Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant and flowers
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant and flowers

Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ (lilac fairy barrenwort or bishop’s hat)  is a fabulous shade perennial. The leaves are especially nicely shaped, some like asymmetrical hearts, while the purple blooms start appearing shortly after the leaves.

This barrenwort goes by the marketing name ‘Lilac Fairy’, a fairly close metaphor for the flowers. I’m not sure how many more plants it sells than the ‘Lilafee’ designation, but I suppose a picturesque name can’t hurt.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) flower closeup
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) flower closeup

The purple flower on this Epimedium has a unique shape, with long white spurs. The clusters of flowers are held above the foliage, with the blooms overlapping. They bloom for about 4 weeks.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) flower bunch closeup
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) flower bunch closeup

Here is a closeup of the purple flower bunch of Lilafee. You can see the long, narrow petal tips. It’s nice to see the flowers held up high, and visible from a distance, since many spring shade perennials arrange their flowers demurely under the leaves.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) new dark leaves
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) new dark leaves

The new leaves of this Epimedium are a dark red color in early spring. Then as the plants first grow, they keep a red border around the leaf edge.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) new leaves
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) new leaves

The red of the new leaves fades away as the green takes over, and eventually the foliage is all green. Here you can see the little pink buds on the left. These appear very shortly after the tiny leaves. Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ is up and blooming early, but the leaves continue to be attractive after the flowers fade. The plant is about 30 cm (1 foot) tall.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant and flowers 2
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant and flowers 2

Here is another Lilafee flower spike up close. I planted one of these perennials last fall, and liked it so much that I went back for more, but the remainder had had an unfortunate greenhouse glass accident. I’m going to expand the group this year, since the plants look great at the front of the garden border with their fresh looking leaves, plus the whole dancing fairies effect.

In the photo below you can just see a frond of Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese painted fern) off the left. I have a group of these ferns next to the Epimedium, and the colourful, textured fern foliage looks great next to the softer Epimedium leaves. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see how the light green leaves of the barrenwort have a soft glow in the shade.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant red leaf
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) plant red leaf

This Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ makes a great shade plant. It overwintered in zone 3 just fine, and sent up leaves early. These attractive leaves cover the ground well, while the purple flowers are pretty and display gracefully. You can see this Epimedium with its Fall colour change in this post.

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) closeup leaves
Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' (lilac fairy barrenwort) closeup leaves

21 thoughts on “Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’”

    1. Keewee, they are a unique shape, with the long spurs. It’s nice to have the flowers early in the season too.

      Joanne, I have them in front of some white bleeding hearts, which open a few weeks after the Epimedium start. They look nice together, along with the ferns to one side.

  1. Alas, I must warn you it can also become a very expensive habit. I now have close to a dozen different plants ranging from E. grandiflora ‘Purple Price ‘ – perhaps the deepest purple with wonderful spurs at a hefty price of $28.00 – to wonderful yellow spurred flowers on E. koreana ‘Harrold Epstein.’ I encourage you to continue the collection, but from one who learned the hard way, it’s a hard habit to quit and may put you closer to the poor house! ( It was a pork and bean summer that year for me!)

    1. Hi Teza, I fixed your comment up for you. : )

      I had seen pictures of Epimedium, but wasn’t all that drawn to them, until I saw one in person. Then once I planted it in the garden, I was even more enthused about them. Their soft green leaves, with the unique shape are lovely to look at, and the flowers are attractive. Now that I see it has survived a winter (it wasn’t supposed to be that hardy here), I am going to expand this group with some more ‘Lilafee’ I will then have to check out some other Epimedium.

  2. ‘Lilafee’ is a beauty and I have to admit, I’ve never seen it before. I’ve only got Epidmedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’, which looks so drab in comparison.

    1. Martyn Cox, the flowers are fairly large for an Epimedium, and make good sized clusters, with lots of buds. I wasn’t sure if it would survive the winter, but it seems to have had no problems, and is a nice sized plant.

      Joy, I think you’d like this Epimedium. It makes a good goundcover, and you get a month of pretty purple flowers in spring. Mine get a couple hours of morning sun, and seems to enjoy it there. Epimediums are supposed to handle dry shade well, but I haven’t really stress tested this one.

  3. Hello there NS !
    I am still an epimedium virgin .. can you believe THAT ? LOL
    I have to find one soon .. now the one you have is beautiful .. hum ?
    I have to go a hunting ! : )

  4. I love epimediums and this is a beautiful variety. They are lovely all the growing season long, with their lovely leaves that last long into the late fall, when it begins to get colder.

