Barrenwort (Epimedium) are also called Sockenblumen and there are about 50 different types, that are resident from south of the Alps and North Africa up to China and Japan. The 30 centimeter high plants are considered perennials, but the stem base and roots are often woody. This is why many species tend to have a semi-shrub character. In addition, they belong to the Berberidaceae family of plants, which consists mainly of woody plants. the East Asian ivy flowers are mostly deciduous and grow in humid forests on humus-rich soils. The leaves, which originate from Europe and the Near East, are predominantly wintergreen or evergreen and are overgrown only in spring by the new leaves, which are often strikingly bronze in colour when sprouting. Their natural habitats are also forests, but often on moderately dry soils. They can also cope with mineral soil, which is rather poor in humus. In the course of their horticultural use, some hybrid varieties have also emerged from East Asian and Western species.
The leaves of almost all species and varieties are elongated, pointed to heart-shaped, and some of the wintergreen elfin flowers look rather rough. The small flowers are mostly small and sit on filigree stems. They carry four outer petals, often spur-like in length and always clearly above the four inner petals. Barrenwort flowers usually bloom in spring before or with foliage shoots, depending on the variety the flowers are white, yellow, orange, red, pink or violet, some also two-coloured. All species grow horstig to carpet-like and spread through rhizomes more or less strongly.
East Asian, deciduous species such as the large-flowered Barrenwort flower (Epimedium grandiflorum) are suitable for fresh to moderately moist, humus-rich perennial beds in semi-shade locations under larger shrubs that do not exert too much root pressure. As a rule, they are not planar, but combined in small or larger groups with tolerable bedding partners such as horny-growing ferns, shadow grasses, forest anemones (Anemone sylvestris), purple bells (Heuchera) or carnation root (Geum). Wintergreen species and hybrids from Europe and Asia Minor are mostly used as classic ground coverers in semi-shade and shady areas of easy-care gardens, as they suppress weeds well and are quite hard to take. If they are well rooted, they also tolerate longer dry periods. Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ in particular is considered to be one of the best groundcovers for weed control – it is also used in parks and public green areas. You should only combine these elven flowers with perennials and shrubs that are also competitive, such as Rodgersia or Aruncus.
If you want to plant elfin flowers as ground cover, you need about eight to nine plants per square metre of bedding area. It takes about three to four years for the plant carpet to close, as elf flowers do not grow properly until the second year after planting. Very windy locations open to the east should be avoided.
In order to make room for the new, fresh green to bronze-coloured shoots, you should cut and compost the unsightly old leaves of the winter-green shrubs with hedge trimmers in spring.
A regular division is not necessary as a rejuvenation measure. All species are naturally long-lived and enjoy flowering. The plant carpets of the wintergreen ivory trees are still beautifully dense even after decades.
other care tips
Barrenwort flowers planted in autumn can be damaged by frost, so it is best to mulch the plants with a thick layer of autumn leaves or bark compost. In spring after pruning the old leaves, compost fertilization is recommended at least in the first years after planting. If the perennials spread too much, simply cut off the edges with a spade.
All elven flowers can be easily multiplied by division in spring after flowering. Sometimes you need a sharp spade to remove pieces from the dense, woody root network.
Diseases and pests
In damp, windless locations, where the foliage only dries slowly after rainfall, leaf spot fungi occasionally spread. The roots, too, can occasionally be damaged by fungi such as Phytophtora and Phytium – this can be recognised by the fact that individual areas in the carpet of leaves suddenly turn uniformly brown and die off. Such places should be generously cut out, a soil exchange should be carried out and new plants from the edge area should be used again. The same measure is also important for viral infections – they are easily recognisable by their stunted growth and strikingly marbled leaves. The thickmouth weevil, a beetle species, is the most common animal pest. The nocturnal insect causes the typical bight-feeding at the leaf-edges, its larvae eat at the roots of the shrubs.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.