Barrenwort Plant Care: Learn Tips On Growing Epimedium

Epimedium [Ep-ih-MEE-dee-um] is a flowering genus in Berberidaceae family. 

These plants are native to Asia and Europe, prevalent in China, and distributed around different areas of Eastern Asia and the Mediterranean region.

It makes an exciting addition to the shade garden.  

Flowering Epimedium the Barrenwort Plant

The genus Epimedium includes various varieties, including:

  • Epimedium x Rubrum
  • Epimedium Wushanense
  • Epimedium × Versicolor ‘Sulphureum’
  • Epimedium Grandiflorum
  • Epimedium Sagittatum
  • Epimedium Koreanum

The common names for Epimedium plants include:

  • Fairy Wings
  • Horny Goat Weed
  • Bishop’s Mitre
  • Barrenwort Bishop’s Hat
  • Barrenwort
  • Yin Yang Huo
  • Randy Beef Grass

Barrenwort Plant Care

Size & Growth

The Horny Goat Weed forms a thick clump of dark green leaves. 

These plants usually take a few years to fully mature but are typically sturdy and long-lived. 

Since these plants create dense foliage, it is preferred for groundcovers.

Flowering and Fragrance

The Epimedium species produces four-petal flowers that hang in racemes. 

While this plant flaunts white flowers, the colors also range from red, purple, yellow, beige, lavender, or pink.

Light & Temperature

The Barrenwort plant prefers to grow in partial to full shade and needs proper protection from harsh sunlight. 

It is ideal to provide these plants with a location resembling their native habitat – surrounded with leaf mulch and under the shade of trees. 

Protection against strong winds must also be provided.

The USDA hardiness zones of this plant are 5 – 8.

Watering and Feeding

These plants need regular watering, especially throughout dry spells. Avoid allowing the soil to dry out. 

Cut back on the watering during the early spring to maintain its steady growth.

Soil & Transplanting

Barrenwort plants grow best in well-draining, average soil.

Barrenwort prefers acidic, loamy soil, rich with an abundance of organic matter, under partial shade matter for optimal growth. 

Once established, it can tolerate drought. While it grows best in moist soil, dry shade is also tolerated.

Grooming and Maintenance

This is a rhizomatous plant, which means it spreads faster as compared to other plants. 

Therefore, it is recommended to prune old foliage during late winter to maintain its preferred size and its healthy growth.

These plants are drought tolerant and deer resistant. 

The new plants need regular watering until they become established. 

Once matured, they are able to tolerate reduced watering.

Harvest rhizomes from mature plants. 

Most of the flowers of this genus die during the winter season, but bicolor and red flowers are evergreen. 

Shearing them during the late winter encourages new growth.

Occasional watering, division after two to three years is enough to maintain these plants.

How to Propagate Epimedium

The propagation of the Epimedium species is done through divisions during the spring season when grown in cold areas, and during the fall season when growing in warm regions.

  • Use a sharp, sterile knife to lift out the clumps and divide the plant. 
  • Use a spade and dig 6” – 7” inches deep to reach under the roots.
  • Remove excess dirt from the roots by using a clean hand towel and spread the clumps on the floor.  
  • Make sure to cut the rhizomes apart for the proper division of the plant, using a clean knife or spade. 
  • The division should be done in large sections. Remove damaged roots and dead leaves.
  • Plant the divisions about 12” – 15” inches apart in well-draining soil; the rhizomes easily spread underground which also increases the size of the clumps. 
  • The ground must be adequately prepared with plenty of organic matter to ensure optimal growth of the plant.
  • Place an additional layer of mulch on the surface of the soil to protect the rhizomes. 
  • Water frequently to keep the soil moist until the plant is established and new leaves are formed.

Epimedium Pest or Diseases

The major pest problem this plant experience is with vine weevils

It is essential to take appropriate measures immediately once these pests are spotted. 

In rare cases, the mosaic virus might cause damage to this plant. The entire plant must be removed once affected to prevent the spread of this virus.

Barrenwort Plant Uses

This plant looks beautiful when grown with shade-garden plants. 

It works best in garden design as a ground cover, in the rock garden, as edging, and in woodland gardens. It looks stunning with Galium, Ferns, Hostas, or Primula.

This plant has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine.