Epimedium

There are many plants whose flowers create impact en masse, but fewer whose individual blooms demand closer inspection, such as epimediums

Epimedium flowers possess fascinating detail, four petals sat within petals, the tips often elongated into arching, narrow points.

Colours vary too, from the tone of caramelised, spun sugar, through golden yellows to rich, translucent reds.

This group of herbaceous or semi-evergreen, woodland perennials mainly come from China, but also elsewhere in Asia and parts of the Mediterranean.

They live in damp woodlands, slowly colonising the ground through an intricate web of needle-like rhizomes.

Members of the berberis family, Berberidaceae, they really come into their own in spring, when the flush of fresh, new, shield shaped foliage is often intricately patterned or rimmed in earthy-red tones, eventually fading in most species by early summer to form weed-proof clumps of leaves. Some also flush with colour in late summer and autumn.

Airy sprays of flowers on long, thin stems appear among the emerging leaves – they look great with other woodland flowers such as primroses and anemones.

Growing epimediums

  • Epimedium need shade or semi-shade and moisture at the start.
  • Working compost into the planting holes, especially among tree or shrub roots, with an occasional watering, will really help.
  • Once established, they’ll look after themselves, some even tolerating dry shade, such as E. warleyense, E. versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ and E. rubrum.
  • By the new year, the foliage can look tatty, so trim with shears before new leaves and flowers appear.