Lungwort is a classic garden perennial prized for its early spring blooms. These beautiful plants work wonders in shade gardens because of their multicolor, long-lasting blooms, and their silver-pattern foliage. What’s not to love?
In the past, people believed that when a plant resembled a body part, it was capable of curing ailments of said part. Lungwort's leaves reminded early botanists of a diseased lung, and therefore people thought the plant could cure respiratory issues. This led to its common name, but it does not in fact have any medical properties. However, lungwort does have pretty spring blooms that are almost tissue paper-like in appearance and come in a variety of colors. They fade beautifully in color, starting as a lovely shade of red; as they age, they become a rich purple.
Medium green lance- and heart-shape leaves on lungwort sport silver speckles. This silver spotting can actually become so dense that the entire leaf appears silver in color. With their playful patterns and lovely silver color, these plants work well with other shade plants and add brightness to dark corners of the garden.
Lungwort Care Must-Knows
This rugged shade plant is tolerant of a variety of conditions. Ideally, it would appreciate evenly moist, well-drained soils as it begins growing. Once established, however, lungwort has no problem with a little drought. If plants are in full sun, they will be less tolerant of drought, and plants may become brown and dry. They will also look best in soils rich with organic matter, so it may be helpful to add in compost before planting, especially in dry clay soils.
Lungwort performs best in part shade and ideally shaded from the hot afternoon sun. The plants can perform well in full sun and full shade as well, with a few caveats. As previously mentioned, lungwort isn't quite as drought-resistant when in full sun; the plants may need supplemental watering to look their best. In full shade, these plants will not bloom as well, and they are more prone to powdery mildew. While this is a fairly common ailment in lungwort, it doesn't slow them down; it's just a little unsightly. To treat, simply remove and dispose of the affected leaves. You can also use a horticultural oil to clean them up.
Related: Deer-Resistant Shade Plants
Generally, lungwort tends to be a short-lived perennial. After several years, clumps may begin to slowly thin out and decline. Luckily, with fairly regular division (every few years is good), you can keep them going much longer. Lungwort will also politely reseed around your garden as another way to keep them going, so watch for any exceptional seedlings!
Lungwort got its start as a garden plant in Europe, and many of the later varieties were from there as well. In the early to mid-'90s, lungwort became more visible in the United States, with many new varieties introduced. Though it fell out of fashion for a while, lungwort is now back on the rise. New varieties focus on tougher plants with increased disease resistance and longevity. Longer bloom time, as well as an abundance of flowers, is also an improvement.