The way to Develop and Take care of Barrenwort

Epimedium spp.

Simply because one thing appears to be like delicate doesn’t make it so. Barrenworts are proof of this.

A close up vertical image of the flowers and foliage of barrenwort (Epimedium) growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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Positive, there are a number of non-gardening examples that I might reference.

Exhibit A: a spider’s internet (pound-for-pound, spider silk is stronger than metal).

Exhibit B: that one petite woman with a black belt at my Brazilian jiu-jitsu fitness center, who effortlessly ties everybody in knots throughout sparring periods.

Species of Epimedium are comparable of their misleading toughness – the dainty flowers could also be held excessive on skinny stems over lush foliage, however these vegetation are remarkably immune to drought and heavy shade.

Plus, they don’t fall sufferer to the pests and pathogens that strike down less-resilient vegetation.

Barrenworts are additionally very adaptable, they usually can simply develop in shallow soils. Plus, they’re positively attractive.

With this rising information, you’ll be taught the whole lot you could begin rising these vegetation for your self.

Right here’s what we’ll go over:

What Is Barrenwort?

Also called fairy wings or bishop’s hat, barrenworts are a gaggle of herbaceous woodland perennials that belong to the Berberidaceae or barberry household.

The genus title Epimedium has its origin within the Greek epimedion, referring to an unknown Berberidaceae plant.

The widespread title “barrenwort” got here from the idea that extended consumption of the roots causes infertility in ladies.

A close up horizontal image of deep pink barrenwort flowers growing in the garden.

Hardy in USDA Zones 4 by way of 9, the Epimedium genus incorporates over 60 totally different acknowledged species. Most are native to jap Asia – western China specifically – whereas the remaining originate from the Mediterranean area.

Save for a handful of species, barrenwort leaves are compound, with every bearing three leathery leaflets. These are held on wiry stems.

Egg, coronary heart, triangle, and/or elongated leaf shapes are exhibited in varied species, in addition to green-to-red leaf colours.

Relying on the species and the local weather, barrenwort leaves could also be evergreen, deciduous, or someplace in between. In semi-evergreens, hues of crimson to maroon-purple are revealed in fall and winter.

A close up horizontal image of the red and greenish-yellow foliage of red barrenwort growing in the garden.

Barrenwort blooms have 4 wispy petals, and these emerge anyplace from early spring to early summer time.

The flowers sport yellow, pink, purple, crimson, or white colours – the outer stamens and inside petals are sometimes two totally different shades of the identical shade. Every clump of 4 protruding stamens appears to be like like a bishop’s hat, therefore the nickname.

Pollinated blooms give technique to seed pods resembling these of legumes, bursting with inexperienced seeds.

Equally to bloodroot, every seed bears an connected elaiosome: a fatty, high-protein construction that encourages ants to take them again to their nest, thus disseminating the seeds far and broad.

Barrenworts unfold through horizontal underground stems often known as rhizomes.

Like most rhizomatous vegetation, barrenwort ought to be monitored to make sure that it doesn’t unfold unchecked past its supposed planting web site.

However because of its gradual development price, you gained’t need to hold as a lot of an eye fixed on it as you may with, say, a snake plant grown open air in the precise circumstances.

Cultivation and Historical past

In addition to its decorative purposes, barrenwort has been used traditionally by herbalists in China, Japan, and Korea as a therapy for impotence.

Sure, you learn that accurately… flowers aren’t the one vegetation that may turn out to be useful on date evening.

Based on legend, barrenwort’s potential as an aphrodisiac was found by a Chinese language goat farmer.

A horizontal image of two goats in a rather empty field checking out the camera.

After his goats consumed the plant’s foliage, the farmer seen particularly randy habits among the many herd. From this tall story comes yet one more nickname for Epimedium: yin yang huo, or sexy goat weed.

In addition to this somewhat stimulating potential aspect impact of barrenwort consumption, barrenwort has been used to deal with joint ache and fatigue.

The plant has additionally been linked to improved cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and immunomodulatory operate, in addition to anti-tumor and anti-aging results.

Regardless of these purported advantages, I nonetheless wouldn’t advocate foraging it out of your backyard as an natural substitute for Cialis or Viagra.

Make sure you at all times seek the advice of with knowledgeable earlier than embarking on any new natural complement regimens.

A Observe of Warning

Earlier than you think about ingesting sexy goat weed, remember the fact that consumption could result in extreme respiratory issues, affected coronary heart operate, and/or slowed blood clotting.

