Epimedium wushanense

It was around 15 years ago when I first heard about the genus Epimedium. This was while we lived in North Carolina and I worked at Plant Delights Nursery. Here was an evergreen groundcover that flowered, could grow in the shade, and was pretty tough. Since that time, whenever I hear anyone talk about Epimedium they usually refer to it as an underrated and underused perennial. Well, that has been 15 years so it is high time that more of us gardeners need to get on with it and plant Epimedium. And I forgot to mention that deer do not like to eat them.

Epimedium dwarf white from Plants Nouveau

At Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, we are working on developing a collection of Epimedium or “fairy wings” (as they are commonly called) in the gardens. Of all the plants in our collection, one that has really caught my attention is Epimedium wushanense. A friend had posted a picture of his on Facebook and it reminded me to take a closer look at ours. It stands out by having spiny looking leaves. The leaves are also much larger than most species, up to 10″ long with irregular, red tints to the leaves as well. All Epimedium have unique flowers and E. wushanense differs from other Epimedium by having smaller flowers with more on each spike.

Epimedium wushanense

As an aside, if you, like me, have kids and have seen the movie Kung Fu Panda, then this plant brings to mind the wushi finger hold. Maybe not… ok, back to this week’s plant.

Wushi Finger Hold

Hardy to USDA zone 5 or 6 (it is so uncommon that we are not sure yet), Epimedium wushanense is one plant to add to that spot where you struggle to grow most everything else: shade, dry, with deer, etc. It will prefer a slightly well-drained soil with adequate moisture until established. Once established, it will form a nice clump. It will lose its leaves during the winter in a colder climate but is beautiful when emerging in the spring.

Epimedium wushanense was introduced by the former owner of Garden Vision Nursery, Darrell Probst. This species comes from the Wushan Mountains of the Sichuan province of China.

Epimedium wushanense

As you are plant shopping this spring, be sure to add an Epimedium or two or three to your garden. And if you come across E. wushanense, pick one up and give it a try. You are sure to impress your plant geek friends this summer!


Photos: plantsnouveau.com, collectorsnursery.com, art.ngfiles.com, Rodney Eason

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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  1. [email protected] Trekker on April 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Very fascinating; I have an understory spot that has been difficult, this might be perfect. Thank you for the great tip.

  2. amy on May 1, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Epimediums are lovely – nice flowers and pretty foliage. A good working plant. You might want to have at look at Cherry Tart. Darrell Probst recommended it to me as one of his favorites when I was at his nursery/sale a few years ago. It has very cheerful flowers, and standout foliage that has 3 seasons of interest.

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