Some facts about the genus Epimedium

La familia

Among Berberis and Podophyllum


Epimedium is a plant genus, which belongs to the family of the Berberidaceae.
Hard to believe, but Epimediums are actually related to Mahonia and Berberis.
And this relationship can even be seen clearly in some species (e.g., Epimedium wushanense nova).

The "Heavenly Bamboo" (Nandina domestica) is also part of the family.


Some of the most desirable and interesting shade perrenials are also family members:
Caulophyllum, Diphylleia, Dysosma, Jeffersonia, Plagiorhegma, Podophyllum, Ranzania and Vancouveria.

A few pictures of various Podophyllums: Podophyllum page


Epimediums are not all the same

Differences in behavior


Epimediums can have completely different characters.

There are evergreen and deciduous species.

Most Epimediums are evergreen. They keep their leaves all winter long.
Before the new growth in the spring, you can remove the old leaves, if you want.
Then the flowers and the new leaves come to their best advantage.
However, you should not wait too long to cut back, because you don't want to accidentally cut off the new shoots including the new flower buds.


For the deciduous species and cultivars, the pruning is totally unnecessary.

They lose their leaves anyway before the winter.

Examples of deciduous Epimediums:
E. grandiflorum, E. x sasakii, E. x youngianum.

In addition, they differ in growth behaviour.

The majority of species and varieties clump forming, so the plants grow a little bigger from year to year (wider), but they they do not produce very long rhizomes.

Some others form more or less long creeping rhizomes, with which they spread. They are therefore well suited as ground cover, because they can grow quickly and form dense mats.

The Japanese species and their varieties prefer acidic soils. The others are not particularly picky about this.


Epimediums in the garden

The right spot

For Epimediums choosing the right location is just as important as it is for other shrubs  .
Partially shaded to shady places are ideal. If there is also a light wind protection, then the location can be perfect.
At the edge of the wood in light shade, most Epimediums should feel very well.
Some species even tolerate the presence of the roots of big trees and easily conquer the most difficult locations, but that does not apply for all Epimediums.
The more delicate Japanese species can do without such challenges quite well.
In general, however, Epimediums are pretty tough.



Possible partners in the bed

Various combination options

Epimediums can be wonderfully combined with other shade perennials:

Anemonopsis_macrophylla_3x2.jpgActaea, Aconitum, Anemone, Anemonella, Anemonopsis, Arisaema, Arum, Aruncus, Asarum, Astrantia, Bergenia, Beesia, Boehmeria, Brunnera, Cardamine, Carex, Chionographis, Cimicifuga, Chrysosplenium, Clintonia, Corydalis, Dicentra, Diphylleia, Disporum, Disporopsis, Farfugium, Geranium, Hakonechloa, Helleborus, Helonias, Heloniopsis, Hepatica, Heuchera, Hosta, Hydrastis, Impatiens, Jeffersonia, Kirengeshoma, Knautia, Lamium, Lathyrus, Ligularia, Liriope, Lunaria, Maianthemum, Meconopsis, Melittis, Mitella, Mukdenia, Omphalodes, Ophiopogon, Oxalis, Pachyphragma, Pachysandra, Paris, Peltoboykinia, Persicaria, Petasites, Physochlaina, Podophyllum, Polygonatum, Primula, Pulmonaria, Ranunculus, Reineckea, Rodgersia, Rohdea, Roscoea, Sanguinaria, Saruma, Smilacina, Saxifraga, Scoliopus, Scopolia, Speirantha, Strobilanthes, Stylophorum, Symphytum, Syneilesis, Synthyris, Thalictrum, Tiarella, Tricyrtis, Trillium, Triosteum, Uvularia, Veratrum, Waldsteinia, Wasabia, Wulfenia...

Tricyrtis_Tojen_3x2.jpgThe list of possible "plant partners" is long (and incomplete), and suitable ferns and bulbs are not even listed!

But we can assume that all these perennials want nothing better than an Epimedium as a neighbor. - Right?


P.S. - Petals and sepals

The names of the various petals

Petals and sepals are often mentioned in the descriptions of the flowers. There is a small sketch here to clarify.

The shape and length of petals and sepals varies depending on the species or variety.
In general, the petals are longer than the sepals and have a long tail, the so-called spur.

Exceptions to this are, for example: E. campanulatum, E. dolichostemon, E. fargesii, E. platypetalum, E. stellulatum, E. x warleyense 'Orangekönigin', E. x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten´  and some others.

If you look closely, you can often see a liquid at the end of the spur (inside), the nectar.
On this picture you can see it quite well.

The flower buds are protected by outer sepals. They fall off, when the flower opens. (So in the descriptions of the flowers we are just talking about the inner sepals = sepals. Because the outer sepals are already gone.. Confusing, right?)


Exceptions to the rule

It does not always have to be four

E.grdfl.Purple_Pixie_1601_3x2.jpg E.rhiz.x.wush5xa3x2.jpg E.rhiz.x.wush5xb_3x2.jpgE.grdfl.Queen_Esta5x3x2.jpg Every now and then it happens that a flower does not consist of four but five petals.


E.Amber_Queen-6-01_3x2.jpgE.Amber_Queen-6-02_3x2.jpg E.rhiz.x.wush.6-01_3x2.jpgE.rhiz.x.wush.6-02_3x2.jpgMuch less common are flowers with six or more petals.


There is much more information about Epimediums on the internet.
In the links section you will also find book recommendations.