Moreover, ingesting barrenwort might doubtlessly hurt a growing fetus throughout being pregnant, and it could be answerable for different detrimental well being results.

After China established its “open door coverage” in 1978, international botanists had been permitted entry to the nation, and plenty of hybrids and species grew to become launched to the western world.

At present, barrenwort is beloved as a troublesome, adaptable planting for dry and/or shady spots within the backyard.


Propagating barrenwort is greatest performed through seed, division, or transplanting.

From Seed

Seed propagation could be difficult, since these seeds should be sown contemporary as quickly as they drop from their pods with the intention to have the perfect likelihood at germinating.

If in case you have mature vegetation accessible control the growing seed pods.

Since cross-pollination between totally different close by species of those vegetation is feasible, you may find yourself with some fascinating offspring in consequence!

A close up horizontal image of red and white bicolored barrenwort flowers growing in a pot indoors.

Put together a planting space in partial shade with well-draining soil wealthy in natural matter.

After gathering the seeds, instantly sow them slightly below the floor of the soil. Area seeds a foot other than one another, and hold the soil moist in order that they don’t dry out.

The seeds might want to undergo a interval of chilly stratification, remaining within the floor over the winter. Count on germination the next spring.

Proceed to maintain the soil across the seedlings moist as they develop, and they need to flower in three to 4 years’ time!

By way of Division

To make sure plant vigor, barrenworts ought to be divided as soon as each three to 4 years. Division additionally serves as a fairly simple propagation technique, and it may be performed in early fall or early spring.

A close up horizontal image of the white flowers of snowy barrenwort growing wild, pictured on a soft focus background.

A day or two earlier than you’re set to divide, water your barrenwort deeply. Be sure that to recollect the place your plantings are, in case they don’t have foliage at present to point their location.

Come division time, dig up the plant and separate its root mass into two or extra items, relying on the scale and quantity of divisions that you really want.

You’ll in all probability want to make use of sharp and sterilized clippers on the robust woody crown to get you began, after which end tearing aside the clump of rhizomes together with your naked (or gloved) fingers.

No have to intention for a certain quantity of nodes or something – it’s not a brilliant exact course of.

After you have your divisions, they’re prepared to enter the bottom!

By way of Transplanting

Whether or not it’s a potted specimen bought from the nursery or a divided portion taken from an present plant, transplanting barrenwort is fairly easy.

A close up of a clump of barrenwort growing in a garden border.

In your supposed planting web site, dig a gap about as deep and broad because the plant’s root system. A barrenwort’s roots don’t go down all that far, so the transplanting gap shall be pretty shallow.

Decrease the plant into the outlet, backfill it with soil, and water it in. Transplants ought to change into established in a few yr. Be diligent about retaining the soil moist throughout this time.

The way to Develop

Totally different species could not require similar rising circumstances, however the next suggestions are a stable start line for any barrenwort proprietor.

Local weather and Publicity Wants

Collectively, vegetation within the Epimedium genus are hardy in Zones 4 to 9. The partial or dappled shade accessible in shade or woodland gardens makes for the right publicity.

A close up horizontal image of pinkish purple barrenwort flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

If deep shade is all you’ve got accessible, don’t fear – barrenwort can tolerate it.

Specimens grown within the extra northern USDA Hardiness Zones inside the acceptable vary for these vegetation can deal with higher quantities of solar, however they are going to want further water to match their elevated evapotranspiration charges.

Soil Wants

Maybe surprisingly, ample fertility is important for barrenworts to flourish. Moreover, the soil ought to drain properly.

Usually, barrenwort does properly with a pH vary of 5.0 to 7.0, however some species could tolerate pH values barely exterior of this vary.

Water and Fertilizer Wants

Ideally, it’s best to water every time the soil floor feels dry to the contact.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of alpine barrenwort pictured in bright sunshine.

Sustaining moist soil is perfect for these vegetation, however removed from mandatory.

As soon as established, barrenworts are fairly drought-tolerant, however don’t use this as an excuse to deal with these guys like succulents.

Whereas scant irrigation could not kill them, it’ll additional gradual their already sluggish development price.

These vegetation are used to sitting in fertile rising websites, so amending their soil with a pair inches of compost every spring will present the required natural materials.

Rising Ideas

  • Partial shade is good, and full shade is tolerable.
  • Be sure that the soil is well-draining.
  • Keep soil moisture by watering every time the floor dries out.

