Bergenia / Pigsqueak

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A cold hardy ground cover with luxuriant foliage and impressive floral displays

The Bergenia genus contains herbaceous perennials, commonly called bergenia, pigsqueak, elephant ear, or heartleaf. Cold hardy plants, bergenia are deciduous to semievergreen in Zones 3 to 7; but in Zones 8 and above, they usually remain evergreen and are often grown for their colorful winter foliage, which ranges from purplish bronze to deep mahogany, depending on cultivar. Bergenias typically bloom in early spring but may bloom in winter in warmer climates. Borne on stout stalks, prolific clusters dense with white, pink, or rose-colored flowers rise above a lush, open rosette of bold, large, leathery leaves, which have a rounded shape, glossy sheen, and wavy or saw-toothed edges. Both flowers and leaves are attractive additions to floral arrangements. Left in the garden, the nectar- and pollen-rich blooms sustain bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Bergenia is a genus of 32 known species. B. cordifolia, B. crassifolia, and B. stracheyi are common species in cultivation, but the most popular bergenias for home gardens tend to be hybrids. Low-growing, rhizomatous plants, bergenias form a thick, slowly spreading clump of foliage that eventually reaches about 2 to 3 feet wide. Their native habitat includes shady north-facing rocks, stony scree slopes, and rock streams in forests and alpine zones. So, bergenias are perfect for rock gardens and woodland gardens. But they’re a cottage garden favorite, nice as border fronts, ground cover in beds, edging along paths and walkways, and as underplanting for roses and shrubs. And they’re great for containers too.

Bergenias are shade tolerant but grow and flower best with some sun. In cool summer climates, full sun is best; in hot summer climates, dappled sun and some afternoon shade may be required. Although considered drought tolerant, bergenias should not be allowed to dry out completely. The plants are deer and rabbit resistant. 

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