Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

The shade-tolerant elven flower is particularly suitable as underplanting and as a ground cover. We give tips on choosing the variety, planting and propagating the elven flower.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

Elven flowers are pretty, flowering perennials for shady locations [Photo: High Mountain / Shutterstock.com]

One of the most famous shade plants is the elven flower. We will introduce you to the most beautiful Epimedium species and varieties and give you tips on planting and care.

Elven flower: flowering, origin and characteristics

The elven flower ( Epimedium ), also called sock flower, belongs to the barberry family (Berberidaceae). Its approximately 60 species and natural hybrids occur in Asia, Africa and Europe in the northern hemisphere. The summer or evergreen perennials hibernate with the help of their sometimes runners-forming rhizomes. Elven flowers reach heights between 15 and 40 centimeters. Their leaves are ovate, heart-shaped, lanceolate, elongated or almost round in shape. The leaf margin can be serrated or slightly spiked. The shoot in spring is often bronze or reddish, in autumn the leaves are usually wine-red-green to purple-red. The flowering period of the elven flower begins in April, sometimes before or during the leaf shoots. The four-fold flowers consist of four inner and four outer petals and, depending on the species, can form elongated spurs. After pollination, capsule fruits form, inside of which there are numerous seeds with a conspicuous seed coat. Ants prefer to feed on the nutritious coat and spread the elven flower seeds in the area.

Is the elven flower friendly to bees? The elven flower is one of the beehives. Smaller wild bees in particular use the nectar and pollen available from the often graceful elven flowers. Large-flowered species such as Epimedium versicolor are also visited by honey bees.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

The blossoms of the alpine and the red elven flower are very similar [Photo: mizy / Shutterstock.com]

The most beautiful varieties of elven flowers

Elven flowers come in different types and varieties, which differ in growth, flower size and color. We introduce you to the 10 most beautiful types and varieties of Epimedium .

  • Epimedium alpinum : Alpine elven flower from Southeast Europe with deciduous leaves and a height of up to 40 cm. The wild species with runners forms delicate panicles with up to 25 red-yellow colored single flowers.
  • Epimedium grandiflorum : The large-flowered elven flower originally comes from Japan. It shows a deciduous, clumpy growth up to 25 cm and long, spurred, large, orchid-like flowers. The elven flower 'Lilafee' is bronze-colored when it shoots and from April, delicate purple, filigree flowers.
  • Epimedium pauciflorum : Little-flowered elven flower with low growth and 15-20 cm in height. Popular as a ground cover because the short runners form a dense, evergreen carpet. The rather weakly competitive species shows pale pink to creamy white flowers.
  • Epimedium x perralchicum : Hybrid species with dense growth up to 30 cm and almost evergreen leaves. Elfenblume 'Frohnleiten' is the best known variety and can be planted as a ground cover. The leaves turn a pretty red color in autumn, while the leaf veins remain light green. The delicate flowers of the hybrid epimedium 'Frohnleiten' add yellow accents.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

The hybrid elven flower 'Frohnleiten' is well suited for ground cover [Photo: R. Knapp / Shutterstock.com]

  • Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum : Black Sea elven flower with strong growth and almost evergreen leaves. The delicate, light yellow flowers appear from April. The 'Black Sea' variety turns its leaves dark purple in autumn and winter. It is particularly suitable for widespread use, including under bushes and trees.
  • Epimedium pubigerum : Fluffy elven flower with hardy evergreen leaves and clumpy growth up to 25 cm in height. The short-spurred, light yellow flowers sit on long flower stalks.
  • Epimedium x rubrum : Red elven flower, arose from a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum . The clumpy, deciduous plants have reddish-brown leaves and two-tone red and white flowers. The particularly rich flowering variety 'Galadriel' can be used as a ground cover.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

Many species of elven flowers, like here Epimedium versicolor, have red-green leaves [Photo: J Need / Shutterstock.com]

  • Epimedium versicolor 'Sulphureum': Very vigorous sulfur elven flower up to 35 cm and with extensive spreading. The sulfur-yellow flowers appear from April to May. In autumn, the foliage of the elven flower 'Sulphureum' turns bronze.
  • Epimedium x warleyense : The up to 30 cm high, deciduous hybrid elven flower forms runners and is therefore ground covering. Epimedium 'Orange Queen' is also offered as the Elven Flower 'Orange Queen' and shows numerous pale orange-red flowers.
  • Epimedium x youngianum : Low, deciduous hybrid of E. grandiflorum x E. diphyllum , between 15 and 20 cm high. The variety of Epimedium x youngianum 'Niveum' shows spurless, white flowers as well as a graceful growth and is ideal for underplanting.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

