By Jenn Stumer – Appalachian Creations, Inc.
The scientific name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin pulmo meaning lung. During the Middle Ages, when plants were used as medicine based on their shape, Lungwort Pulmonaria was thought to resemble a diseased lung and so were used to treat pulmonary infections. To this day, it is still used as a remedy for asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis.
Native to Europe and western Asia, lungwort became more visible in the United States in the early to mid-’90s with many new varieties introduced.
Lungwort is an herbaceous, hardy perennial that has an average height of 12” with an average spread of 24”. I ran across them a few years ago looking for unique plants for a shady perennial garden. I decided to try them for the customer but also planted one in my own shady garden area. They have outperformed coral bells and astilbe for my customer AND they are deer resistant. The deer glossed right over them and decimated the hostas instead. I am truly a fan.
What does it look like?
The leaves of Lungwort are lance-shaped, silver-spotted with a light to rich green color and are usually covered in small, bristly hairs. The plant itself has a mounded shape that slowly spreads into an attractive groundcover. Lungwort are one of the first perennials to bloom in the spring and depending on the variety, the trumpet-like flowers emerge pink. Many will change colors as they mature or are pollinated turning white, blue, dark pink or blue and pink combined. The flowers are tiny and dainty but sprout from the foliage profusely. Oh, and bees love them!
Lungwort is considered a woodland plant and will do well in moist, shady gardens. They Lungwort works great paired with bleeding heart as they both bloom at the same time. The striking leaves of lungwort also complement hosta, astilbe and coral bells during the rest of the season. Considered a semi-evergreen perennial, the foliage of lungwort will be visible throughout the winter.
Lungwort is difficult to find as not all garden centers will carry them even though there are hundreds of varieties. Whenever I see some for sale, I usually grab as many as I can, knowing I will be able to use them somewhere during the planting season.