Hepaticas are much-loved spring plants, but which ones are the best to grow? Paul Cumbleton from the Alpine House at RHS Garden Wisley shares his favourites.
The Alpine section at RHS Garden Wisley grows a range of Hepatica species and cultivars. These are small clump-forming perennials that flower in the spring and make good garden plants as long as they are grown in the right conditions.
Conditions to grow hepaticas
Originating from mountain woodland slopes, hepaticas prefer sun during flowering time in spring, with plenty of water and good drainage, but cool humid shade afterwards. A good spot in a garden would be under deciduous trees or shrubs, or in a shady spot in a rock garden or container.
Hepaticas at Wisley
Growing outdoors in Wisley, groups of Hepatica nobilis (pictured right), which have purple-blue flowers, can be seen in the small woodland area at the western end of the rock garden and in the bed under the large oak tree at the top of the rock garden.
H. nobilis along with other European types such as H. nobilis var. pyrenaica, H. transsilvanica and H. x media are among the most reliable selections to grow as garden plants. All are good with spring flowers such as Cyclamen coum, snowdrops or under shrubs such as Ribes sanguineum White Icicle ('Ubric').
Many more H. nobilis are grown in clay pots and displayed in the Alpine House along with types of Hepatica nobilis var. japonica f. magna. The flowers under this name can be pink, white, purple and even yellow, with double and single flowers. Unfortunately we do not recommended these, or other Japanese hybrids, for domestic gardens because they are extremely difficult to grow and require specific conditions.
Double-flowered forms are always popular, such as stunning lilac and white Hepatica nobilis var. japonica 'Shizuka', blue and white ‘Kimon’, or deep purple 'Unabara'. Single blooms can be equally attractive; ‘Hyou-junka’ has pure white anthers contrasted against magenta petals which is a treasure.