What is Barrenwort?

Barrenwort, also known as Epimedium, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae. It is native to Asia, particularly China and Japan, but can also be found in other parts of the world. Barrenwort is a perennial herb that is known for its ornamental value and medicinal properties. It is commonly grown in gardens for its beautiful flowers and foliage.

Appearance and Characteristics

Barrenwort plants are typically low-growing, reaching a height of about 6 to 12 inches. They have heart-shaped leaves that are often tinged with red or bronze. The leaves are also glossy and leathery, giving them a unique texture. The flowers of barrenwort are small and delicate, with four petals that come in various colors, including white, yellow, pink, and purple. The flowers are borne in clusters and have a distinct shape that resembles a spur.

Cultivation and Care

Barrenwort is a relatively easy plant to grow and care for. It prefers partial shade to full shade and well-drained soil. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay, loam, and sandy soil. Barrenwort plants are drought-tolerant once established, but they will benefit from regular watering, especially during dry periods. They can be propagated through division or by planting seeds. It is important to note that barrenwort is a slow-growing plant, so it may take some time for it to reach its full potential.

Uses and Benefits

Barrenwort has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for its various health benefits. It is believed to have aphrodisiac properties and is often used to treat sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Barrenwort is also known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Additionally, it has been used to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Aside from its medicinal uses, barrenwort is also valued for its ornamental qualities. Its unique foliage and delicate flowers make it a popular choice for gardens and landscaping. It can be planted as a ground cover or used as a border plant. Barrenwort is also deer-resistant, making it a great option for gardens in areas with deer populations.

Common Varieties

There are several different species and cultivars of barrenwort available, each with its own unique characteristics. Some popular varieties include:

– Epimedium grandiflorum: This species is known for its large flowers and attractive foliage. It is one of the most commonly grown varieties of barrenwort.

– Epimedium x versicolor: This hybrid variety is a cross between Epimedium grandiflorum and Epimedium pinnatum. It has a wide range of flower colors, including yellow, pink, and purple.

– Epimedium x rubrum: This variety is known for its red flowers and bronze-tinted foliage. It adds a pop of color to any garden.


Barrenwort, or Epimedium, is a versatile plant that offers both ornamental and medicinal benefits. Its unique foliage and delicate flowers make it a popular choice for gardens, while its health benefits have been recognized in traditional Chinese medicine. Whether you’re looking to add a touch of beauty to your garden or seeking natural remedies for certain health conditions, barrenwort is definitely worth considering.