With its natural charm and colorful flowers, the lungwort awakens dreary garden niches from the winter slumber. As a vigorous ground cover, the rustic predatory plant makes itself useful in poorly lighted, damp locations. Anyone who is familiar with naturopathy knows how to appreciate the valuable ingredients of the real lung herb to alleviate diseases of the respiratory tract. Other species of the wild and romantic perennial genus inspire with spotted leaves, bright flowers and are swarmed by bumblebees and butterflies. The following profile reveals which attributes characterize Pulmonaria. Benefit from useful explanations on location and maintenance.


  • Boraginaceae plant family
  • Genus Pulmonaria with more than 20 species
  • At home in the forests of Europe
  • Evergreen, herbaceous flowering plants with creeping rhizomes
  • Roughly hairy, large rosette leaves and alternate, mostly sedentary stem leaves
  • Height and width of 15 to 30 cm
  • Abundantly flowering with terminal inflorescences
  • Flowers with 5 sepals and 5 bell-shaped petals, pink when shoot, later blue
  • Flowering time from March to May
  • Four-part Klausen fruits in summer
  • Persistent and hardy up to – 30 degrees Celsius

The star of the genus is the common or spotted lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), which is rich in health-promoting ingredients such as silica, tannins and mucilage. Well-known trivial names are ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘blue cowslip’ or ‘lungwort’. The allusion of the common name to the well-known fairy tale is based on an unusual strategy for communicating with pollinating insects. As long as a flower is pink, pollination has not yet taken place, so it is full of nectar. Following pollination, the pH value in the cell sap changes, the flower turns blue and signals to bumblebees and butterflies that nothing more can be obtained here.


The classification as a forest shrub already gives a clear indication of the location in which the lungwort feels in good hands in your garden.

  • Sunny , partially shaded to shady location
  • Ideally under the protective canopy of trees and bushes
  • Gladly in borders with a forest shrub character

The lungwort likes cool places at the edge of the wood or pond, especially when a light wind quickly dries the leaves after a rain.


The members of the Pulmonaria genus perform their task as opaque ground cover with flying colors when they are allowed to stretch out their rhizomes in fresh, moist and loamy, loosely humus-rich soil. The forest shrubs particularly like nutrient-rich, fresh, moist substrate . An alkaline pH value greater than 7 is welcome here.

Tip : At its location, the lungwort likes to socialize with other forest perennials, such as liverwort, Waldsteinia, hostas or ferns. With the bright flowers of the yellow anemone flower, the blue, white or red lung herbs create cheerful images in the spring garden.


In theory, you can leave a native forest shrub like lungwort to its own devices in the near-natural garden The classic has adapted excellently to the climatic conditions in our latitudes, so that a rainy summer or a harsh winter does not throw it off balance. If, however, Pulmonaria are given the following horticultural allowances, the plant in the right location will develop into a blooming beauty that does not need to hide behind cocky exotic species.


The lungwort likes a slightly moist soil that neither dries out nor is flooded. Where a continuous water supply is ensured, it even thrives in a sunny location. You should therefore water the forest shrub regularly if the natural rainfall is insufficient. This may be necessary every day during hot summer days. Because lungwort retains its foliage in winter, moisture continues to evaporate. You should therefore also water during the cold season on frost-free days, provided there is no snow.


The nutritional requirement of the herald of spring is high, which is already indicated by the desire for a nutrient-rich location. In order to get the best out of the forest shrub, a continuous supply of nutrients should take place in the course of the vegetation phase. How to do it right:

  • From March to August every 3 to 4 weeks organically fertilize with compost and horn shavings
  • Alternatively, apply a mineral-organic slow- release fertilizer in March and May
  • Regular mulching with leaves or grass clippings gets growth and flowering going

If lungwort completely covers the bed, it is difficult to incorporate compost. In this case we recommend fertilizing with nettle manure. If you switch to potassium-rich comfrey manure in July and August, the frost resistance of the plant cells is strengthened.

To cut

If the withered flower stalks are cut off to the basal leaf rosettes after the first pass , the chances are good for a re-flowering that extends into May. At the end of winter, the pretty leaves have clearly lost their beauty. Now it is advisable to cut back to the ground to make room for fresh shoots.


The robust winter hardiness of lungwort does not require any special precautions, as even severe frosts cannot harm the plant. Only in the year of planting do we recommend light winter protection by spreading a layer of leaves before the first frost.


The following two methods are available for propagation of lungwort. The vegetative division produces young plants with the same attributes as the mother plant. If you decide to sow seeds generatively, you can be surprised by the floral result. The respective procedure is explained in more detail below.


