It’s native, it’s easy, and it’s sho-nuff pretty.

By Steve Bender
March 12, 2020
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Steve Bender

Strolling through my woodland garden the other day, I chanced upon a spot of blue I hadn’t expected. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a native perennial I planted with high hopes last summer. Those hopes have been fulfilled. Name of the plant – Hepatica acutiloba aka sharp-lobed liverwort or sharp-lobed hepatica.

Native to northern and eastern North America, sharp-lobed liverwort gets its name from its use in folk medicine to treat liver ailments and leaves that are divided into three pointed lobes. The leathery leaves, which are evergreen, are green in the summer and turn bronze in fall and winter. Multiple half-inch wide flowers on 3 to 6-inch stems appear above the leaves in early spring, a treat for pollinators. Blooms may be blue, lavender, or pink. I prefer blue and feel lucky I got what I wanted.

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I want more – lots more. One way to do that is visiting a garden center that spring that sells native plants. Another is to order plants online from Prairie Nursery. Once you have them, you’ll find they seed themselves around, but not invasively. They’re easily transplanted in the fall.

Plant sharp-lobed liverwort in part to full shade in well-drained soil that contains organic matter. It likes moist soil, but I’ve found it to be surprisingly tolerant of summer and fall droughts. If you plant it in a woodland garden, be sure to rake fallen leaves off of it in winter, lest it smother. Plant in drifts of ten or more for greater impact. Pests such as deer and rabbits seem to leave it alone. Try it in USDA Zone 4 to 9.