What’s growing in April: Pulmonaria

In my tiny back garden, which I’ve taken to calling the Microgarden, one of the first perennials to bloom is the Pulmonaria aka, among other things, lungwort and Bethlehem sage. It’s an old-fashioned variety that I’ve had for so long, it pre-dates my awareness of any such arcane things as ‘cultivars.’ From what I’ve learned since, I think it’s likely to be Pulmonaria saccarata ‘Mrs. Moon’.

The ‘Mrs.’ is a generally reliable, low-growing perennial for shade (or sun, with sufficient moisture) that makes its flowers early in the season. They emerge pink and turn gradually to blue, so that both colours can be present on the same plant. This is why one of its many common names is girls and boys.

After flowering, the plant produces a crown of silvery-spotted, hairy leaves, which are great in masses or as edging. They’re a good companion with Hosta or with frilly-leafed shade-lovers such as fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia.

One of the biggest trends in horticulture over the past decade or so has been hybridization. There has been an explosion, for instance, in the selection of coralbells (Heuchera spp.) now available — with yellow leaves, chartreuse leaves, blackish purple leaves. While not in as broad an array, Pulmonarias have likewise been hybridized to offer a wider range of leaf shapes with more silvering, as well as to select flowers for different colours, from white to intense blue.

Hybrids do tend to be fussier than the common forms, however, which is why I’m sticking loyally to good old ‘Mrs. Moon.’

In fact, I bowed right down to her to capture this very first bloom of the season.


  1. Sometimes the best plants are the ones you have to get on your knees to see. I found an interesting article about it from Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, NC at: (www.plantdelights.com/Catalog/Plants/Genus/Pulmonaria)

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