There are a lot of reasons to love liverwort (Hepatica americana). It’s tough and dependable. It’s a discreet, low-maintenance beauty. It’s one of the earliest spring flowers, raising its ethereal stems and tiny blossoms in March or April. This shade-happy woodland perennial gives you pretty white, pink, or bluish flowers for about a month in spring, and a carpet of unique foliage after that. The three rounded lobes of each leaf are wine-purple underneath, and the color often bleeds up to the top, creating an eye-catching pattern. Just don’t plant it in back, Jack—at less than 1 foot tall, hepatica needs to be in the front of the shade border, or in similarly diminutive company.
Common name: Hepatica, round-lobed hepatica, liverwort, liverleaf
Botanical name: Hepatica americana
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: about 6 inches
• Sun: Part shade
• Soil: Well-drained, humus-rich
• Moisture: Average; doesn’t like dry soil.
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by division.
Pests and diseases
• Susceptible to rust and leaf spot.
• Vulnerable to snails and slugs.
• Hepatica belongs with other spring-blooming woodland flowers. Plant it near trilliums, spring beauty, merrybells, rue anemone, and bloodroot.
• Plant hepatica under deciduous trees or in a shady corner and let it naturalize. It looks lovely as a flowering carpet in early spring.
All in the family
• The Hepatica genus has only about 10 species. Round-lobed hepatica and sharp-lobed hepatica (H. acutiloba) are both native to eastern North America. H. nobilis (also H. triloba) has its origins in Europe, and H. transsilvannica comes from Romania. These species are similar in appearance and habitat.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.)