Epimedium sempervirens
Common Name: bishop's hat
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: Japan, Korea
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Heavy Shade, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, acidic, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers loose, organically rich loams with consistent moisture in part shade (sun-dappled or morning sun). Foliage will usually burn in full afternoon sun. Tolerates full shade. Also tolerates drought and dry shade (rhizomes hold moisture) once established. Intolerant of alkaline soils. Clumps spread somewhat slowly but will form attractive colonies over time. Foliage of Epimedium sempervirens is evergreen in warm winter climates, but semi-evergreen to deciduous north of USDA Zone 7. Any foliage that does survive winter should be cut back in late winter prior to emergence of new growth. Propagate by division in early spring or fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Epimedium sempervirens is a dense, rhizomatous, clump-forming perennial with flowering stems that rise to as much as 24” tall. It is native to alpine woodland areas of Japan (western part of southern Honshu). Large, spidery, white (var. sempervirens) to reddish purple (var. rugosum) flowers (to 1 5/8" across) with long reflexed spurs (each to 1") bloom in tight racemes (to 8-12 flowers per raceme) above the foliage in spring (April-May) atop flowering stems bearing one biternate leaf. Each flower has eight petal-like sepals and four petals (to 3/4" long) with long spurs which usually exceed the length of the inner sepals. Compound leaves (basal and cauline) emerge in spring with red tones but mature to medium green. Narrow ovate to broad ovate leaflets (to 2-4” long) have spiny-toothed margins, cordate bases and acuminate tips. Epimedium sempervirens foliage has better evergreen characteristics than the otherwise similar Epimedium grandiflorum. .

Genus name is of unclear origin and meaning but the Greeks used epimedion for a very different plant.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin words semper meaning always and virens meaning green in reference to the evergreen leaves.

Epimediums are commonly called bishop’s hat (four-spurred flowers of some species members resemble a clergyman's biretta) or barrenwort (root extract was once believed to prevent female conception)

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Mosaic virus (transmitted by aphids) is the main disease problem.

Garden Uses

Ground cover or edger for shady areas with tolerance for dry shade once established. Mass in woodland gardens, wild gardens or naturalized areas. Also effective in partially shaded areas of rock gardens and border fronts. Grows well under trees. Edger for paths and walkways.