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Plant Profile: Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata)

pulmonaria-saccharata-reginald-kayeAlso known as Bethelehem sage, this herbaceous perennial is native to France and Italy and is member of the borage family (Borageacea) along with forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.) and Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla). The leaves alone earn this plant a place in the garden with their silver motling and bristly hairs. They form a basal rosette and are four to twelve inches long depending on the cultivar. The blue bell-shaped flowers are slightly nodding and produced in clusters from April to May before the foliage has expanded. They are one inch long and open from pink buds so that both blue flowers and pink buds may be present in the same cluster at one time. Plants self-seed and spread slowly by rhizomes. Bethlehem sage is an excellent choice for moist shade and can be used as a ground cover. Unfortunately, it does not do well with the combination of heat and humidity. Several good cultivars are available that vary in flower color, leaf length and leaf markings. The generic name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin word pulmo meaning lung and refers to the fact that the leaves look like diseased lungs and were used to treat lung diseases in the past. This characteristic is also noted by the common name lungwort. The specific epithet, saccharata, is the Latin word saccharatus meaning sugary and refers to the white sugar like markings on the leaves.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Clusters of nodding, bell-shaped blue flowers open from pink buds in April and May

Size: 8-18″ H x 18-24″ W

Light: Part shade, full shade

Soil: Average, medium moist. well-drained

Care: Low maintenance; do not allow the soil to dry out

Hardiness: Zones 3-10

Pests and Diseases: Root rot in poorly drained soil, powdery mildew, slugs

Propagation: Seed, crown division

Companion Plants: Hosta, heucheras, Helleborus orientalis, the grass, Milium effusum ‘Aureum’

Outstanding Selections:
‘Mrs Moon” (The standard cultivar; four inch, more rounded leaves sith subdued leaf spots)
‘Sissinghurst White” (White flowers with silvery speckled leaves)
‘Janet Fiske” (large silvery spots on leaves)