How to Plant, Grow and Care For Lungwort

Looking to add some Lungwort to your garden? These beautiful perennials can make a wonderful shade garden addition, or low-growing ground cover plant. In this article, certified master gardener Laura Elsner shares all you need to know about growing Lungwort in your garden, including plant maintenance and care tips.



Pulmonaria, or lungwort, isn’t the star of a garden like a peony or rose. But this little perennial ground cover is a great building block to highlight and accent your garden centerpieces. 

Although it’s not the showiest garden plant, lungwort has some beautiful features. It is one of the first perennials to bloom in early spring. It has pretty little pink bell-shaped flowers that turn purple as they mature.

Then, lovely large pointed leaves with irregular spots will emerge. The interesting foliage and beautiful flowers makes this often-overlooked perennial a real winner in my garden.

This perennial can grow in shady areas where other perennials cannot, due to its hardy nature. So let’s give lungwort a bit of love and attention. Here is how to add this pretty little perennial to your garden.

Lungwort Plant Overview

A close-up featuring a cluster of Lungwort flowers with delicate purple and pink petals, and white spots. The flowers emerge from a bed of vibrant green leaves, showcasing their contrasting colors and intricate details. The leaves are broad, heart-shaped, and covered in tiny hairs, adding to the plant's texture and charm.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Boraginaceae
Genus Pulmonaria
Species 25 species, 7 common in garden use
Native area Europe, Western Asia
Hardiness Zone 3-9
Season Spring
Exposure Part sun to full shade
Plant Spacing 18-24″
Planting Depth To the crown
Height 15″
Watering requirements Moderate
Pests Slugs/snails
Diseases Powdery mildew
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Attracts Pollinators
Plant with Hostas, astilbe, coral bells
Bloom Color Red to blue

Plant History

A man's hand gently cradles a cluster of Lungwort flowers. The flowers, with their dainty pink petals and white speckles, create a captivating sight against the man's skin. Surrounding the blossoms are lush green leaves, showcasing their hairy texture.
The reason it has “lung” in its name is because it was historically employed to treat lung-related ailments.

Lungwort drew the short straw when it came to its name. The suffix “wort” means plant, a term used to name plants with beneficial medical uses. It has lung in its name because it was historically used to treat ailments of the lungs.

The Latin/scientific name for lungwort is Pulmonaria, which also means of the lungs. Some say the irregular spots on the foliage resemble human breathing organs.

The beautiful spring flowers that turn pink to purple as they bloom gained this plant popularity as a garden perennial. The changing floral color is proven to attract more pollinators. