Growing Pulmonarias

Pulmonaria 'sissinghurst white' with solitary bee Pulmonaria 'Blue ensign' Pulmonaria delicate small flowers vital for the early solitary bees

Growing Pulmonaria

green wheelbarrow easy to growPulmonaria, common name Lungwort, are an early spring flowering hardy perennial which are semi evergreen. Pulmonaria are a shade loving plant which like moist but well drained soil in shade or semi shade and in those conditions, Pulmonaria are easy to grow . Pulmonaria flower very early in the year, late winter and early spring and are attractive to bees providing much needed early nectar in late February, March and April. Pulmonaria flowers are blue, white, pink and some a combination of both, as in the image centre.

Pulmonaria are small plants,  up to about 35cms and form clumps around 45cms which makes them good for front of borders, or ground cover, and in the right conditions look nice in a woodland border. Many have attractive white spotted leaves such as in the image left 'Sissinghurst White' and also 'Lewis Palmer' both of which are RHS garden merit plants and 'Fruhlingshimmel' Two of the strongest blues in Pulmonarias are  'Mawson's blue' and 'Blue Ensign' , second center image, both of which have unspotted leaves similar to those in left image.

Pulmonaria do like it shady and cooler and if grown in full sun this may scorch the leaves and make them more prone to mildew. When growing Pulmonaria,  after flowering, remove any damaged or tired looking leaves which will also make way for the new leaf growth which appears in the summer . Remove also any leaves showing signs of mildew and Pulmonaria  will show new growth of leaves in the summer.  Like Hellebores, the old leaves on Pulmonarias tend to lie at the base of the plant with the new growth in the centre, so it is best to cut off all the old growth near the ground, leaving the new fresh foliage uppermost. When growing Pulmonaria this cutting back of the old leaves will much improve the appearance of the plant.

Pulmonaria are good for Bees

Pulmonaria-sissinghurst-white-with-solitary-bee.-310For me, a good reason to grow Pulmonaria is to provide a source of nectar for early foraging bees, such as hungry queen bumblebees. Pulmonaria attract solitary bees, as in the image left showing a bee, early in the season on a P. sissinghurst white. In some ways Pulmonaria are not a showy plant, relatively low growing with small flowers but they are a useful addition to a wildlife friendly garden because they are one of the few plants flowering in February, March and April which specifically attract solitary bees and the hairy footed bee. For more about the hairy footed bee, this link to the bumblebee conservation trust 

How to propagate Pulmonaria

 Pulmonaria self seed although not as to be a nuisance and it is easy to remove unwanted seedlings.

If you want plants true to the colour of the parent plants, which is not often the case with seedlings, it is better to divide them and Pulmonarias grow better if divided every 5 years, although it is not essential to do so. To divide Pulmonarias, after flowering trim back spent leaves and then lift the clump with a fork, and shake off soil so the roots can be seen. Divide up the clump and re plant watering well.

Pulmonarias are easy to grow although they are prone to mildew and if this happens cut off all infected leaves and if extensive cut plant down to ground level, it will re grow.  

Pulmonarias are a good source of early nectar for the solitary bees as they emerge and forage for food. For more information check out wildlife friendly plants and plants for bees and butterflies.

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