How to Grow Pulmonaria Plants

Guide to Growing Lungwort and Bethlehem Sage

Pulmonaria plants are woodland hardy perennials.

The plants are low growing, typically reaching at most 30 cm (12 inches) in height.

Lungwort - Pulmonaria

They bloom in the spring-time, when they displaying tubular flowers of purple or pink.

Pulmonaria officinalis
Pulmonaria officinalis by AnnaKika.

They have great looking leaves which are speckled with white or silver spots.

Commonly Grown Pulmonaria Species Photographs and Plant Identification

Pulmonaria officinalis

Pulmonaria officinalis
Pulmonaria officinalis (Lungwort / Mary's Tears / Our Lady's Milk Drops), photograph by Under the same moon...; CC.

Pulmonaria obscura

Pulmonaria obscura
Pulmonaria obscura (Unspotted Lungwort / Suffolk Lungwort), picture by Tero Laakso; CC.

Pulmonaria Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Lungwort, Bethlehem Sage, Soldiers and sailors, Spotted dog.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 12 inches (30 cm).
  • Native: Europe, Asia.
  • Growing Region: Zones 3 to 9.

  • Flowers: Spring.
  • Flower Details: Pink, changing to purple at maturity. Heterostylous (plants carry two kinds of flower). Tubular. Trumpets.
  • Fruit: Egg-shaped nutlets. Contain one seed.
  • Foliage: Evergreen or Herbaceous. Clump firming. Rosette. Narrow lanceolate to oval. White or silver freckles.

  • Sow Outside: Cover seed. Start of spring. Does not usually stay true from seed.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: 4 to 6 weeks. Temperature: 60 to 65°F (15—18°C). Two months in advance. Transplant outdoors in autumn. Spacing 6 to 18 inches (15—45 cm).

  • Requirements and care: Full to partial shade. Moist, cool Soil. Rich soil. Provide a spring feed. Spring mulch. Regular watering to maintain moist soil. Divide every four years to maintain vigor. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.
  • Family: Boraginaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Forget-me-nots and Borage plants.
  • Miscellaneous: Attracts moths from the Coleophoridae family.

How to Grow Lungwort and Other Pulmonaria

It is best to grow Lungwort and other Pulmonaria plants from divided plants (divide in spring). Alternatively use plants purchased in a garden center.

If growing from seed, then beware that the resultant plants will often be of lower quality.

If you do plan to grow from seed, this is how to do it. Pulmonaria seeds should be sown at the start of spring. Once sown lightly cover the seeds topsoil.

Depending upon the species size, they should be spaced from 15 to 45 cm (6 to 18 inches) apart. Lungwort can grow in fully and partially shaded areas of the garden. Ideally locate in a rich soil that is moist and cool.

You can start Pulmonaria seedlings off indoors. Do so about two months in advance (plan to plant out in autumn).

The seeds will take about 4 to 7 weeks to germinate at 15 to 17 degrees centigrade (59 to 63°F).

Caring for Pulmonaria

These plants like to grow in soil that is cool and moist. Therefore, they require regular watering and should be mulched in the spring.

Additionally they will thrive if fed with fertilizer at the same time.

To maintain vigour divide the Pulmonaria plants every four years. Division is also the best way to propagate the plants. This should be done in the spring.

Common Questions

How many members does the Pulmonaria genus contain?

The Pulmonaria plant genus, the Lungworts, contains 18 species.

Do Pulmonaria members make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Pulmonaria plants are excellent for shady garden spots where their foliage and spring flowers can be showcased.

Which Pulmonaria species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Pulmonaria officinalis is a popular choice among gardeners for its beautiful spotted leaves and delicate blue and pink flowers.

Are Pulmonaria plants fragrant?

Pulmonaria plants are not typically known for their fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Pulmonaria?

Pulmonaria prefers a shady location with well-drained, fertile soil. They do well under trees or on the north side of buildings.

Is Pulmonaria invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Presently, Pulmonaria is not considered invasive in the USA.

How do I remove Pulmonaria plants from my garden?

If you need to remove Pulmonaria, dig out the plant ensuring to remove all the roots. Keep in mind that they can regrow from any root left behind.


The Pulmonaria genus, often called Lungwort, belongs to the Boraginaceae family. These shade-loving perennials are known for their striking foliage and clusters of pink, blue, or white flowers in the spring.

Pulmonaria enjoys a location with partial to full shade and well-drained, fertile soil. They should be planted in the spring or fall. Their distinctive spotted leaves and spring blooms make them an excellent choice for woodland or shade gardens.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Pulmonaria plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Summer-forget-me-not, Onosma, Heliotropium, and Myosotis plants.