Bergenia (Elephant's ears)

Bergenia purpurascens

A quick spreading hardy perennial, with distinctive large round, evergreen leaves. Its low growing habit makes this plant ideal for edging borders. During late winter/early spring, sprays of white, pink, red or purple bell-shaped flowers are borne on thick spikes above the glossy foliage. The leaves of many varieties fade to rich reddish hues in the autumn.

Family: Saxifragaceae
Botanical Name: Bergenia
Common Names: Elephant's ears

Foliage: large, waxy, evergreen leaves

Flowers: White, pink, red, purple (depending on variety).

Soil: Likes any well-drained good garden soil.

Aspect: Thrives in sun or partial shade.

Habit: Bushy, spreading.

Hardiness: Hardy in most areas of the UK.

Planting and Growing Bergenia

Best planted in deep, fairly heavy soil, in partial shade. Tolerates shade, clay, chalky or dry soils and coastal exposure. Will do well in all but very hot and dry situations.

This vigorous spreading plant provides excellent ground cover for the front of the border. It thrives in partial shade under trees and shrubs and will spread rapidly under the correct growing conditions. Ideally suited to the gravel garden or in a sunny or partially shaded border. Can also be used to provide a bold foliage contrast in a mixed planting scheme.

Taking Care of Bergenia

An easy to grow plant that is generally free of pest and diseases. Lift and divide congested clumps every three years or so to rejuvenate the plant and improve flowering.


Yellow wilting leaves could indicate root rot caused by waterlogged soil. Brown blotches on the leaves could be leaf spot fungus. In which case, remove affected leaves and apply a garden fungicide.

Propagating Bergenia

Propagate by sowing seed in the spring or by division from late spring (after flowering) to early autumn. Divide by lifting congested clumps and teasing away rooted sections of rhizome, to form new plants. Replant immediately in the flowering position.

Popular Varieties of Bergenia Grown in the UK

There are many different cultivars of Bergenia available from medium to dwarf height. Flower colours range from pink, carmine, crimson, purple and white.

Bergenia 'Ballawley' large hybrid. Leaves turn rich purple and bronze in autumn. Bright sprays of rose-red flowers in spring. Height: 2ft (60cm) Spread: 20in (50cm).

Bergenia 'Beethoven' white flowers surrounded by red or pink sepals, good strong autumn foliage colour. Height and spread: 18in (45cm).

Bergenia 'Bressingham White' white flowers in spring. Height 12-18in (30-45cm), spread 18-24in (45-60cm).

Bergenia cordifolia 'Purpurea' one of the most popular varieties grown. Mid green leaves with pale purple flowers. One of the best bergenias for autumn colour, turning a deep reddish purple.

Bergenia crassifolia (Heartleaf Bergenia) (syn. B. cordifolia) large dark green leaves. Early flowering, with upright rose pink flower heads. Height & spread 12 - 18in (30 - 45cm). Excellent for ground cover. A popular cultivar is Bergenia crassifolia 'Autumn Red.'

Bergenia purpurascens (purple bergenia) with narrow leaves and reddish flowers borne in late spring.

Bergenia × schmidtii rounded leaves and sprays of pink flowers in late winter / early spring. Height: 30cm (12in) Spread: 60cm (2ft). Good for ground cover.

Bergenia 'Silberlicht' (Bergenia 'Silverlight') low growing and free-flowering. Flowers are white tinged with pink.

Bergenia 'Sunningdale' deep pink/lilac flowers. Green leaves that flush red in Summer, turning coppery-red in winter.

Bergenia 'Abendglut' (Evening Glow) a modern dwarf variety. Red/pink flowers in mid- to late spring. Dark green leaves with a striking red underside.