Epigaea repens

Treedoc66(6b)February 1, 2005

Please share your successes and failures with this difficult little gem. I have lost several, but also have a few that are thriving.

I am looking for tips, observations and advice as I have ordered a few more for March shipment.


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The only time that I've had success with Epigaea was when I made a determined effort to duplicate the conditions where it grows in the wild. In my area that means pine/oak barrens (sandy, slightly acidic, and dry). The plant lives in a well drained partly shady spot. There is a thin layer (about 1/2 inch) of organic matter on top of the soil and a relatively small amount of organic matter in the top few inches of soil.

Here's a few notes from some of the references I use:

"An acid to moderately acid sandy loam soil, rich in humus to a shallow depth, and with a sandy soil below providing good drainage. I use a soil with a pH of 6."

"... grows well in a cool open woods where it is protected from the hot summer sun but where early spring sunshine filters through leafless branches. Choose a spot where the forest floor is covered with decaying leaves or evergreen needles. Also, woodland soil contains the mycorhizal fungi that are beneficial to the plant."

"Except for the taproot, the plant feeds on the first few inches of soil. Feeder roots develope where the vines are covered with damp humus."

"... mulch by scattering a mixture of evergreen needles, birch leaves and soft maple leaves. Keep the plants moist until they are well established."

"... thrives best in association with mycorrhizal fungi. Including soil that was collected near healthy wild plants in soil mixtures will introduce the necessary fungus ..."

Most of the notes are from Marie Sperka's book "Growing Wildflowers"; a local author that had a native plant nursery in my area a couple of decades ago. The rest is from a paper by Franklin T. Bonner. I had it on an internet link, but have since lost the web address.

One thing that occurs to me with a potted plant is that it might be productive to "tease" out the taproot and make sure it is extended down into the planting hole. This plant apparantly does not like root disturbance, so I would do it carefully.

Hope the info provides you with a few useful thoughts, they are a great little plant.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 11:50AM
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Thanks. The information you provided certainly agrees with what I have seen while hiking, etc. I specifically look for this plant while out and about, particularly in regard to soil conditions and plant associates.
I was able to read and print out the Bonner paper yesterday.
It is indeed a difficult plant. I have one survivor here that seemed to put on a good amount of growth last year following a lot of dieback. I have tried to replicate its cultural requirements as closely as possible.
I find it a beautiful and elusive gem.
Thanks again,


    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 6:01PM
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bogturtle(SE NJ 7a)

This was a common plant in burnt over areas here, but now that fires are faithfully prevented, it is becoming rare.
Fires must be suppressed because so many people now have homes in the piney woods. One source says the soil pH must be 4.5. That is about 100x more acid than pH 6. Decaying pine and oak leaves would probably make for that kind of soil.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 7:24AM
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I am also trying to grow trailing arbutis. I found some
growing in a developing area, and collected a small sample.
I would rather buy some plants. WHERE CAN I order them?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 12:07PM
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Arrowhead Alpines in Michigan has them listed in their catalog.

Here is a link that might be useful: Arrowhead Alpines

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 12:45PM
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Thank you northeastwisc.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 6:40AM
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Yes, I am actually ordering some from Epigaea them. AA is a wonderful resource for some of the more enigmatic wildflowers. I ordered some Asarum shuttleworthii from them as well as Habaneria, Tipularia, Hydrastis and various Trilliums. All "took" nicely.
We shall see about the Epigaea.......


    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 6:31PM
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...some Epigaea from them............


    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 9:30PM
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gmehl(z5 PA)

I drove all the way to garden in the woods last spring to buy five pots of epigaea for $8 each (well, a trunk full of other things, too)... got home with my prize and then my wife point out 22 huge patches (perhaps 15 inches in diameter or so) of it growing wild in an undisturbed area at the rear of the property. Am gently experimenting with relocating a few but mostly am redesigning the garden to include them as they sit in the overall plan...why mess with a good thing? But they did bloom very nicely this year and yes they are very fragrant.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2005 at 7:54PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I was just at Mahoney's Garden Center in Falmouth on Cape Cod, MA looking for something else.

I was amazed to see 4 pots of Epigaea in bloom, for $8.98 each. I bought two.

I should have the right conditions for them (Plymouth, MA) - oak/pine barrens with sandy acidic soil. I'll probably plant them under a white pine which is mulched with its own needles and stray oak leaves.

They apparently used to be widespread here but were decimated by collectors of the flowers. I found this thread when I searched for information and thought I'd share the availability if anyone is nearby.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 5:10PM
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When I observe them in the wild they are almost always on a slope. Sometimes in flatter areas of woodland I see them at the base of large trees where the ground goes curves up to meet the trunk.
I think this is becasue they prefer areas where they can't be smothered easily by accumulating tree leaves. In a landscaped yard I guess the leaves could be raked away from the plants easily enough.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2006 at 9:42PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That's timely information winged mammal!

I was looking this morning trying to decide exactly where to plant them, and one spot I considered was on the slope near the edge of the road. This is a dirt road, lightly traveled, and I've been turning this area into a woodland type garden. In fact I remember as a child my mother pointed out a "mayflower" to me, growing on the side of the dirt road on a slope.

I'm about to go out and plant them but I thought I'd check in to see if anybody had comments.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2006 at 11:02AM
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Although established plants require a dry, well drained site, it is imperative that you water newly transplanted specimens on a regular basis (once a week if you don't have rain) for two growing seasons. The tap root is rarely intact and it takes a long time for the other roots to keep the plant going.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 9:51AM
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I've had poor luck with this plant even following all the instructions. I think part of the problem is that nursuries like Arrowhead ship the plant bareroot. For a plant that doesn't like root disturbance this is certain death. If one could get a potted and rooted one from someplace like the New England Wildflower Society, then I supect it would increase its chances ten-fold.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 2:25PM
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Hello, fellow mayflower lovers! I too have had a number of the beauties succumb on me; first, some I had taken from the wild (I even managed to sprout some from their minute seeds but no better luck with them) and then a couple of nursery specimens. I believe one key to successful is much the same as for holly that I've *finally* managed to get to flourish, i.e., make sure the soil will drain quickly. I have had several varieties of holly that died shortly after transplanting and I have to wonder if it wasn't a combination of root disturbance + overwatering. Anyway, I'm still hoping to get another plant or two of e. repens, and this time I think I may have it right. Onwards to next, flowering spring!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2006 at 3:00PM
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Fraser's Thimble Farms, in British Columbia, ship this potted.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 10:40PM
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I see that Lazy S'S Farm Nursery sells this in quart pots.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 9:37PM
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