The Complete Guide to Epimedium Grandiflorum and It’s Amazing Uses

How to Grow and Care For your Epimedium grandiflorum Plant.

Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the Epimedium grandiflorum plant; they may appear delicate, but these plants are tough-as-nails. So whether you call them Horny Goat weed, Bishop’s Hat, Fairy Wings, or yin yang Huo, you’re pretty much referring to the same Epimedium grandiflorum plant.

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The Epimedium grandiflorum is native to the woodland areas of China and Japan. These delicate flowery plants are herbaceous perennials and belong to the family Berberidaceae.

The epimediums are mostly groundcover plants appearing as a low mound above the soil. However, during spring, around the April-May window, the Epimedium long-spurred flowers sprout up and are shown off in all their glory, giving off pink, yellow, or white colors. 

It’s one of those shade-loving groundcover perennial plants to look out for to grow in the shady area of your garden. When young, fresh leaves typically sprout up by spring with a reddish-brown tint on the Epimedium grandiflorum leaves. Over time, the leaves transition into deep green when fully established.

The leaves of these hardy perennials are mostly heart-shaped and emerge in the spring with pretty dainty flowers hovering above them. Plus, it’s worth noting how dense the Epimedium grandiflorum leaves are, just enough to stifle the growth of weeds.

Epimedium grandiflorum

The reddish-brown tint sure adds color and texture to the garden, coupled with the magic these fairy wings come along with. 

However, while some Epimediums are evergreen, this cultivar is deciduous. In other words, it sheds its foliage annually to allow for the regrowth of another.

Usually, when it comes to planting these groundcover Epimediums in the garden area, it’s often overlooked, especially while mapping out the landscape of the garden space.

People assume this plant only checks erosion, represses weeds, and retains underground moisture. On the contrary, not enough credit is given to them for their massive role in tying together the elements of the garden and giving it a visually aesthetic appeal. A key reason it’s a must-have in your garden

Unlike most groundcover plants that tend to grow out of control and make it pretty difficult to contain, the Epimedium grandiflorum plants spread rather slowly. And, of course, it makes it easier to contain.

Read on to learn more about this unique plant; how best to grow them with an included bonus on what they’re widely used for.

Propagation of Epimedium grandiflorum.

The best way to propagate your Epimedium grandiflorum plant is by division during early spring or fall. It’s essential to propagate these plants when they’re dormant and have no visible signs of foliage shooting up. Otherwise, it could be pretty challenging to divide.

Therefore, dig out the clumps to divide and then repot them. Remove excess soil and dirt with a clean towel or easily place them under running water.

Next, with the help of a sharp serrated knife, cut through the strong woody crowns right from underneath to the top – so they can be easily ripped apart.

Tip: if you find it super hard to cut through the clumps, you can water the soil, so it makes it relatively easier to cut through the mass of the hardy and fibrous roots.

As long as you’re repotting, you should keep dividing them with the knife to get nice-sized clumps to replant. Keep in mind to look out for healthy roots and foliage in each division. 

However, if you’re trying to propagate your Epimedium directly into your garden, uproot and divide it into half segments – using a shovel or knife. Ideally, the crown should be placed 6 to 7inches deep below the soil. And be kept 12 to 15 inches apart. This allows the rhizomes to spread underground as they join to form large clumps.

The Epimediums are naturally slow to grow. Yet, they can eventually surpass the allotted garden area with time.

Epimedium grandiflorum

Growing Tips For Epimedium grandiflorum.

While Epimedium grandiflorum plants can survive and thrive in harsh conditions, survive without water, and don’t depend on light to grow. Yet, in the face of these rather hostile conditions, your Epimedium grandiflorum plant will perform even best and produce beautiful blooms by springtime if you adopt the following practices:

Pruning and Maintenance. 

Usually, Epimedium grandiflorum cultivars can stay for years with little to no maintenance. However, if you want them to spread and last for decades, you must maintain them by regular pruning. The best time to do this is during late fall or before new foliage grows in the spring so that they can usher in fresh flowers by springtime. 

