Epimedium ilicifolium

Common Name: bishop's hat 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Berberidaceae
Native Range: China
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought


Easily grown in acidic, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Genus plants have a reputation for growing well in dry shade (rhizomes hold moisture), but most plants are found in the wild growing in very moist soils. The within species seems to prefer loose loams with consistent moisture in part shade (sun-dappled or morning sun). Foliage will usually burn in full afternoon sun. Tolerates full shade. Clumps will spread somewhat slowly over time to form an attractive colony.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Epimedium ilicifolium, commonly known as holly-leaf fairy wings, is an alpine evergreen perennial in the barberry family that grows in a foliage clump to 12” tall spreading by short creeping rhizomes to 18” wide. It was first described in 1998 from plants discovered in Shaanxi Province in China. Spiny, narrow, trifoliolate, evergreen leaves are mostly basal with a limited number of cauline leaves on the flower spikes. Each flower spike rises above the foliage mound in early spring (April) to 18” tall bearing two trifoliolate leaves (lanceolate leaflets with cordate bases to 4” long) and 25-30 large spider-type yellow flowers. Each flower consists of an inner chartreuse cup and yellow spurs.

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

Specific epithet means with leaves like holly, Ilex.

Common name is in reference to the holly-leaf appearance of the spiny leaves and the fairy-wing appearance of the spider-type flowers.

Epimediums are also 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).


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


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.