Instead, they’re as tough as any wild child and can tolerate conditions most plants cannot and will add life and colour to your garden’s difficult shady spots. They come in hues ranging from white, pink, rose and purple to yellow, orange and red - or combinations of several colours. Perhaps you should call them fairy wings, because they make magic in your garden.
Where to grow
Epimediums give your garden a spiritual, woodland effect, especially when planted under a tree, and will over time spread to form a mat dense enough to smother weeds.
You can also plant them around a rock garden in dappled shade, or along an edge or border where eaves cast gloom. Or plonk them in a pot and move them round to chase the shade.
Care for epimediums
These plants can take a couple of years to mature but then they’ll last for decades with minimal care. Here’s all you need to know and do.
Ground cover to a height of 30cm and width of 60cm, growing from rhizomes (underground stems).
Shade or dappled shade, facing south-east or south-west.
Drought and frost tolerant.
Rich, organic loam.
Fertilise after pruning leaves in late winter. Add organic matter to soil in spring. Give liquid seaweed tonic in summer. Water well during first summer, then just regular watering.
Place around plants in spring/summer to maintain moisture, keep roots cool, and enrich the soil.
- When the flowers disappear, you are left with a wondrous display of foliage that can be mottled, freckled, speckled, splashed or delicately veined with a rich array of colours on the deep green background.
- With many epimediums, the emerging stems and leaves in spring can be a bold gold, red or burgundy, and some repeat this colouring in autumn. The greener leaves become thicker in summer, helping them tolerate tough conditions.
- The compound leaves are usually heart-shaped but can be round or arrow shaped. There can be as few as 3 leaflet clusters or as many as 50. Some are as tiny as 15mm or be a whopping 15cm.
- Encourage new, colourful growth and more prolific flowering by cutting off the old leaves before the flowers arrive in spring and they can be shown off in all their glory. The foliage quickly returns.
Epimediums that come from Europe, North Africa and western Asia are very drought tolerant and thrive in dry shade. Those from eastern Asia (China, Japan and Korea) need a richer soil and prefer more moisture.
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