To keep your Epimedium grandiflorum leaves looking fresh and new, cutting them back down to the ground will be a great idea. Otherwise, they’d end up looking tattered and messy.

Don’t be afraid to cut the entire plant back to the ground, as they would eventually shoot back up in no time.

However, be careful not to cut so low when pruning. You don’t want to remove a lot of their energy, nor do you want to sacrifice the growth of your flowers. 

Light and Soil Requirements.

Epimedium plants are shade-loving plants. And once established, they’re better off with dry shade. These deciduous perennials will grow best under tall trees. Therefore, for optimum growth, place your epimediums in a sun-dappled to a full shade area. Otherwise, direct sunlight would burn the Epimedium grandiflorum leaves, leaving them with a red tint.

In addition, these plants don’t do so well in alkaline soil. Confirm the pH of your soil by performing a soil test. The pH of the soil ideally should stay within the range of 5.5 to 6.2. 

Also, being woodland plants makes them require humus-rich drained soils to thrive. So ensure you enrich the soil with great organic matter. Likewise, being an excellent ground cover plant puts these plants in a position where they have to compete with the tree’s roots for nutrients. This further stresses the need to ensure the soil is humus-rich, so your plant doesn’t get deprived of required nutrients. 

Epimedium grandiflorum

Water Requirement.

Excess moisture is super important when looking to grow these plants. Especially during the first summer when they’re still young. As with most dry shade plants, the Epimedium grandiflorum, when mature, is extremely drought resistant. In other words, they can go days –even months– without water. And they’d do just fine.

This is because the rhizome of the mature plant stores moisture in preparation for drought or frost. Therefore, epimedium grandiflorum should be watered regularly from when they’re young to enable them to grow to withstand drought and dry shade when fully established.

Temperature and Humidity.

As tough and hardy plants, Epimediums can be grown in a wide range of temperature and humidity levels. They also thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8. 

Although, as said earlier, you want to be sure they are not directly exposed to the scorching afternoon sun. Or else you risk burning their foliage. So be sure to keep your Epimedium grandiflorum in a sun-dappled to full shade area of your garden.

Epimedium grandiflorum Flowers


Usually, mulching these perennial plants would help them grow into colorful blossoms and stunning foliage. This is why mulching is essentially important when growing these groundcover plants

For the most part, mulching enriches the soil and helps to trap soil moisture. Make sure to mulch around the newly planted varieties with leaf mold or garden compost to keep them happy.


When pruning is over, feeding your soil with nutrients should be done immediately. This must be done during late winter as it encourages flowering and growth of beautiful new foliage by spring.

In this case, you can mix young cow’s manure coupled with blood and bone and work them into the planting hole. Or you can use Campbell organic, seamungus, compost, or peat moss. 

Either way, your plants would be happy. Although, when feeding the soil with fertilizer, be sure only to apply it when they’re actively growing too. You don’t want to be stuffing up your plant with fertilizers in their dormant period, as this could kill the plant.

Cultivars To Select. 

There are a variety of cultivars associated with the Epimediums. Each of these cultivars shows variations in size and color of their foliages and flowers. Some selections, for example, include the Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Rose queen.’

Unlike the deciduous Fairy Wings plants, the ‘Rose queen’ is an evergreen herbaceous perennial. By springtime, they produce heart-shaped bronze-purple foliages when young. And turn deep green when they mature and eventually roll back to bronze-purple by fall. 

The blooms are usually the show stopper of this plant. This cultivar on blooming gives rise to large and delicate masses of bright rosy pink flowers, captivating interest the entire season. 

While this is such a fantastic variety, other interesting cultivars are still to look out for. Particularly for their pretty and distinct colors. They include the ‘Rubrum,’ ‘Pink Champagne, ‘Spine tingler,’ ‘Amber queen,’ Epimedium X Versicolor – yellow Barrenwort ‘sulphureum,’ Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten,’ Epimedium grandiflorum ‘lilafee,’ and ‘Pink Elf.’

