May 2002
Plant of the Month
Siberian Bugloss
(Brunnera macrophylla)
zone: 3
by Nancy Rose

Plant of the Month:
Siberian Bugloss
(Brunnera macrophylla)

Siberian bugloss is a choice perennial for moist, shaded sites. Native from Eastern Europe to Western Siberia, this plant is hardy through USDA zone 3 and is well adapted for growing in our region.

Siberian bugloss has a mounded form and reaches about 12-18" in height and 18" in width. The term macrophylla means "big leaf" and Siberian bugloss lives up to the name. The heart shaped basal leaves can grow 6 inches long and nearly as wide. Foliage color is an attractive medium to dark green on the species. A number of cultivars with variegated foliage have become available (see list below); these showy cultivars are really boosting consumer interest in Siberian bugloss.

When in bloom, Siberian bugloss' family relationship with garden forget-me-nots is obvious. In early spring - usually mid-May around the Twin Cities - many flowering stalks shoot up. These stalks have small, ovate leaves and numerous axillary panicles of sky-blue flowers. The individual flowers are quite small, perhaps 3/8 inch in diameter, but the cumulative effect is of a soft blue haze over the plants. Flowers are produced for about a month, and more flowers may be produced if the plants are deadheaded.

Plant Siberian bugloss in shade. Moist soils are best, though this plant can tolerate somewhat drier soils as long as the site is shaded. Foliage is prone to burning in full sun unless the climatic conditions are very cool and humid, as in the Pacific Northwest. Keep Siberian bugloss watered as needed. An organic mulch such as wood chips, pine needles, or composted leaves is beneficial.

Siberian bugloss has no major insect or disease problems. Its slightly rough leaves seem much more resistant to slugs than the smooth leaves of hosta. If foliage looks tired in mid to late summer it can be cut back to the ground. Keep the plants watered as fresh new foliage emerges.

Siberian bugloss can be a prolific seeder in moist sites where the seeds germinate readily once they hit the soil. In drier sites it may not reseed as much. To prevent seeding and for best appearance, deadhead Siberian bugloss by cutting back entire flowering stalks after flowering. This is particularly important to do for variegated cultivars, since any seedlings will not be true to type. Another great asset of Siberian bugloss is that it rarely needs division -- you can easily go 5-10 years before dividing the plants.

Siberian bugloss combines beautifully with all sorts of other shade perennials and ground covers. Its blue flowers make a nice contrast to gold-edged hostas or 'Gold Heart' bleeding heart. Variegated cultivars provide foliar interest throughout the growing season; plant red or fuschia-flowered impatiens in front of them for a splash of color.

Plants are produced commercially by division or micropropagation. Siberian bugloss is sold in a range of container sizes, from 2-1/4" pots to as large as 1 gallon. Garden centers should display these plants in a shaded area and keep pots well watered.


'Variegata' - Green, sage, and creamy white variegation on foliage.
'Hadspen Cream' - Green with irregular cream colored border, similar to 'Variegata'.
'Langtrees' - Large dark green leaves with a ring of silver-white brushstrokes around leaf edges.
'Silver Wings' - Even more silver-white shading in a broad band around the leaves.
'Jack Frost' - Frosted white with a crackle pattern of green veins showing through.


by Nancy Rose
University of Minnesota


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