By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
It is always a challenge to find plant specimens that will thrive in low to nearly no light. Read on to learn more about this interesting plant.
Barrenwort (Epimedium grandiflorum) is an unusual and rare herbaceous plant. It is an Epimedium that is also called Bishop’s Hat and Longspur. It is a shade lover that is native to the Mediterranean and temperate East Asia. Try growing barrenwort under over-story trees and other tall plants to add a touch of woodland whimsy to the landscape. Some interesting barrenwort plant info includes that these Epimedium may be deciduous or evergreen, though most species are evergreen except when grown in northern climates.
Barrenwort produces lovely heart to lance shaped leaflets. These have attractive veining and come in bronzy pink before maturing to green. Fall foliage may be edged with maroon or gold. Leaves are primarily basal and divided 2 or 3 times, giving the plant an airy appearance where they are set upon wiry stems.
Barrenwort flowers are delicate 4-petaled blooms that hang in racemes and come in a range of colors. The flowers resemble columbine, and have a spur flirtatiously tipping the base of the bloom. Flower colors range from pink, lavender, beige, yellow, purple, white, or red. The plant grows from rhizomes, which are difficult to find, but can be purchased at specialty nurseries. Over time barrenwort naturalizes to form a dense mat of foliage, making it an excellent perennial ground cover for low light situations.
These magical little plants are resistant to deer and drought tolerant. In colder climates you may choose to start rhizomes indoors and plant out after all danger of frost has passed for a quicker display. You can also divide a clump in spring before plants flower or in fall.
Growing barrenwort requires acidic soil with plenty of organic amendment. They need regular water as the plants establish but can tolerate low water situations once they are mature. The plant is prolific once mature and it is easy to harvest rhizomes to start other areas or give away to gardening friends.
Now that we know how to grow barrenwort plants, it is time to learn something about their maintenance and care. Barrenwort flowers will usually die back in winter but some, such as red or bicolor barrenworts, are evergreen. These can benefit with a shearing in late winter to encourage the flush of the colorful new growth but it isn’t necessary.
The only major pests are vine weevils. Mosaic virus can also be a problem, which requires plant removal.
Barrenwort care in most instances is minimal, requiring just occasional water and division every 2 to 3 years. These lively little 6 inch (15 cm.) tall plants are great for their sweet foliage and classy tiny blooms.
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Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not really a type of bamboo at all. It is a member of the Berberidaceae family, making it a relative of such plants as barberry (Berberis), barrenwort (Epimedium), and Mayapple (Podophyllum). The "bamboo" in its common name comes from the appearance of its stems, which remind us of bamboo canes. But it is cultivated for its spectacular foliage, not its cane-like stems. Unfortunately, Nandina can be an invasive plant in some regions.
If you would like to grow Nandina but are wary of introducing an invasive plant into your landscape, rest assured that there is a solution. Learn all about the non-invasive cultivar of the plant referred to as 'Firepower' Nandina (Nandina domestica 'Firepower').
It is a dwarf cultivar, making it a great choice for small yards and tight spaces. It also tolerates drought well once established.
If you are looking for beautiful foliage in all seasons, this is a great option. It is lime-green in spring (with tinges of red), light-green in summer, bright red in fall, and it will remain red in winter in zones 8 and 9.
This shrub is relatively free of pest and disease problems and even performs reasonably well under trees.
Firepower Nandina can be used in a number of different ways in the landscape. For all its uses, you will be most satisfied if you plant it in a mass, rather than installing a single plant here and there. It is commonly used as a ground cover, due to the dwarf stature of the cultivar and as a shrub border. It's also a good choice in woodland gardens (due to its shade tolerance), in foundation planting, and as an edging plant or in a low hedge.
|Botanical Name||Nandina domestica 'Firepower'|
|Common Name||Firepower Nandina, heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf shrub is evergreen in the American Southeast, where it is especially popular|
|Mature Size||1 to 2 feet in height, 1 to 2 feet in width|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil Type||Average fertility and moisture, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Non-flowering variety|
|Flower Color||Non-flowering variety|
|Hardiness Zones||6 to 9|
|Native Area||Eastern Asia|
|Toxicity||Foliage is toxic to people and pets when ingested|
Barrenwort's plant type is Herbaceous, which means that the stems are soft or succulent and green, as opposed to brown and woody. It is native to Bulgaria, Turkey, Caucasus, but it is usually found in China and Korea. Barrenworts grow up to 1.00 to 2.00 feet and spreading range is 1.00 to 2.00 feet as well. They spread by underground stems called rhizomes and flowers that usually bloom in from April to June. The flowers can be solid, bicolored, or a combination of several colors. Their flowers are yellow with pink to white inner sepals. 
The leaves are made up of leaflets. They can range in number from 3 to 50 and in size from as tiny as a sparrow’s egg to 6 inches long. They are generally heart-shaped, but can range from round to arrow-shaped. In summers, barrenworts that are sited in direct sun require abundant moisture, or the leaves would get burned. In southern gardens, barrenworts are best kept in the shade. 
|Plant Habit:||Herb/Forb |
|Life cycle:||Perennial |
|Sun Requirements:||Partial Shade to Full Shade |
|Minimum cold hardiness:||Zone 2 -45.6 °C (-50 °F) to -42.8 °C (-45°F) |
|Maximum recommended zone:||Zone 9a |
|Plant Height :||8 to 12 inches (20-30cm)|
|Plant Spread :||12 to 18 inches (30-45cm)|
|Leaves:||Good fall color |
Unusual foliage color
|Flower Color:||Bi-Color: Red and white |
|Bloom Size:||Under 1" |
|Flower Time:||Spring |
|Underground structures:||Rhizome |
|Resistances:||Tolerates dry shade |
|Propagation: Other methods:||Division |
|Parentage :||Epimedium alpinum x E. grandiflorum|
This plant has been in my garden for several years. Always a pleasure to see in the spring. One of the first shade plants to show, and the leaves have a good color.
