Epimedium pubescens
Common Name: bishop's hat 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: White sepals and yellow petals
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


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 by creeping rhizomes, but will form attractive colonies over time. Foliage is evergreen in warm winter climates, but foliage generally drops to the ground in winter in the St. Louis area. Regardless of winter performance, it is still best to cut back any remaining old foliage in late winter prior to the emergence of the new growth. Propagate by division in early spring or fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Epimedium pubescens is a rhizomatous semi-evergreen perennial that grows on wiry stems to form a foliage clump rising to 9-12" tall. It is native to woodland slopes and thickets in central to eastern China (Anhui, Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces). Abundant small white flowers (1/3" across) bloom in spring (April-May) in 4-8" long airy inflorescences (each with 20-30 flowers) located atop flowering stems rising above the foliage mound to 24" tall. Each flower has four showy narrow flattened star-like white inner sepals, tiny broad-ovate purple outer sepals, minute pale yellow petals and protruding yellow stamens. Basal and cauline tri-foliate leaves have ovate to lanceolate spiny-margined leaflets (each to 6" long) which feature cordate bases, acuminate tips and hairy undersides (hence the specific epithet). New leaves emerge in spring mottled with red, but mature to medium to dark green. Leaves form attractive foliage mounds.

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

Specific epithet means downy with small hairs.

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


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


Ground cover or edger for shady areas. 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.