Hepatica January bloom, common hepatica, liverleaf, liver leaf liverwort, hepatica nobilis var. obtusa, round-lobed hepatica, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest

Winter Blooming Hepatica

In a patch of January sunshine, bright violet flowers glow. They’re tiny– but in winter, every flower is precious. I’m stoked.

Hepatica, ica January bloom,common hepatica, liverleaf, liver leaf liverwort, hepatica nobilis var. obtusa, round-lobed hepatica, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This is Hepatica. I got a pot of it from the Vancouver Island Rock & Alpine Garden Society meeting last January. I’m happy that it’s settled into its new home & is blooming so early. This winter has been fairly mild so far, but we did have snow for 3 days over Christmas. Tough little plant, eh? The leaves didn’t even die back.

These leaves are kind of unusual, too. Each leaf grows up from the crown of the plant & has 3 rounded lobes. They were mottled green last summer but are now changing to a more bronzy colour. Years ago someone decided they looked a bit like a human liver, so that’s why Hepatica is also called liver-leaf or liverwort. I think it’s prettier than that name implies.

Hepatica, common hepatica, liverleaf, liver leaf liverwort, hepatica nobilis var. obtusa, round-lobed hepatica, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This little woodland gem grows in zone 4-9 across the northern hemisphere, so it can handle some pretty tough winters. It’s a native wildflower in Eastern Canada.

The flowers open wide in the sunshine then close as the cloud cover moves in or night falls. I reckon that’s a clever strategy for protecting itself until another day when the insects might be out again to help with pollination.

Some sources say Hepatica needs moisture, so I’ve kept it in a pot in the courtyard where I’m sure it’ll get summer water more often than our garden beds do. Other sources say it can be drought-tolerant, too. Here in Victoria, the summers are REALLY dry so I wonder if it can survive that much drought? (There’s certainly no lack of moisture through our Pacific Northwest winters.)

Hepatica, January bloom, common hepatica, liverleaf, liver leaf liverwort, hepatica nobilis var. obtusa, round-lobed hepatica, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Hepatica is listed as a handy ‘winter browse‘ & is not safe from deer. That’s just another reason to keep it in our courtyard.

I only have this one plant & I’m reticent to risk it. Hopefully, it’ll set seed. If I can get some new plants started, I might be able to encourage the babies to grow in a protected spot in our garden. Until then, it’ll stay in the pot where I know it’s happy.

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Other January gems in the Pacific Northwest:

7 thoughts on “Winter Blooming Hepatica”

  1. That’s beautiful SV! I’ve always admired Hepatica, but the price of them at Fraser Thimble Farm was always enough to put me off. But now that I have a tiny “real” garden again, I might have to splurge. I’d love one of the blue ones! Then maybe one day we could swap seedlings.

    1. Thanks, Jill 🙂 I’m looking fwd to seeing more photos of your new garden…. and I’ll keep an eye out for more Hepatica, just in case VIRAGS has any leftovers. They rescued several from a very special garden. So many of us that divide oversized perennials haven’t been able to send them to garden club sales tables since March. I’m crossing my fingers there will be some kind of spring sale in April.

  2. So nice to see some colours and look forward to your photos and articles about interesting plants. Thank you!

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