The European hepaticas (H. nobilis, H.transsilvanica and H.x media and their cultivars) are the most tolerant of garden cultivation while the American species (H. americana, H. acutiloba and their cultivars) are well worth trying in very sheltered areas of the garden. Some of our new inter-species crosses may well succeed in the garden but we are still trialling these and they have yet to prove themselves as reliable performers in the garden.
It’s important to replicate the conditions that hepaticas enjoy in their natural habitat. Tolerant of both acidic and alkaline conditions, they should be planted on a sunny, well-drained slope in a light ‘fluffy’ fertile soil that is rich in leaf mould with plenty of rapidly draining moisture in Spring. They flower much better when they are exposed to early spring sunshine although they must receive plenty of shade immediately after flowering and especially during the heat of the summer.
They will thrive under deciduous trees and shrubs or in crevices in the rock garden, performing best where there is good humidity. Note that H. transsilvanica and its forms are more tolerant of dry shade.
All establish best in the garden when planted from late winter through spring and again in autumn, as long as there is no frost in the ground or drought or waterlogged conditions. Hepaticas respond well to a top-dressing of leaf mould in autumn and an annual feed of Blood, Fish and Bone in late winter (dogs and foxes may dig where blood, fish and bone has been scattered so a good alternative is Calcified Seaweed). We would recommend the removal of old leaves just before flowering as the new foliage appears shortly after flowering.
Excessive prolonged rainfall in early summer can cause the leaves to blacken and rot prematurely. Remove any badly damaged foliage and spray with a systemic fungicide. Main pests are greenfly, slugs and mice.
Hepaticas on BBC Gardeners’ World – See it on iPlayer
Rachel de Thame features hepaticas in John’s Garden at Ashwood Nurseries.
Visit John’s Garden Open Day in April to see a fine display of hepaticas growing in a garden setting.
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