Pulmonaria / Lungwort

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Popular shade garden flowers that make a gorgeous ground cover

The Pulmonaria genus contains herbaceous perennials, commonly called lungworts, grown for their attractive foliage and flowers. A cottage garden favorite, lungworts are not only bold and colorful but also tough and easy to grow. The leaves of most are fuzzy and have an artsy mix of white or silver spots and blotches; but some newer cultivars have silver or white leaves with green marks or margins. Lungworts bloom late winter to early spring, providing bees with some much-needed early nectar. Borne in clusters on short stalks, the small funnel-shaped flowers sit just above the foliage and are typically shades of pink, purple, or blue; however, clusters often appear two-toned as most flowers emerge as pink or violet buds and mature to the distinct blue color often seen in the flowers of the borage family. But some appear almost white, and a few varieties have true red flowers. No matter the color, hummingbirds love them.

Pulmonaria is a genus of about 17 species. The plants are typically compact and low growing, reaching approximately 9 to 18 inches tall and up to 2 feet wide. Rhizomatous, lungworts spread slowly but are not invasive, making a nice, restrained ground cover. Some of the most popular species for home gardens are P. angustifolia (narrow-leaved lungwort), P. officinalis (common lungwort, blue lungwort, Jerusalem sage), P. saccharata (Bethlehem lungwort, Bethlehem sage), P. longifolia (long-leafed lungwort, Bethleham sage), and P. hybrids.

Indigenous to woodlands and thickets, lungworts grow best in cool areas with dappled to light shade but may appreciate a few hours of morning sun. Cold hardy plants, they generally have poor heat tolerance; but some hybrids are very tolerant of heat and humidity. Lungworts thrive in most soils as long as they are not too wet or too dry, and they are deer and rabbit resistant. 

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