are all gorgeous. Thanks!

  22. I discovered these plants at a nursery a few years back and was delighted to find something that could take dry shade. I didn’t know however there were so many varieties! What an amazing collection you have.

  23. I learned how to use Epicedium’s in a landscaping class. I have come to really love them. I was amazed by your collection; it is really diverse, and amazingly beautiful..

  24. Carolyn, you have a great range of Epimediums. The only one in our garden is Epimedium x rubrum, flower buds just forming now, actually it was yourself who named it for me a couple of years ago, as you have done with a couple of other plants in our garden, most famously Geranium Nodosum of which I was in denial of even being a hardy Geranium. I need another Epimedium, one with flowers large enough for me to see, would I be right in thinking grandiflora is what I should be looking for.

  25. I grow several species and cultivars of epimedium but the one I find most aggressive is E.davidii, it has really beautiful serrated edged leaves and flowers for around eight months of the year. I cut the leaves of all my evergreen epimediums back to ground level usually in March as it promotes growth and new clean leaves, the old ones usually having become tatty, and more importantly allows the flowers to be viewed as they are often overcome by the foliage. Is this something that you would do?

    • Rick, I am not familiar with E. davidii. I will have to look for it. I cut my epimedium leaves back at the end of February every year after I get done cutting back all the hellebores. The leaves are ratty by then and it is impossible to cut them back once the flower stalks emerge. Carolyn

      • Carolyn what you say about cutting epimediums back before the flower stalks emerge is very true. I was very late this year not least because of the weather and the sight of me using a pair of kitchen scissors for several hours instead of the usual shears did not inspire confidence!

      • Rick, Don’t worry, I have been there myself. The new shoots are tiny and almost transparent. If they are coming up through the old leaves, it is almost impossible to save every one. And there is a lot of remorse at not doing the job earlier when hedge shears can whip through the patches. I think a customer actually told me she mowed them. Carolyn

  26. I am growing more fond of Epimediums and your collection is lovely. I am thinking of adding some to my shady area — they like dry shade, which is what I have.

  27. I received a beautiful White Epimedium for my birthday last year and have been enjoying it, I am drooling at your fabulous collection, it is beautiful. Someday when I have more shade, I hope to add a few more.

  28. Susan King Says:

    Carolyn, you have some fabulous epimediums. I’ve just found your website, and am enjoying exploring all the information. Epimediums are probably my favourite flower, I have about a dozen, including Amber Queen which has to be the most glorious epimedium ever! If I’m ever in the US I will visit your lovely garden.

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