Epimedium_grandiflorum 'Rose_Queen'
Epimedium_grandiflorum ‘Rose_Queen’

Common Pests and Plants Diseases 

Unlike most plants, the Epimedium grandiflorum plants aren’t entirely prone to pests and diseases. They’re generally problem-free plants. Although it’s rare to see any visible signs of trouble, you’d most likely find vine weevil, snails, or slugs feeding off your foliage. But there’s no cause for alarm as they don’t incur any significant damage to your plant.

Also, the most common disease associated with Epimediums is the Mosaic virus, which is mainly transmitted by aphids.

How to Manage Pests and Diseases.

So you don’t let vine weevils, snails, slugs, or the likes feed off your plants; regular handpicking can be done until you’ve gotten entirely rid of them.

Then again, you could opt for the use of pesticides to eradicate and keep the vine weevils at bay. 

Also, complete removal of diseased plants should be done immediately. Be sure to keep away from other healthy plants in your garden to prevent the likelihood of the virus from spreading.


Uses of The Epimedium grandiflorum Plant. 

➢ The Epimedium grandiflorum plant can be used as a ground cover plant in your garden while adding a touch of beauty to your walkways and paths.

➢ With the help of their rhizomatous roots, the soil is held in place, thereby helping to control erosion.

➢ It’s also a medicinal plant widely used for its anti-aging activity and treatment of cancer and heart diseases.

➢ In addition to its uses, the Epimedium contains an extract called Icaarin. This is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines. For example, the Chinese use the herb to cure men’s impotence and erectile dysfunction.

➢ Finally, these perennials can also be grown for their ornamental value.


If you’re looking to add to your garden collection, then you can’t go wrong with the Epimedium grandiflorum plant. Not only does it require the least bit of maintenance, but also, they’re drought and frost resistant, can grow without sunlight, can help check erosion, and are deer and rabbit resistant. What more could you ask for in a plant? These tough-as-nails little plants are auspicious and ideally should be a must-have in every garden.

They would produce beautiful new foliages with fascinating, delicate flowers if given special care and attention. This plant will fill your garden with so much color and add invigorating vibrance during springtime. 

While this cultivar is a great pick, keep your eye out for the other cultivars mentioned above: every Epimedium cultivar flourishes and blossoms differently into various colors.

Although, keep in mind that you need a lot of patience to reap this plant’s rewards. Plus, the best news? They play out relatively well with other plants.

Epimedium_grandiflorum Ground Cover

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Common Name for Epimedium?

The Epimedium grandiflorum can also be known as the Bishop’s Hat, Fairy Wings, Barrenwort, Horny Goat Weed, or Yin Yang Huo. The name “Bishop Hat” arises from the resemblance of the shape of its flowers to the Clergyman’s hat. Also, the name “Barrenwort” was because it was found to induce barrenness in females. Plus, the name “Fairy Wings” is coined from the dainty flowers hovering above the foliage, looking so much like fairies about to take off. And finally, “Horny Goat weed” is a result of its sexual enhancement properties.

Which Epimedium is best?

One of the best Epimediums available for colorful spring foliage is the Epimedium × Versicolor ‘Sulphureum.’ They’re low-growing and are perennial once established. These plants are semi-evergreen, producing striking and alluring foliages and delicate spurred butter-yellow flowers from mid to late spring.

During spring, the young foliage has a deep rose-red with rusty green markings on the leaves. Over time, it matures and turns green and back into reddish by fall. Overall, they make excellent shade plants.

How do you Grow Epimedium grandiflorum?

Epimedium grandiflorum is a woody hardy perennial that grows best in well-drained acidic soils supplemented with rich organic matter. Divide them just before spring and bury them deep in the soil. Regular watering during summer until they fully mature is especially important as the matured plants can withstand drought. Also, ensure to keep in the dry shade for optimal growth. 

How Big Does Epimedium Grow?

At best, most Epimediums can grow as tall as 8 to 12 inches, given the particular selection of the cultivar. 

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