A few easy Hepaticas and the best ways to enjoy them


Glenn Shapiro, holder of the National Plant Collection of Hepatica spp. & cvs. (excl. Hepatica nobilis var. japonica cvs.)


I have made a choice of nine very different but readily available Hepaticas, which are happy in our North West gardens.


Hepatica acutiloba

Hepatica acutiloba come from America and Canada. The name acutiloba refers to the fact that the leaves are more pointed than in the other American species americana (which prefers dryer conditions than we can easily provide). I recommend acutiloba alba, it should have a lot of upward facing flowers and is sometimes scented. The blues and pinks tend to be just either side of lilac in both the American species.  


Hepatica nobilis (above and below)


Hepatica nobilis AGM is a much loved wild flower over large areas of Europe (not the UK unfortunately), happy in deciduous mountain woodlands in the south, and down to sea level in the north, where it is protected by snow in winter. Hepatica nobilis comes in a wide range of colours from white and blue through to cerise. To me the blue form is iconic and also the toughest, it would always be my first choice.


A variety of nobilis Cremar,’ or ex Cremar, will provide all year around interest. The marbled leaves expand towards the edge and are crenelated, a bit like curly parsley, and the flowers are usually cerise in colour.

Hepatica nobilis var. pyrenaica

If you prefer pastel shades Hepatica nobilis var. pyrenaica is an excellent choice. The distinctly marbled foliage remains in good condition until the next year’s flowers bloom prolifically, often as early as January. The colours range from white through apple blossom pink to powder blue. I have a violet blue centred one fading towards the edge of the petals which I am especially fond of. It is one of many I am propagating for our local Plant Heritage plant sales.


Hepatica nobilisRubra Plena’

Double flowers are always much sought after among Hepaticas, and Hepatica nobilis Rubra Plena’ is fully double and  as easy to grow as any of these Hepaticas, and now quite reasonably priced. The colour however is more cerise than red. True red is rarely found except in the most expensive Hepatica japonicas.


Hepatica nobilis japonicaOrihime

One fully double Hepatica japonica I can recommend for an outdoor pot or even to plant in the garden is ‘Orihime’. It produces lots of pale pink flowers in spring and often a few in the autumn, and it has become very reasonably priced recently. Most of the japonicas are best grown under cover.

Hepatica x media ‘Blue Jewel’

In the late18C Prof. F Hildebrand began crossing Hepatica noblis with the only other European species, Hepatica transsilvanica, a cross which has been repeated over the centuries to give rise to some excellent cultivars referred to as Hepatica x media. They have the vigour of transsilvanica and the free flowering qualities of nobilis and because they are sterile, the flowers tend to last a long time. I especially recommend two. My first choice has to be Hepatica x media ‘Blue Jewel’; with rounded lapis-lazuli petals, it certainly lives up to its name. A close second choice is Hepatica x media ‘Blue Eyes’, this is a mid-blue, very free flowering and vigorous. Hepatica x mediaBuis’ is indistinguishable, so much so that I wonder if it is just a more commercial renaming of the former; they both possess the ‘Old Blue Eyes’ magic.


Hepatica x media ‘Blue Eyes’ (above) and Hepatica x mediaBuis’ (below)


Often confused with Hepatica x media ‘Buis’, is Hepatica transsilvanica ‘De Buis’ but the latter is a larger flowering and vigorous strain of the Romanian species, with flowers on the darker side of mid-blue. It is well worth growing.

Hepatica transsilvanica ‘De Buis


In the garden, choose a shaded position in an open free draining soil. A slope under deciduous trees would be very suitable. Remember they stay above ground all winter with the flower buds for next spring already formed. In the wild they would be tucked up under the snow, so here they are very vulnerable. You can cover them with upturned wire hanging baskets to protect them from garden wildlife. A few slug pellets would not go amiss.   

I get the most enjoyment from my Hepaticas in pots, especially the ones outside my office window which faces North West. They would be very happy on a patio, they enjoy the sun in the early spring when they first start flowering. You may need to remove some of the old leaves to see the flowers better. The new leaves follow towards the end of flowering and the pot will then need moving into the shade. Keep them quite damp while they are flowering and producing leaves but less so in late summer, and if they are under cover in the winter only water them very occasionally and choose a mild spell. If they have to stay outside in a pot, move them into a dry spot behind a wall, or under the house eaves. Don’t use a glass bell because they need fresh air around them. All the plants I have recommended can be bought on line, some from www.ashwood-nurseries.co.uk and the rest from www.edromnurseries.co.uk

If I have whetted your appetite please come along to a ‘Hepatica Day’ on Sunday 20 March 2016. From 9.30, view my National Collection of Hepatica (most of them should be in flower) and see the spring garden, with refreshments provided.  The event continues at the Gaskell Hall Silverdale where Ashwood Nurseries will have a Hepatica sales stand, providing a unique opportunity to view and obtain their plants in the North. A light lunch is provided, and Ashwood Nurseries owner John Massey VMH will give a superbly illustrated lecture, ‘The World of Hepaticas’. Admission by ticket only, on sale from 1 October 2015.

Apply to Anne Porter, peasland18@btinternet.com

Plant Heritage Members £21, others £25, including all refreshments

Hepatica Day

on 20/032016 from 9.30 am.

Hazelwood Farm

Hollins Lane



LA5 0UB 

Tel 01524 701276

More details