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Epimediums: What Your Shade Garden Is Missing

Whether you need a star that shines or have a gap to fill, these 9 beauties fit the bill

Fine Gardening - Issue #193
Bet you can’t plant just one. With so many gorgeous cultivars to choose from, epimediums may become habit forming. However, if you choose reliable performers, your addiction can be a healthy one. Photo: Carol Collins

Epimediums have the power to bring me to my knees in early spring. I will gladly muddy my jeans for a glimpse of their slender stems rising through the leaf litter. I am not the first to be captivated by these charismatic plants. They have been cultivated in Asia for centuries, primarily for medicinal purposes, but many old Japanese varieties were, and still are, grown for their sheer beauty.


At a Glance

Name: Epimedium spp. and cvs.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–9

Conditions: Partial to full shade; average to dry, well-drained soil; ideally neutral, moisture retentive soil high in organic matter

Native Ranges: China, Japan, Korea, parts of the Mediterranean and North Africa


In the wild, epimediums (Epimedium spp. and cvs.) are found in habitats ranging from mostly sunny to deeply shaded, and in soils that range from moist to dry. The lion’s share are found on wooded hillsides, sometimes…

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