Small family of low growing, shade loving, hardy perennials with interesting foliage and dainty spring flowers. A pretty cottage-garden favourite that provides excellent ground cover in partial shade.

Family: Boraginaceae (borage or forget-me-not family)
Botanical Name: Pulmonaria
Common Names: Lungwort, Bethlehem sage, Jerusalem cowslip, blue cowslip

Foliage: Deciduous or semi-evergreen, lance-shaped to narrowly oval, green leaves. Leaf colour can be spotted, mottled or silvery, depending on variety.

Flowers: Small clusters of funnel-shaped flowers that usually open pink and then change to blue. Deep blue, red and white forms are also available.

Flowering Period: Spring.

Soil: Any moist but not waterlogged soil. Chalk, clay or loam. Any pH. Dislikes hot dry conditions.

Conditions: Best in partial shade. Any semi-shaded aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Low growing, clump forming.

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Origin: Europe

Hardiness: Fully hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Pulmonaria

Plant out at the end of spring or early autumn, in a humus-rich soil. Keep soil moist during the growing season. They can tolerate morning sun but need afternoon shade to avoid leaf scorching.

This easy to grow, rapidly spreading plant, is ideal for ground-cover in damp partial shady spot. Good for the front of a shady border, under deciduous trees or around roses and other open shrubs.

Attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.

Taking Care of Pulmonaria

Water well in dry weather. Mulch in early summer to conserve moisture. Divide and replant established clumps every three years or so, to regain vigour.

Pruning Pulmonaria

The leaves can become tatty once flowering has finished. They can be trimmed down to the base after flowering to encourage fresh foliage to grow. Remove all dead leaves in autumn.

Pests and Diseases

Young shoots can be affect by slugs and snails. Occasionally attacked by sawfly.

The leaves can be affected by mildew in dry conditions.

Propagating Pulmonaria

Divide established clumps when dormant in the autumn (September or October) or immediately after flowering. Alternatively, take root cuttings in winter.

Popular Varieties of Pulmonaria Grown in the UK

A good number of garden varieties and cultivars are available:

Pulmonaria angustifolia (blue cowslip) is a perennial with plain narrow lance-shaped green leaves and small blue funnel-shaped flowers in spring. Good cultivars include: 'Munstead Blue' with clusters of bright blue flowers borne on erect stems and 'Mawsons Variety' with rich blue flowers. Height 8-12in (20-30cm).

Pulmonaria longifolia (narrow-leaved lungwort) vivid blue flowers and very thin, dark green leaves. A good selection of cultivars are available with flowers in various shades of pink and blue. Height to 12in (30cm), spread to 18in (45cm). Pulmonaria longifolia ‘Majeste’ is a particularly attractive form with almost solid silver leaves.

Pulmonaria Moonshine has very attractive silvery leaves, with blushed pink flowers that fade to a pale icy blue/white. The leaves are more rounded and almost fully silvered when mature. Height 8-12in (20-30cm).

Pulmonaria officinalis (common lungwort, Jerusalem cowslip) has grey-white spotted, oval light-green leaves with clusters of small, funnel-shaped, bluish-purple flowers in spring. Flowers are pink in bud, opening to blue. Height to 12in (30cm).

Pulmonaria rubra is a good early flowering form, with rich green, downy, pointed leaves and rose-red flowers in January-March. The cultivar 'Redstart' is particularly attractive. Height to 16in (40cm), spread to 2ft (60cm).

Pulmonaria saccharata has attractive silver-green markings on the foliage and early spring blue and pink flowers. Height to 12in (30cm), spread to 2ft (60cm). Good cultivars include: 'Argentea' with silvery white markings on the leaves, 'Pink Dawn' with pretty pink flowers and 'Mrs Moon' with rose pink flowers. Pulmonaria saccharata 'White Wings' has white flowers and 'Bowles Variety' produces sprays of red flowers in March-April.