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Five Reasons We Love Epimediums for Street Trees

Updated: May 16, 2023

Epimedium x rubrum leaves emerge lime green in April, veined with reddish brown

NYC Parks recommends underplanting street trees but finding plants that can survive on the City's mean streets can be a challenge. While not native, Virginia still finds epimediums can be a good fit.

  1. Epimediums are beautiful, tough, drought resistant once established and bloom in the dappled shade of deciduous trees.

  2. Their eye-catching foliage is reason enough to grow them but epimediums (or barrenwort) also throw lovely sprays of flowers in spring that feed early bees.

  3. Many epimediums (such as epimedium x rubrum) hold their green leaves all winter in Brooklyn, just needing a trim in March to allow fresh leaves and blooms to look their best.

  4. Epimediums are vigorous growers that readily fill up tree beds and shade out weeds, eliminating the need for you to weed.

  5. Epimediums are just the right height for tree beds, tall enough to discourage dogs and pedestrians from treading on them but not tall enough to look untidy.

What are Epimediums (aka Barren Wort)?

Commonly called barrenwort but also known as goat’s beard, fairy wings, horny goat weed, epimediums are native to Asia and parts of the Mediterranean where they grow in the dry shade of woodlands. They spread underground by woody rhizomes. This can be a problem in some garden situations where they crowd out other plants but it’s an assest in a tree bed bounded by sidewalk and street.

Want to see more of these beautiful plants? The New York Botanic Garden has a number of lovely varieties in their Rock Garden.

Early spring flowering

Epimediums completely fill a tree bed.

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