I’ve got lots of shady, moist spots in my yard, perfect for an unassuming little charmer known as pulmonaria. Then when I had to take down two big trees a couple of years ago, I discovered it can take a lot more sun than I realized.
Here it is in my new root garden, among the roots and stumps of those two trees. It’s the silver-leaved clump in front:
Much of my pulmonaria now bakes in the hot sun for a few hours every afternoon — and it doesn’t seem to mind a bit.
Outside of bulbs, they are one of the first bloomers in my garden in spring, a welcome sight for bees and early-arriving hummingbirds.
The delicate tubular flowers come in shades of blue, pink, purple, white or red and will last for a few weeks.
In recent years, breeders have created new pulmonarias with foliage that’s spotted or marbled with shades of white and silver, adding interest to the garden well beyond spring.
Also known as lungwort and Bethlehem sage, pulmonarias are low growers that work well as decorative plants for the front of the border. Good as a groundcover, too. And did I mention that they’re deer resistant?
Pulmonarias will spread over time by sending out rhizomes, but they are well behaved and not aggressive. Divide them every three to five years — after they flower or in fall — if the blooms begin to fail or they look unhappy.
Recently I’ve begun to divide mine more frequently to increase my supply of these easy-care perennials.
Pulmonarias prefer rich, loamy soil that’s moist but not wet, but they’ll also do well in rock gardens with dry, rocky conditions.
Good companion plantings include astilbe, bleeding heart, ferns and heuchera. Or try them under rhododendrons, azaleas or spring-blooming trees.
You’ll find them a very welcome addition to your garden.