Pruning and Upkeep

After the flowers bloom, be happy to deadhead them in case you don’t intend to reap seed. Don’t neglect to divide your barrenworts each three to 4 years!

A close up horizontal image of the flowers and foliage of 'Amber Queen' barrenwort growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

Yearly in mid- to late winter, deciduous barrenwort leaves ought to be lower right down to the bottom, whereas evergreen and semi-evergreen Epimedium foliage could be left alone.

This makes the rising flowers extra seen come spring and summer time, and removes any insect-chewed or weather-beaten foliage.

As a technique to forestall weed development, preserve moisture, and improve the humus content material of soil even extra, add a pair inches of shredded leaf mulch to the soil surrounding your barrenwort every spring.

Species to Choose

“Paralysis by evaluation” can simply set in whenever you’re deciding on what sort of Epimedium to plant. These three species are improbable gateway barrenworts to select from.


Also called the acuminate barrenwort, E. acuminatum has slender, darkish inexperienced foliage with gently-pointed ideas, heart-shaped bases, and spiny leaf margins.

A close up horizontal image of the bizarre looking flowers of Epimedium acuminatum growing wild.
Picture courtesy Ghent College Botanical Backyard, Wikimedia Commons, through CC BY-SA.

Spidery, purple and white blooms grasp down in clumps from spindly flower stems, and these look so much just like the grabber claws on an arcade sport.

Native to the alpine woodlands of central and western China, this species kinds enticing mounds of foliage within the panorama, with compound inflorescences that poke out from the leaves and stand tall. A particular beaut.


You’ll actually “coronary heart” the heart-shaped foliage of E. grandiflorum, which has spiny leaf margins and a medium inexperienced hue.

A close up horizontal image of the light pink flowers of Epimedium grandiflorum pictured on a soft focus background.
Picture by Sphl, Wikimedia Commons, through CC BY-SA.

Native to Korea, Japan, and northeast China, this plant additionally goes by the title large-flowered barrenwort, and produces blooms with white petals purple to rose pink sepals, and prolonged nectar spurs.

When these flowers rise above the heart-shaped leaves with their rosy Valentine’s Day shade, the temper is properly and really set… particularly when you think about the plant’s recognized properties as an aphrodisiac.

A close up square image of 'Lilafree' barrenwort with light pink flowers growing in the garden.


For a phenomenal E. grandiflorum cultivar with blooms that lean to the purple aspect of the spectrum, behold ‘Lilafee,’ accessible from Nature Hills Nursery in #1 containers.


First described in 1975 by Chinese language botanist T. S. Ying, E. wushanense – i.e. Wushan fairy wings – is among the largest barrenwort species, flaunting mounds of leathery, darkish inexperienced, spiny, and lance-shaped foliage that may attain two ft in top.

A close up horizontal image of the yellow flowers of Epimedium wushanense growing wild.
Picture courtesy Ghent College Botanical Backyard, Wikimedia Feedback, through CC BY-SA.

The leaves of E. wushanense positively steal the present, however the flowers are nothing to sneeze at, both (until you’ve got seasonal allergic reactions, maybe).

Clumps of cream-colored flowers bloom on erect stems that poke by way of the mound of evergreen foliage. Darkish inexperienced leaves and off-white blooms are really a profitable combo!

Managing Pests and Illness

Together with drought and shade, barrenwort is immune to a good quantity of pests and well being issues which will plague different vegetation, equivalent to deer, rabbits, bugs, and ailments.

Effectively… most bugs and ailments, anyway.


Bugs can typically vector pathogens as they feed from vegetation, so stopping and managing infestations will certainly enable you out on the illness entrance.


These terrestrial, shell-less mollusks will depart irregularly-shaped, smooth-edged holes in leaves. In addition to decreasing aesthetics, the diminished foliage impacts photosynthesis, which stunts development.

Efficient slug administration begins with prevention: get rid of potential shady spots the place slugs can conceal.

This can be robust in a shade backyard or wooded space, however weeds, stones, and plant particles could be eliminated as wanted.

Have an infestation in your fingers? Come nighttime, use a flashlight to find the glistening slime trails that may be adopted again to a slug’s location.

As soon as you discover them, decide them off by hand and seal them in plastic baggage for disposal.

Setting out traps can function a extra passive technique to catch slugs.

A close up of green plastic snail traps set out in the garden.