The division is as uncomplicated as the entire maintenance. To turn a perennial into several lung herbs, do the following:

  • A well- established, healthy mother plant is suitable
  • Either in autumn or spring after pruning, dig up the root ball
  • Place the plant on a stable surface
  • Cut into several pieces with a spade, a saw or a sharp knife

The part of a Pulmonaria has the potential to become an adult plant if it has at least 2 shoots or eyes. Immediately after the division, dig planting holes at a distance of 30 cm in the partially shaded location in order to plant the root ball segments in them. Please enrich the excavation with compost and horn shavings . The previous planting depth should be maintained as precisely as possible. Generously water the rejuvenated lung roots and spread a layer of foliage over them.


To harvest the seeds, do not cut off all of the withered flowers at the end of the flowering period. In the following weeks the Klaus fruits thrive here with the seeds. Since these are cold germs , cultivation on the windowsill is not that easy. This approach has proven itself in the hobby garden:

  • Fill a seed tray or potty with peat sand or growing medium
  • Insert the seeds into it as a light germinator a maximum of 0.5 to 1 cm deep , press them down and moisten with a fine effervescence
  • Set up in the partially shaded window seat at 18 to 22 degrees Celsius for the next 4 weeks
  • Then expose to a temperature between – 4 and + 4 degrees Celsius for 6 weeks

Ideally, the seeds experience the cold stimulus on the wintry balcony under a blanket of snow, because this comes closest to the natural conditions. When the snow melts, this process makes the seed coats more porous, which increases the ability to germinate. After the cooling period, the seed pots temporarily occupy a partially shaded location with temperatures of 5 to 12 degrees Celsius, regardless of whether the cotyledons are already sprouting or not. From this point on, the normal procedure of cultivation by sowing begins until you can plant the young plants in the bed in May.

Tip : In mild winter regions without snow, the seeds of lungwort receive the necessary cold stimulus in the refrigerator. For this purpose, fill the seeds with moist peat sand in a plastic bag, which you put tightly closed in the vegetable compartment for 6 weeks at temperatures around 0 degrees to a maximum of + 4 degrees Celsius.

Recommended types and varieties

Magnificent hybrids have emerged from some of the most beautiful wild species, which stand out with bright flower colors and pretty leaves. The following selection introduces you to established and new breeds:

Trevi Fountain (Pulmonaria officinalis ‘Trevi Fountain’)
The spotted lungwort played a major role as the parent of this premium variety. The origin is clearly recognizable from the nicely drawn, elongated leaves. From March onwards, large bell-shaped blossoms rise above this, opening in pink to take on an azure blue hue after pollination, height 25 to 30 cm

Roy Davidson (Pulmonaria longifolia ‘Roy Davidson’)
If you are on the lookout for a lungwort with an extra long flowering time, you will find it here. The richly blooming variety keeps its light blue flower dress from March to May, if the weather cooperates. The foliage is decorated with silvery-white spots and thrives much narrower than with Pulmonaria officinalis, height of growth 20 to 30 cm

Ice Ballet (Pulmonaria officinalis ‘Ice Ballet’)
In the wild, white-flowering lung herbs are rarely seen. How good that capable growers succeeded in using the Ice Ballet variety. The white bell blossoms contrast wonderfully with the pink-blue blossoms of other varieties to create a colorful spring garden. Height of growth 25 to 30 cm

Redstart (Pulmonaria rubra ‘Redstart’)
Dramatic red should not be missing in a multi-faceted family of varieties. As a wild species, the red lungwort vies for visits from industrious pollinators. The breeders took this as an opportunity to create an opulent hybrid that features brick-red, large flowers. This premium variety was rated ‘very good’ at perennial sightings. Height of growth 25 to 35 cm

Lewis Palmer (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Lewis Palmer’)
If your focus in the selection is on proven health of the leaves and flowers, we would like to recommend the test winner to you. This variety is characterized by beautifully drawn, lanceolate foliage and ultramarine-violet flowers. In addition, Lewis Palmer regularly receives top marks for his stable health on perennial sightings. Height of growth 25 to 30 cm


Lungwort enchants as an area-wide spring bloomer in partially shaded locations up to light shade. Weeds have no chance under the dense rosettes of leaves. Instead, a fragrant carpet of flowers spreads out from March to May, swarmed by busy bumblebees and butterflies. As the profile tells us, the splendid genus Pulmonaria is native to the forests of Europe. Thus, the few requirements for care are obvious. Watering when it is dry and monthly fertilizing with compost or nettle manure will satisfy the frugal ornamental shrub. After decorating the dreary garden with its evergreen foliage, the lungwort is pruned close to the ground in early spring.

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