Epimedium fargesii
Common Name: bishop's hat
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: Western China
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Purple and white with yellow stamens
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. Although this species is basically evergreen, it is still advisable to cut back any foliage that survives winter prior to the emergence of new growth. Propagate by division in early spring or fall.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Epimedium fargesii is an evergreen perennial with creeping rhizomes that is native to woodland areas and thickets in south central China (Sichuan and Hubei Provinces). Purple and white flowers, somewhat resembling in shape the flowers of Dodecatheon (shooting star), bloom in inflorescences (14-25 flowers per inflorescence) in spring (April) atop flowering stems typically rising to 15-20" tall. Flowers feature light purple to pale pink to white outer sepals, violet-tinged inner sepals and dark violet petals with showy and distinctive yellow stamens, white filaments and yellow/green anthers. Inner sepals and petals are spreading or reflexed, with the inner sepals much longer than the petals. Compound, trifoliate, medium to dark green leaves form attractive foliage mounds. Leaves are both basal and cauline. Narrow ovate to broad ovate leaflets (to 2-4” long) have spiny-toothed margins, cordate bases and acuminate tips. New leaves emerge in spring with a beige to bronze cast but mature to medium green.

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

Specific epithet honors Paul Guillaume Farges (1844-1912), a French missionary who discovered this plant growing in China.

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.