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Low-growing heartleaf brunnera boasts clouds of sky blue flowers from early to midspring that look just like forget-me-nots (hence the nickname false forget-me-not”). This plant is also grown for its striking heart-shape green foliage that when silvered is almost iridescent in the right light. As an added bonus, the foliage is so hairy that it’s avoided by deer and rabbits.
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Part Sun, Shade
1 to 3 feet
12 to 30 inches
Heartleaf brunnera's blue blossoms and shapely, often variegated leaves make this plant a favorite in the shade garden. Choose a standard brunnera for its handsome solid green leaves that partner well with other more brightly hued plants. Or seek out a variety with variegated foliage to add color and pattern beneath the canopy of other taller plants, shrubs, or trees. The leaves of 'Dawson's White' are grayish green with creamy white borders. The leaves of 'Hadspen Cream' boast creamy yellow margins. 'Diane's Gold' features early leaves of gold that change to chartreuse. Since the introduction of 'Jack Frost' in the early 2000s, shimmering heavily silvered green leaves have become a popular option to explore. All of these leaf forms make stunning backdrops to brunnera's dainty blue or white blossoms in spring.
Heartleaf Brunnera Care Must-Knows
Heartleaf brunnera adds color and interest to the landscape with little effort—as long as you meet its needs in the beginning. Plant brunnera in a shady spot with organically rich, well-drained, evenly moist (but not soggy) soil. When grown in a cool, shady environment, brunnera can tolerate occasional droughts as long as it receives supplemental waterings during the extended ones. (Silver-leaf varieties handle heat and humidity better than specimens with leaves of other colors.) Promptly remove unsightly foliage and spent flower heads to maintain a plant's good looks. Cut back badly damaged plants to encourage regrowth and improve their health overall. In ideal soil conditions, heartleaf brunnera will spread very slowly via underground rhizomes to create large clumps of plants—in a similar fashion to hosta.
Brunnera's tolerance to sun exposure varies depending on leaf type and color. Some varieties—such as the above-mentioned 'Dawson's White'—benefit from some morning sun that promotes colorful foliage and a greater number of flowers. Some silver and gold varieties lose a little luster in full shade, taking on more of a green appearance. In cooler climates some varieties (especially green ones) can thrive in full sun as long as they are well watered. Brunnera may struggle in regions with hot, humid summers. In other words, pay attention to the variety or cultivar, and site accordingly.
Brunnera's popularity has taken off with the introduction of silvered varieties like 'Jack Frost' that gleam in the shade and resist scorching in sunny locations. Plants in the pipeline include new compact varieties that look great in containers.