Epimedium franchetii

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: Sulphur yellow
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 south of USDA Zone 7 but basically deciduous in the St. Louis area. As needed, 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 franchetii is noted for its attractive narrow green leaflets with acuminate tips and its large, spider-type, yellow spring flowers. It is a rhizomatous perennial that typically grows on wiry stems to form a foliage clump rising to 12-15" tall and spreading to 18" wide. It is native to woodlands in central to southern China (Hubei and Guizhou Provinces). Showy, spidery, nodding, columbine-like, pale yellow flowers (1 3/4" across) with long sulphur-yellow spurs bloom in compound inflorescences (14-25 flowers per inflorescence) in spring (April-May) atop flowering stems rising above the foliage to 24" tall. Leaves are basal and cauline. Each flowering stem bears two opposite trifoliate leaves or three whorled leaves. Leaflets (to 5-6" long) are narrow and ovate to lanceolate with spiny marginal teeth and cordate bases. New leaves emerge in spring with a pink-maroon cast, but mature to medium to dark green. Leaves form attractive foliage mounds. Very similar to and once considered to be a yellow-flowered form of Epimedium acuminatum, but has, inter alia, slightly larger leaflets, thinner inner sepals and longer stamens than E. acuminatum.

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

Specific epithet honors Adrien Franchet (1834-1900), French botanist.

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.