Grooming Sacred Lily and Barrenwort

Just like those monkeys that spend hours combing through one another’s hair looking for what? fleas?,  I find myself this time of year grooming these foliage plants that play such a role in my shade garden.

Rohdea  japonica, or sacred lily from Japan, is an outstanding evergreen for shade. Forming substantial clumps in a few years, she also sports clusters of bright red berries just in time for the holidays.

Rohdea japonica (Sacred Lily) with winter-damaged foliage.

By now, our sunny winter days have taken a toll on some of the foliage, which is looking bleached and tattered. I can take my hands and gently tug at most damaged leaves to remove them.

grooming Rohdea japonica

Occasionally, I will resort to the pruners to remove stubborn leaves.

Clump of Rohdea japonica (Sacred Lily) after grooming.

When done, the clump of sacred lily is much more presentable.

Barrenwort, or the Epimediums, are another story. Where the Rohdeas are substantial, sturdy, rugged (Fred Spicer calls it a living hose guide), Epimediums are delicate, dainty, precious. Another common name for them is fairy wings. In just a few weeks, Epimediums will put on new, fancy foliage.

grooming barrenwort

Serrated, unusually colored, dancing in the Spring breezes, this foliage suffers when displayed with last year’s tired, browned leaves.

Barrenwort with winter damaged foliage removed

Today, I remove all Epimedium foliage. I weed the patch and apply pine straw. In just weeks, I have fresh foliage followed shortly by blooms resembling colorful little butterflies held on wiry stems above the clumps.

Both these uncommon perennials are great for dry shade once they are established. Epimediums come in dozens of varieties with a range of flower colors and bizarre foliage forms. I have found a few locally, but Plant Delights on the web has, by far, the greatest selection for you plant nerds out there.  Rohdeas are a challenge to find in Birmingham retail.  Try Oak Street Garden Shop and Leaf & Petal, or scour the internet. Or try visiting a friend’s garden and gush over their clump of Rohdea until they gift you a start to make you hush. It worked for me.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *