Growing Hepaticas The Japanese Way

Hepatica nobilis Cobalt

Hepaticas deserve the cult status they have long enjoyed in Japan. In early spring the most beautiful cultivars are displayed in all their glory.

Japanese Methods of Growing Hepaticas

  • Hepaticas are strongly grown in Japan where new cultivars and hybrids can change hands for large prices.
  • Growers in Japan developed special pots called Tanba-Yaki pots (similar but smarter than our ‘Long Toms’) for their Hepaticas. They are made from clay and deeper than our traditional pots.
  • Hepaticas enjoy sunshine whilst in flower but the Japanese move the pots into the shade for the rest of the year.
  • The Japanese name for Hepaticas is Yuliwariso which translates as ‘the plant that breaks through the winter snow’.
  • Grow in moist well drained soil containing leaf mould. Woodland slopes can work very well.
  • Hepaticas are still a Japanese cult plant and there are several hundred forms available to collectors. British alpine specialists are beginning to obsess about these little flowers, which belong to the Ranunculus family and come in various colours and forms.
  • There are more than 650 forms of these rarefied Japanese miniature forms in cultivation.

Hepatica nobilis

Hepaticas Cultivation

  • This photograph was snatched at Harlow Carr alpine house. Such an environment saves them from becoming water logged.
  • On bright sunny days Hepatica flowers open wide to display their simple beauty and unobtrusive charm.
  • The colour range includes mainly blue, pink and white in single, semi-double or double forms.
  • The colour and form of the stamens also vary so that all sorts of delightful combinations are possible.
  • Hepaticas are small clump-forming, almost evergreen herbaceous perennials with attractive lobed leaves, usually green, but some varieties having beautiful variegations or marbling on the upper surface.

Hepatica pyrennaica Apple Blossom

Hepaticas Growing Tips

  • Hepaticas are among the most beautiful flowers of early spring. February and March is the best time to see them in flower.
  • Also known as liver-leaf they are small herbaceous perennials of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
  • Hepaticas are tolerant of alkaline limestone soils.
  • Hepaticas grow in deeply shaded deciduous woodland and scrub or grassland in full sun.
  • They like cool roots and a humid atmosphere.
  • Bare rooted plants can be bought from February to October.
  • Seed is dispatched mid April – May, within 48 hours of gathering as it must be sown fresh. Even then it is slow to germinate taking 9-24 months so be patient.
  • Pollination is by butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles.

Hepatica nobilis rosa (II)

Varieties and Species of Hepatica

  • Hepatica nobilis the blue flowered are the easiest variety to grow. They may be slow to become established but are long lived plants.
  • Hepatica pyrennaica Apple Blossom or Elison Spence varieties
  • Hepatica japonica is a variety or range of cultivars that are based on Hepatica nobilis
  • Hepatica transsilvanica has larger blue, white or pink flowers.
  • Hepatica acutiloba looks like a cluster of small Hellebores.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

Hepatica nobilis rosa (II) by .Bambo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Sharp-lobed Hepatica by pchgorman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Source of comments, tips, plants and seeds Ashwood Nursery

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