The Epimedium has been named Perennial of the Year 2014 in Germany


I can’t help being sceptical and thinking this is just a gimmick for the garden centres to cash in on, organized by the Bund deutscher Staudengärtner – the “Association for German Perennial Gardeners”. On the other hand there may be a few different varieties on offer, although I didn’t see any at the garden centres’ special “open day” last weekend!

Epimedium “Amber Queen”


In shades of gold and peach Amber Queen glows even on a rainy day, dancing above the delicate foliage.

The German common name is Elfenblume, which means “elf flower”… I wonder if the flowers are meant to be little hats for the elves… or do you need to be an elf, down near the ground, in order to appreciate the beauty of this plant? My Man of Many Talents says they remind him of a jester’s hat – yes, they do look like them, albeit without the bells on the ends!

They love filtered sunlight in shady corners, such as under trees, for protection from strong sun.


The spidery flowers, suspended on almost invisible stems, give the impression they are hovering like mini space ships.

These extraordinary flowers are also accompanied by lovely leaves. Even after the flowers have long gone over the heart-shaped foliage, with pretty tinges of red or orange in the spring, provide attractive ground cover.  Mine are evergreen, and the old brown foliage can be cut back in spring as soon as the new growth can be seen. One of mine is in a warm but shady spot and flowers any time between March and May, but this one is in a much cooler position and flowers several weeks later.


The English common names range from  bishop’s hat and fairy wings to barrenwort and horny goat weed! (The latter referring to its supposed aphrodisiac effects.)

If you have ever grown Epimediums please share your experiences! Do you have a favourite?

41 thoughts on “Epimedium

  1. They are lovely, both the dainty flowers and the fresh spring leaves are a delight. Elfenblume is a pretty name for them, and yes they do look like tiny jesters’ hats.

    • I’m hoping mine will spread like yours have – I remember seeing a photo of a lovely clump in your garden Jason. Any idea if they spread underground or by seed?

  2. Epimedium are such dainty flowers dancing on their slender stem in the breeze. We have a few here, one is pink and yellow and is called Pixie, others are purple, white , yellow or orange. The foliage is good too.

    • Hi Donna – hope you are well! The cold winter 2012-2013 meant no flowers on one plant last spring, but it recoevred and flowered this year, so there’s hope! 😀

  3. I definitely like the fanciful names. I think ‘fairy wings’ is a sweet name for such a really delicate and beautiful flower. I like the spidery foliage. I keep looking for different adjectives to use, but ‘delicate’ just keeps coming to my mind because it’s dainty! I am sure our temperatures would be too extreme, but sometimes there are hybridized varieties of more delicate flowers that have been bred specifically for higher temperatures. I’m going to see if I can find something similar by using that name. I’m quite taken with it! 🙂

    • I think they are magical too, and there must be so many different types available now… but a similar flower native to North America would be the Columbine… I wonder if that would grow for you? Have a lovely Sunday Debra!

  4. I like their delicate appearance and the way in which the flowers hang from the stems. As you say attractive foliage too. I have only the one epimedium Cathy but can’t remember its name. Yet another of those labels lost in the mists of time,

    • If they were just a little taller they would be more easily visible. But being well-hidden makes them a nice surprise when I do suddenly spot them in flower!

  5. Hi Cathy,

    Love your blog. I want to add more of these to my shade garden this year. I don’t have practical experience with them, but the Missouri Botanical Garden site, which is a great resource, has many, many listings and most describe them as Rhizomatous perennials (underground runners) that spread slowly over time. It does list a few, like Epimedium × rubrum, that spread faster than others:


    My shade garden is raised up a few feet by a rock wall, so they would be closer to eye level and easier to appreciate.

  6. Interesting. I have never seen or heard of that flower. I think your suspicion is right about the garden shops and naming the flower of the year. Oh well. It is nice to go with the flow. Flowers are always good and any reason to go out and get more is fine by me!

    • I bet they’d love your garden as you also have chalky stony soil I think… It took a while for mine to get established, due to one very cold winter and one very dry summer in succession, but I think they are happy now!

  7. I think you’re right about the reason this is perennial of the year. Although I do love them, they aren’t what you’d call flamboyant in the garden. I love their foliage.

    • Maybe that’s why it was chosen… to bring it to our attention…? It was highlighted on a gardening programme here at least! 😉

  8. I love epimediums, I was so excited to finally be able to plant some. Only they all died on me! I shall try again in a more sheltered location, the soil was too dry and the wind too salt-laden. But I do so love the delicate beauty of the flowers, and to be honest would happily grow them just for the foliage.

    • I think they dislike dry conditions most of all – some of mine struggled for a year, but seem happy now. I hope they will spread a bit more here too, for ground cover later in the year – the leaves are really pretty too.

  9. Your pictures are great, much better than I’ve ever managed with this tiny airy plant! My one clump seems to be settling in just in time for me to want to move it 🙂 it’s all right but so far I’ve been underwhelmed…. But I think that’s just me, some of the photos I’ve come across are much more inspiring than the pale yellow one I have. It reminds me of hosta, a reliable workhorse, but one that I’m just not as fanatical about as other people are (yet!)….. Maybe it’s the cost, they’re not all that cheap around here, and maybe it’s just sour grapes for me and I’m trying to feel better about my own lack of fairy wings!

    • I have to admit that I lay down on the (rather wet) grass to get these photos! 😉 The plain yellow ones are nice too, but there are now so many hybrids with mixes of different colors and larger flowers. I usually buy small plants from an online nursery for 3 or 4 euros (4 or 5 dollars) and it’s worth waiting a year for them to get bigger, and if they don’t survive a winter it’s easier to bear!

  10. I like them and have just planted some: Orangekönig, rubrum, youngianum and Roseum. Guess they’re quite easy to grow. I love their fragile beauty and the beautiful foliage. I think all these year of…, day of… are a way to create income. Think of Mother’s Day etc. I’m not really a friend of this type of thing.

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