Epimedium or barrenworts are among the finest (in my opinion) of the hardy ground cover plants or small-flowering perennials for shade.
How to Grow
In small clumps, they live quite comfortably in all but the deepest shade and driest soils (once established).
So plant and water them every few days for the first month so their roots get out and into the surrounding soil.
After this initial establishment period, cut back to a weekly watering for the rest of the first summer.
Water monthly in following years or during severe droughts.
While these plants will live in the sun, they do much better (with less leaf bronzing/burning) if planted in shade.
Part shade will give you great growth rates but this is a plant of deeper shade as well. Do not plant under evergreens as nothing really grows under those.
This is a slow-growing plant and doesn’t invade or spread too far – too fast. Easily controlled with an early spring shovel and/or edger.
The flowers appear in very early spring and are small and delicate. If you’re looking for a plant to throw huge flowers, this isn’t it.
But if you’re looking for a delicate spray of rose-pink or yellow flowers in the spring, followed by lovely rounded leaves for the summer and then red-toned fall shades of fall foliage, this is your plant.
I had no problems with a USDA zone 4 – rated to zone 3.
Epimediums divide quite easily first thing in the spring.
Take a clump (See this article on perennial division if you’ve never done it before). They’re easy to move.
Water to establish however (see above).
If you’re not sure about how to grow shade garden perennials, click here