How to Grow Epimedium Plants in your Garden

Guide to Growing Barrenwort, Bishop's hat, and Horny goat weed

Members of the Epimedium genus are perennials that vary in height from 15 to 45 cm.

They have nice looking heart shaped leaves, and come into bloom from late spring to early summer carrying racemes of pink, white, red, or yellow complexed flowers.

Their size makes them ideal for use in a rock garden or as ground cover. Common names for Epimedium include Barrenwort, Fairy wings, and Bishop's hat.

Barrenwort leaves picture

Epimedium photograph by sonyaseattle.

Epimedium Leaf
Epimedium Leaf picture by MeganEHansen.

How to grow Epimedium

Members of the Epimedium genus such as Barrenwort should be grown from divided plants or purchased from garden centres.

They should be grown in an area of the garden that is shady and has good drainage.

They prefer to grow in a soil that is organic, moist and slightly acidic to neutral (pH 5.5 to 7) in nature. They should be spaced at about 20 to 30 cm apart, and are very slow growing, so may take many years until their beauty shows through.

Epimedium X rubrum

Caring for Epimedium in the Garden

Epimedium plants requires watering during prolonged dry spells, and should be cut back in the early spring, so that only nice strong growths remain.

If you require more plants then divid in the spring or summer.

Epimedium Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Barrenwort, Bishop's hat, Horny goat weed, Fairy wings, Randy beef grass, or Yin yang huo.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 6 to 18 inches (15—45 cm).
  • Native: : East Asia.

  • Growing Region: Zones 4 to 9.
  • Flowers: Late spring and early summer.
  • Flower Details: White, red, pink, yellow. Raceme or panicle. Single or tufted slender stems.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous or Evergreen. Compound leaves, usually three leaflets. Cordate.

  • Grow Outside: Usually grown from purchased plants as plants are extremely slow growers, or from propagations. Plant outdoors following the last frost or early in the autumn. If growing from divisions best results are obtained in late summer. Space at about 6 to 12 inches (15—30 cm).
  • Requirements and care: Full or partial shade (in rich soils). Good drainage.
Slightly acidic to neutral soil pH 5.5 to 7. Moist, rich soil enhanced with organic matter. Regular watering during dry periods. Winter mulch with straw. Tidy messy growth. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas; it is thought that division in late summer leads to best results.

  • Family: Berberidaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Barberry, Berberis.
  • Miscellaneous: Named after the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. Extracts from this plant have many medical uses including the treatment of osteoporosis, and as an aphrodisiac – hence some of its common names e.g., Horny goat weed.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Epimedium plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Berberis thunbergii and Nandina domestica plants.