    1. Carol, I appreciate plants that hold their leaves in the fall. We often get early frosts, so sensitive foliage is gone early. It’s helpful to have plants that keep their foliage to extend the gardening season.

  5. ‘Lilafee’ is very beautiful. Such a pretty color, and so dainty. I’ve just added it to my wish list. I haven’t seen epimediums in nurseries around here, but will have to search a little harder. You’ve taken some really lovely photos of it. I’m glad to see you’re enjoying your spring garden. It seems we wait so long for it :) And summer is almost here already! Happy gardening!

    1. Kerri, Epimedium is sometimes called bishop’s hat or barrenwort. I quite like ‘Lilafee’, for the large flowers, which are up so early.
      The yard is now full of the spring blooms. It’s such a pretty show. The last of the bulbs are fading, as the early summer buds are swelling.

  6. Hi Northern Shade: Excellent to see the Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’ doing well in your garden. I brought one home this last Victoria Day Weekend along with an Epimedium x warleyense ”Ellen Willmott’ with coppery flowers. I’ve been wanting to put in an Epimedium or two for years, but held off because of the, at best, Zone 4 ratings and because of a bad experience with a related Vancouveria planipetala – wonderful looking plant but it didn’t survive its first winter. It is encouraging to see yours doing well after this last nasty winter.

    I do have something that volunteered and which I thought might be an Epimedium because the foliage is tinged with red and the leaf margins are ciliated, but the stem is woody, the ‘leaflets’ obovate, and the leaves don’t seem to be even obscurely tripartite as in the Epimedia. This mystery plant is into its third year and I suppose once it flowers it will turn out to be some noxious weed, but so far it has been fun watching it grow.

    I did have delightful surprise this week with something that would be a good companion for a barrenwort – what looks like a volunteer Japanese Painted Fern! That makes up a bit for the one I purchased mail order this Spring (it is still very sad looking) and the two Lady Ferns purchased bare-root and of which there is no sign at all. I suppose some pixie could have planted the Painted Fern for me, but ferns don’t really look much like ferns until they get old enough to put up fronds, so I suppose I never noticed it before and I’m just glad I didn’t accidentally weed it out.

    1. Dave, I was pleased to see the Epimedium coming up so strong in spring. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would do when I planted it last fall. It is full of healthy leaves now, and the early flowers didn’t seem adversely affected by the late spring frosts.

      How lucky you are to get a volunteer Japanese painted fern. I have a couple of them to the left of the Epimedium, but they are still very small. Mine never grow very large in the garden. I thought, perhaps, that they were in too shady of a location, so I moved them last fall to this area that gets morning sun, but they are still very small. I have two Athyrium filix-femina that volunteered between the stones in my patio at my old house, and I had no ferns at the time. I transplanted them to my garden, and they are now 4 large lady ferns.

      Helen, after seeing this Epimedium survive winter so well, I’m surprised that there aren’t more for sale around here. The purple flowers on this one are just about gone now, but the foliage is looking very good.

  7. I purchased three Epimediums this spring — but unfortunately could only find the more standard yellow ‘Sulphureum.’ I already had an E. youngianum, which is very dwarf so was overwhelmed in its current location. But tough! I’ll tell ya — it hung in in my dry shade beds. That’s why I have high hopes for the yeller fellers. ‘Lilafee’ looks like a beautiful cultivar. I wonder why Epimediums are so hard to find?

  8. We moved into another house 2yrs ago and i noticed this plant growing in terrible dry shade in an odd spot in the yard so i thought it was a weed. It was kind of neat looking so i just let it grow for 2yrs. This fall i decided i liked it so much i would move it to a more respectable location and supprise there was potting soil and perlite amongst its roots. Yesterday I was at the nursery looking for specials and saw it! Epimedium ‘Sulphureum’. They also had a more chartruce colored Epimedium without a tag and i think it may be ‘Lilafee’ but will not see the flowers untill spring. Im happy to know this plant has many more fans out there. It looks so delicate but must be tuff as nails to thrive under mature pine trees and no irrigation all summer long.

    1. Dutchman S, I like the the fresh glow to the leaves, and the pretty flowers in spring. I planted another larger group of Lilafee this summer under a spruce and pine out front, and they are thriving so far. They are a healthy size, and cover the ground well. We have had below freezing temperatures for the past two weeks, including through the day, and they still have good looking leaves, above the snow. I appreciate having some attractive plants, as others die back from the frosts. In spring, their foliage comes up fairly quickly too, and the flowers appear very shortly after. It will be fun to see what colour and shape flower your unknown Epimedium produces. It will make the identification easier. The E. grandiflorum have showy blooms.

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