By Heather Rhoades
The name lungwort often gives a gardener pause. Can a plant with such an ugly name truly be a lovely plant? But that is exactly what lungwort plants are. This shade plant is not only attractive, but surprisingly resilient.
About the Lungwort Flower
Lungwort (Pulmonaria sp) gets its name from the fact that herbalists from long ago thought the leaves of the plant looked like a lung and, therefore, would treat lung disorders. The supposed medicinal effects of the plant have long since been disproven, but the less than attractive name has stuck. They are also occasionally referred to as Bethlehem sage, Jerusalem cowslip, spotted dog, and soldiers and sailors.
Lungwort plants are most often grown for their interesting leaves, which are green with random white spots, looking as though someone liberally splashed bleach on them. The leaves also have a rough, hairy fuzz covering them. The lungwort flower appears in early spring and can be blue, pink or white, and is frequently two or more colors on a single plant. Often the flowers on a lungwort will start out one color before eventually fading into another color as the flower ages.
How to Grow Lungwort
When planting lungworts in your garden, keep in mind that these plants do best in shady, moist (but not swampy) locations. If planted in full sun, the plant will wilt and appear sickly. While the plant does best in moist locations, it can survive in drier locations if enough shade is provided. Because of this, consider growing lungwort under trees where other plants may have a hard time competing with the roots of the tree for water. In fact, lungwort is one of the few plants that are immune to the effects of black walnut trees and makes a lovely underplanting for these trees.
Lungwort plants grow in clumps and reach a height of about 12 inches. In proper conditions they can spread rapidly. They can be divided in early spring or fall. When dividing lungworts, do not be panicked if the plants wilt soon after division. Simply replant them and provide water and they will perk back up quickly.
Once established, lungworts need little extra care. You only need to water them in times of drought and they only need light fertilizer once a year.
Once you get past the ugly name, planting lungworts in your garden becomes a wonderful idea. Growing lungwort in your shade garden is both easy and beautiful.