Slug and Snail Traps

This three-pack of ABS plastic traps from Gardener’s Provide is a improbable set of slug snares. Merely pour in some beer, set the traps, and await the slugs to drown in suds.

Vine Weevils

Members of a gaggle of beetle households inside the Curculionoidea superfamily, vine weevils can feed on barrenwort in any respect levels of their life cycle.

The adults are black with dirty-yellow markings on the wing circumstances, and the legless, plump, and C-shaped grubs have gentle brown heads and white our bodies.

A close up horizontal image of a black vine weevil on the surface of a leaf.

The adults munch irregular notches from the leaf margins, whereas the grubs devour the roots. The foliar injury is just about a beauty problem, whereas root consumption can result in plant wilting and dying.

After the solar goes down, the adults could be tracked down with the help of a flashlight and eliminated by hand.

Sticky traps positioned close by can entice vine weevils and act as a further infestation indicator, permitting gardeners to watch pest exercise.

Birds, amphibians, shrews, and different predators devour vine weevil adults and grubs, so be sure you foster loads of biodiversity within the backyard!

To particularly goal vine weevil grubs, sure species of useful nematodes equivalent to Heterorhabditis bacteriophora are fairly efficient when utilized to the soil.

A close up of the packaging of NemaSeek Beneficial Nematodes isolated on a white background.

NemaSeek Useful Nematodes

If microscopic organic warfare pursuits you, then it’s best to give this these useful H. bacteriophora nematodes from Arbico Organics a attempt.


A common prescription for illness prevention consists of utilizing pathogen-free vegetation, clear soil, and sanitized gardening instruments. 

Mosaic Virus

Affecting greater than 150 totally different sorts of vegetation, mosaic viruses are simply recognizable, making a “mosaic” of white, yellow, and/or discolored inexperienced spots and streaks on the foliage of contaminated vegetation. Progress is usually stunted and leaves change into distorted.

A close up vertical image of the symptoms of tobacco mosaic virus on the leaves of a plant.

As a result of there is no such thing as a recognized treatment for mosaic virus, any contaminated vegetation ought to be eliminated and destroyed.

Since sure weeds can host the illness, it’s vital to maintain on high of your weeding practices.

Finest Makes use of

Other than its medicinal makes use of, barrenwort flaunts a shocking look. These species look their greatest when used as floor cowl in a shade or woodland backyard.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage of red barrenwort growing by the edge of a hedge.

The self-love of their root programs makes them fairly adept at rising between the massive roots of timber, in addition to amongst different plantings as a type of “dwelling mulch.”

Moreover, the fibrous roots make the plant somewhat efficient at controlling soil erosion.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Sort: Herbaceous perennial Flower/Foliage Coloration: White, yellow, pink, purple/inexperienced, crimson
Native to: Asia, Mediterranean area Water Wants: Reasonable
Hardiness (USDA Zones): 5-9 Upkeep: Low
Bloom Time: Early spring to early summer time Tolerance: Deer, dry soil, heavy shade, rabbits, rocky soil
Publicity: Partial shade Soil Sort: Fertile
Time to Maturity: 3-4 years Soil pH: 5.0-7.0
Spacing: 12 inches Soil Drainage: Effectively-draining
Planting Depth: Slightly below floor (seeds), depth of root system (transplants) Attracts: Bees, different pollinating bugs
Peak: 6-24 inches Makes use of: Floor cowl, medicinal herb backyard, shade backyard, woodland backyard
Unfold: 12-36 inches Household: Berberidaceae
Progress Fee: Gradual Genus: Epimedium
Frequent Pests and Illnesses: Slugs, vine weevils; mosaic virus Species: Acuminatum, grandiflorum, wushanense

Barrenworts: Good for Worrywarts

For the type of gardener that freaks out on the slightest little bit of wilting, barrenwort is the right low-maintenance plant.

A close up horizontal image of the variegated foliage and yellow flowers of barrenwort (Epimedium) growing in the garden.

With sturdiness in opposition to drought, heavy shade, and most well being points, a barrenwort deserves little or no concern, leaving you free to direct your worries towards different, extra fragile plantings.

When you begin rising these guys, you’ll see for your self how simple and laid-back barrenwort care could be. Go forward and provides it a attempt!

To any readers with questions or remarks, the feedback part is your oyster.

And for extra details about rising shade-loving vegetation in your backyard, try these guides subsequent:

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