No need for extra care here.
Shade and drought tolerant - ALWAYS looks great!
I planted Red Barrenwort as a groundcover in the dappled shade of my New York garden under the canopy of a towering New Dawn climbing rose, where it was very slow to spread. It is semi-evergreen through the winter, but by early spring the leaves are dried, brown, and tattered-looking. For that reason they need to be cut back and removed for appearances' sake, before new foliage re-emerges. For a groundcover, this has seemed like high maintenance to me, but since it never really spread beyond the small space where I planted it, I came to think of it as just another perennial that needed an early spring clean-up as the new growing season began.
I did not know that the common name for Epimediums was Barrenwort-----
searching for Epimediums does not give me the Barrenwort data?
Is there a way to have the Latin names searchable too?
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a reliable hardy perennial with several dwarf types that grow to about 18″ high. Echinacea is hardy in Zones 3-9, making it a far-reaching hit! Look for a low-growing cultivar for the front of sunny flower borders and blooming beds.
Species of Epimedium are herbaceous perennials, growing from an underground rhizome. Their growth habits are somewhat variable. Some have solitary stems, others have a "tufted" habit, with multiple stems growing close together. There may be several leaves to a stem or the leaves may be solitary, produced from the base of the plant. Individual leaves are generally compound, often with three leaflets, but also with more. Leaflets usually have spiny margins. The leaves may be annual, making the plant deciduous, or longer lasting, so that the plant is evergreen. The inflorescence is an open raceme or panicle, the number of flowers varying by species. 
Individual flowers have parts in fours. There are four smaller outer sepals, usually greenish and shed when the flower opens. Moving inwards, these are followed by four larger petal-like inner sepals, often brightly coloured. Inside the sepals are four true petals. These may be small and flat, but often have a complex shape including a nectar-producing "spur" that may be longer than the sepals. There are four stamens. 
One of the common names for the genus, bishop's hat, arises from the shape of the flowers, particularly where the spurs are longer than the sepals. [ citation needed ]
The genus was given its name by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, in describing the European species E. alpinum.   The name is a latinized version of a Greek name for an unidentifiable plant, epimedion, that is mentioned in Pliny's Natural History (xxvii.57). The meaning of the original name is unclear. 
Some artificial hybrids are cultivated in gardens. These include: 
Some varieties and hybrids have been in western cultivation for the last 100 to 150 years. There is now a wide array of new Chinese species being cultivated in the west, many of which have only recently been discovered, and some of which have yet to be named. There are also many older Japanese hybrids and forms, extending the boundaries of the genus in cultivation. Few genera of plants have seen such a dramatic increase in newly discovered species, primarily thanks to the work of Mikinori Ogisu of Japan and Darrell Probst of Massachusetts. The majority of the Chinese species have not been fully tested for hardiness nor indeed for any other aspect of their culture. The initial assumption that the plants would only thrive where their native conditions could be closely replicated have proven to be overly cautious, as most varieties are proving extraordinarily amenable to general garden and container cultivation.
While they can be successfully propagated in early spring, epimediums are best divided in late summer, with the aim of promoting rapid re-growth of roots and shoots before the onset of winter. Several breeders (in particular Darrell Diano Probst, Tim Branney & Robin White) have also undertaken their own hybridization programmes with the genus. Various new nursery selections are gradually appearing in the horticulture trade, the best of which are extending the colour and shape range of the flowers available to the gardener.
Hugely popular as garden plants for centuries in Japan, epimediums are only just beginning to garner attention in the West. While they vary somewhat in their respective hardiness, all are essentially dwellers of the forest floor, and, as such, all require fundamentally similar conditions of moist, free-draining, humus-rich soil and cool shade, with some shelter for the newly emerging leaves. Some of the more robust varieties are often recommended as plants for dry shade, and whilst their tough foliage and stout rhizomes can allow them to grow successfully in such conditions, (and in more open, exposed positions too, in some instances) they will certainly not give their best. Furthermore, dryness and exposure will pretty much guarantee the early death of many of the newer and more delicate species.
Given suitable conditions most epimediums will form beautiful groundcover plants, often with magnificent new leaves tinted in bronze, copper and reds combining with a huge variety of flower colours and forms in spring. Handsome and dense-growing foliage remains present for much of the year, with the leaves often turning purple, crimson and scarlet in autumn in some forms, and remaining evergreen in others. With all varieties, however, the foliage is best cut off at ground level shortly before new leaves emerge, so as to fully reveal their beauty of form and colour. Ideally, a mulch should then be applied to protect the new growth from frosts.
Epimedium wushanense contains a number of flavonoids. 37 compounds were characterized from the underground and aerial parts of the plant. Among them, 28 compounds were prenylflavonoids. The predominant flavonoid, epimedin C, ranged from 1.4 to 5.1% in aerial parts and 1.0 to 2.8% in underground parts.