Barrenwort For A Barren Space

Barrentwort or Epimedium (e-pi-MEE-di-um) is a perennial that is often overlooked for the garden.  As the name implies it thrives in barren locations.  This is one of the few plants that can tolerate and grow in dry shade.  The flowers are amazing and thanks to new introductions such as Epimedium x rubrum (picture shown in header) they offer some spectacular flowers.  However, the plant is small so to enjoy these wonders you need to get on your knees to view them.

Depending on the author some claim that they are a evergreen to semi-evergreen but in all the instances that I have seen in Southeast Nebraska they are a perennial that will die back to the ground.  They are classified as a ground cover but they do not behave in such a manner.  They mound and as they mature they do creep but not nothing outlandish that take over a space.

Once done flowering in late spring you are left with an attractive mound of heart shaped leaves that do offer some fall color depending on weather.  At maturity they only reach about 10″ tall.  When new growth starts in spring clip off any of the overwintered leaves.  They are not bothered by any major insect or disease and once established they will not require much in supplemental watering.


Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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