Pulmonaria Information – Care and Maintenance

Basic information about Pulmonaria.  Includes Origin, Growing & Cultivation, Common Pests & Diseases, Interesting Facts & Uses,  and Garden Design Tips.

Pulmonaria Origin

pulmonaria raspberry splash
Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’

The scientific genus name, Pulmonaria, is derived from the Latin ‘Pulmo’ meaning lung – the silvery-spotted leaves were said to resemble diseased lungs.

The common name of ‘Lungwort’ also hints at this presumed similarity.

This genus is native to Europe and western Asia, with one species in central/east Asia.

Growing and Cultivation

Pulmonaria prefer partial to full shade, and cool, moist to normal soil conditions.  Leaves may scorch or wilt in full sun, and can die back in summer in hot, humid climates.  They will come back up in fall, during cooler temperatures.

Many are fast growers, and spread via creeping rhizomes.


Common Pests and Diseases

pulmonaria flower color change
Pulmonaria flowers color change

This plant is pretty disease and pest resistant, but can be susceptible to powdery mildew and slugs/snails.  To prevent mildew, leave plenty of air flow space around stems.  For slugs or snails, you can apply a homemade or commercial slug/snail bait or preventative.

Pulmonaria is deer resistant; they prefer not to eat it due to the frequently hairy texture.

Interesting Facts and Uses

In medieval times, ‘sympathetic medicine’ believed that to treat diseases, you went looking for ingredients that bore a symbolic resemblance to the ailment!  Thus, Pulmonaria (Lungwort)’s name and use – to treat diseases of the lungs – was invented.  In modern times, no proven medicinal properties have been found for this plant.

Some Pulmonaria species are used as food plants for certain species of moths.  ‘Lungwort’ is one of the few plants that can survive under Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees; they are resistant to the chemical poison it emits from the roots.

The flowers of this plant change color as they age!  They will emerge in pink shades, and as they get older, transition to more blue/purple hues.

Pulmonaria blossoms close at night, and open in the morning the next day.

Garden Design Tips

pulmonaria raspberry splash in garden
Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ in a garden setting

Pulmonaria’s cheery flowers and showy leaves add both color and texture to a shady garden bed, border or as a ground cover under trees!

They naturalize and spread readily, so mass plantings are common.

Hostas, heucheras, astilbes, epimediums and other shade perennials (especially wide-leaved foliage plants) can be contrasted nicely with Lungwort’s narrow, spotted leaves.


Purchasing Pulmonaria

To purchase Pulmonaria varieties, please visit our Shade Companion Plants Page.