The hybrid elven flower 'Orange Queen' produces pale orange flowers [Photo: Andrew Fletcher / Shutterstock.com]

Elven flowers as ground cover: The following species of elven flower are particularly suitable as ground cover: Epimedium pauciflorum , Epimedium x perralchicum 'Frohnleiten', Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum and Epimedium x warleyense.

Planting elven flower: location, time & procedure

Epimedium is generally an adaptable perennial for partially shaded to shady locations. Locations that are too bright endanger wintering due to late frosts; few flowers are formed in locations that are too dark. The ideal location for elven flowers is on fresh, loose, lime-poor and slightly acidic, humus-rich soils. Soils that are too heavy or sandy can be improved with high-quality potting soil such as our Plantura organic potting soil. Clay powder also increases the soil's water storage capacity.

Elven flowers are planted in late autumn, between October and the end of November before the first frosts or in early spring from the beginning of March. They can be placed under plants and trees or in shade beds. Epimedium prefers planting in small groups of three to ten plants, which is also the most appealing. The planting distance for elven flowers is about 30 to 40 cm. For the ground cover you need around 15 to 17 plants per square meter. The perennials are planted as deep as they were previously in the pot. In the course of three to four years, the runners of vigorous species took over the new location. Elven flowers usually bloom in the first spring after planting.

Care of the elven flower: cut, water and fertilize

You don't necessarily have to cut the elven flower. However, it can make room for new shoots if the old leaves are removed after winter, around March.

The elven flower is an easy-care perennial that hardly needs any attention after planting. A layer of mulch between the freshly planted perennials protects them from drought and heat. More sensitive species from Asia, such as E. grandiflorum and E. pubescens ,   should be watered regularly in the hot season. Southern species, such as E. perralchicum and E. pinnatum , are more robust and tolerate heat and drought well.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

Need-based fertilization rewards the elven flower with a magnificent bloom [Photo: Kirsanov Valeriy Vladimirovich / Shutterstock.com]

If necessary, fertilization can be carried out annually in spring. A mainly organic long-term fertilizer, such as our Plantura organic flower fertilizer, should be scattered loosely over the elven flower population in frost-free soil from March. Ideally, water well afterwards so that the nutrients are released quickly.

Propagate elven flower

The simplest method of propagation is the division of existing clumps. In the late spring after flowering, the rhizomes of the elven flowers can be divided with a spade, dug up and reinserted in the appropriate place.
Alternatively, elven flowers can also be propagated using rhizome cuttings. For this purpose, the rhizomes of excavated plants are cut into sections about 5 cm long with a sharp knife. Then the rhizome pieces are placed horizontally in nutrient-poor potting soil and covered with substrate about 1 to 2 cm thick. In the coming weeks, the cuttings should be allowed to take root in a light, cool location that is moist, but not wet. The first shoots and leaves will soon appear. Once strong plants have developed, the elven flowers can be moved or planted out.

Elven flower: plants, care & the most beautiful Epimedium varieties

Elven flowers should be given light winter protection from leaves or something similar in winter [Photo: Eileen Kumpf / Shutterstock.com]


In our latitudes, the common types of the elven flower are well hardy. Freshly planted and deciduous elven flowers should be given light winter protection, such as a thick layer of leaves, in rough locations. The rhizomes only spread just below the surface of the soil and can therefore be damaged in severe minus temperatures.

Is the elven flower poisonous?

The elven flower is considered a slightly poisonous plant. In some countries, however, parts are cooked and thus made edible. In folk medicine, extracts of E. grandiflorum were used for certain types of cancer.

Tip : The two elven flower species Epimedium macun and Epimedium brevicornum are used in traditional Chinese medicine and herbal medicine as medicines for thyroid problems, high blood pressure and erectile disorders.

Ground cover plants are suitable in many gardens as underplanting or supplementary greening of beds. With us you will discover more bee-friendly ground cover for every location.

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