Bergenia is an easy-to-grow, clump-forming perennial primarily grown as a groundcover or as edging for walkways. This plant’s foliage appears as large rosettes of glossy, leathery, gently toothed, dark-green leaves that are heart-shape at the base. When you rub these large leaves together, they sound like a squealing pig, hence the common name “pig squeak.” Deep-pink flowers appear from the center of the foliage rosettes in April and May.
Fall's cooler nights prompt bergenia's foliage to take on a striking purple-bronze color. During winter, the evergreen foliage becomes more intensely burgundy, and in milder winters can look good year round. In April, small dark-pink flowers bloom on the plant in loose branching clusters (panicles) on thick stems.
Bergenia Care Must-Knows
Bergenia tolerates a wide range of lighting conditions, but part shade to full shade suit it best. Although this evergreen perennial grows well in average, well-drained soil, moist humus-rich soil provides maximum growth and bloom power. Once established, bergenia is drought-tolerant, but appreciates supplemental watering during extended dry spells. Bergenia is usually problem- and pest-free, but keep an eye out for slug damage.
This perennial is considered evergreen in the South, while in more northern states it may suffer winter damage. Protect this plant from strong, cold winter winds to prevent its evergreen leaves from losing too much moisture. Remove any damaged foliage and spent flowering stems in late winter or early spring, but leave living foliage alone.
Because this plant grows slowly via creeping rhizomes, division is not often needed. You may want to divide them every 3-5 years, though, to help them regain vitality. If a plant begins to die out in the center, you know it's time to divide it.
More Varieties of Bergenia
'Apple Blossom' Bergenia
Bergenia cordifolia 'Apple Blossom' features large pale pink flowers on red stems that rise above glossy green leaves.
'Bressingham White' Bergenia
Bergenia cordifolia 'Bressingham White' has flowers that open pink but age to white. Fall foliage is burgundy.
Bergenia Companion Plants
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shape flowers and mounds of handsome, lobed foliage. It needs full sun, but otherwise it is a tough and reliable plant, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.
Lady's mantle looks great in the garden and in a vase. Its scalloped leaves catch rain or drewdrops, making them look dusted with jewels. The chartreuse flowers appear in playful, frothy clusters above the foliage. Lady's mantle is ideal for softening the edge of a shaded path or creating a groundcover in dappled shade.
In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, always please and continue to be handsome through the season and into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover, or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses and retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.