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Lungwort, how to plant, care for, and grow Pulmonaria

Lungwort pulmonaria

A unique flower  that blooms in full shade, lungwort has delicately dotted leaves.

Key lungwort facts

Type – perennial

Height – 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm)
Exposure – part sun

Soil: ordinary, well drained   –   Flowering: spring → early summer

Lungwort, or Pulmonaria, has been grown as an ornamental herb for centuries for its beauty and benefits.

  • Note: lungwort is also a name given to a type of lichen.

Planting lungwort

When planting lungwort, the best season is fall, but you can also plant over winter until spring as long as you avoid frost spells.

Even though it loves shade, it will need a little bit of sun if you want many nice flowers.

  • Planting lungwortMix regular garden soil with soil mix and water. Lungwort likes well drained soil.
  • When sowing from seed, best is direct sowing at the beginning of spring, this will ensure you’ll get some blooming the year after.
  • Water well over the first months after planting.

Lungwort propagation

How to propagate lungwortThe best way to propagate your lungwort is to divide the clumps in fall.

  • Dig out the clump carefully. It helps if the soil is neither too dry, nor too soggy.
  • Separate the root ball. The root systems forms clusters you can carefully tear apart.
  • Replant each portion elsewhere as described above.

Proper lungwort care

An easy plant to care for without much maintenance, lungwort actually won’t need any attention at all once it’s properly settled in.

Remove wilted flowers regularly (this is called deadheading).

Lungwort is among the first flowers to bloom right at the end of winter at the onset of spring.

Lungwort diseases

Vulnerable to powdery mildew, it’s best to avoid getting the leaves wet when watering.

Lungwort species and varieties

Several different species of longwort exist. The most common one is Plumonaria officinalis, which is the traditional medicinal plant.

Other species also have health benefits, but they aren’t as documented. They are all very lovely, with different leaf sizes, shapes and patterns.

  • Lungwort pulmonaria varietiesPulmonaria longifolia, the long-leaved lungwort.
  • Pulmonaria officinalis, is edible even in a daily diet, and it’s excellent in ensure that the respiratory system functions optimally.
  • Pulmonaria affinis, a nearly identical species that is typically found in higher altitudes (in Europe across the Alps and the Pyrenees mountain ranges). It also sports green and white leaves, and its small flowers shift in tone as they develop, starting out pink and turning blue when mature.
  • Pulmonaria angustifolia, the thin-leaved lungwort
  • Pulmonaria saccharata, latin for “sugar-dusted” but also called Bethlehem lungwort

Lungwort cultivars

Lungwort varietiesGarden stores and plant breeders have started to grow special, unique lungwort varieties. Among these, make note to check the following to see if they appeal to you:

  • Lungwort ‘Spot on’ – a hybrid with salmon pink buds that turn into beautiful blue flowers
  • Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry’ – beautiful, tight clusters of flowers
  • ‘Silver bouquet’ pulmonaria – sharp triangular leaves with an elegant mottled leaf pattern

Learn more about Pulmonaria

Lungwort landscapingThe archetype of melliferous flowers, lungwort is a magnificent ground cover perennial. It owes its name to the spots on its leaves and to its incredible helpfulness in treating all sorts of bronchial disorders (taken simply as tea).

It bears cute little pink flowers that turn blue as they age. Whether you need to flower up a spot under shade trees or decorate a flower bed or planter, lungwort won’t give you any trouble at all.

The botanical name for the plant comes from latin “pulmonaria radicula” because its root was used to treat respiratory and hence lung-related ailments.

Pulmonaria officinalis is a much-appreciated plant, known for its health benefits in relation to breathing problems.

It’s also an uncommon discovery in the kitchen, where it can be prepared both raw or cooked, like spinach.

Smart tip about lungwort

This plant needs shade and cool soil. Do follow the urge to water in summer, especially if the weather is hot.

Images: CC BY 2.0: normanack, CC BY-SA 2.0: Jan Borlaug, Carol VanHook, Ross Dunn; Pixabay: Petra Göschel; shutterstock: Nikonova Margarita
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