Epimedium alpinum

Epimedium alpinum

Planted behind large pine on dry bed Autumn 2008.

Alpine Barrenwort

Family: Berberidaceae (bear-ber-id-AY-see-ee)
Genus: Epimedium (ep-ih-MEE-dee-um)
Species: alpinum (AL-pin-um)

Alpines and Rock Gardens

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is resistant to deer

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Italian botanist Luigi Anguillaria (1571-1570), called this species Epimedio, in his only publication, Semplici (Venice 1561), the first mention of the species originating from Italy. Around the time it came into cultivation, the small perennial found its way into Belgian, French and German gardens. For a long time it was the only one of its genus known in Europe. Later, in 1739, Linnaeus named it Epimedium alpinum.

In the past it was thought that epimedium leaves beaten and added to wine would prevent conception for five days, if drunk after menstruation. In 1597, it was given the English name of ‘Barren Woort’, by Gerard in London, “…because, as some authors affirme, being drunke it is an enimie to conception.”

Two exceptional hybrids came from this species, E. x cantabrigiense, a cross between E. alpinum and E. pubigerum; and E. x rubrum a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum.

This deer resistant plant, Epimedium alpinum is easy to grow in the Pacific Northwest. It spreads by long rhizomes, and although slow to expand (8 to 12 inches a year), it is not polite to smaller plants. This drought tolerant ground cover is an excellent choice for dry shade. The bright, fresh green foliage is handsome growing as a colony under trees or large shrubs, lighting up the shade and crowding out weeds. Unless foliage is pruned in late winter, the flowers remain hidden.

Epimedium grows best in gardens sheltered from cold winds. Although considered semi-deciduous, it has proven to be evergreen in my own garden, where it grows under a large rhododendron.

About the Author


Is pushing forward with his design of the Karhula gardens. Favorite quote atm 'Rome was not built in a day'