How to grow hepaticas

Fast becoming collectors’ items, Hepatica's are hardy, semi-evergreen jewels of the season

Marvelled at for the way they can cope with harsh weather, and known for poking their dainty-looking flowers even through heavy snow.

They grow a few inches high and like to form little clumps under trees, but they also grow beautifully in pots. 

Hepaticas’ delicate beauty is well worth adding to your clumps of early spring bulbs in the garden, and there’s nowhere better for them than in a little woodland dell under deciduous trees and shrubs.

They like a bit of sunshine to flower well, so need specific conditions – shade for most of the year under the newly-grown, leafy canopy of a tree, and then dappled spring sunshine under bare branches before they re-leaf.

For outdoor cultivation in this country, it’s best to grow the European species such as Hepatica nobilis and H. transsilvanica, as they’re naturally best suited to our climate.

Plant potted plants now from suppliers such as Ashwood Nurseries (www.ashwoodnurseries.com) and Edrom Nurseries (www.edrom-nurseries.co.uk).

Growing hepaticas

  • Plant them in a very well-drained, fertile spot that gets good sun in early spring only.
  • Add leaf mould or compost to the planting hole and water in well through their first season.
  • Too much water will cause rotting, however.
  • Feed in autumn with leaf mould and add a general fertiliser in late winter to help them flower in the new season.
  • Sow fresh seed in late spring or summer in wide pots placed in a shady position outside.
  • Use two parts of John Innes No 2 compost, one part Perlite and one part of multi-purpose. Water well, and once they have germinated, bring indoors. A year later, prick out, pot on, then plant out. 
  • Plant visible clumps to appreciate them on their own, or plant among other woodland spring bulbs such as snowdrops, trilliums or erythroniums. Anything accompanying them that’s too vigorous will take over.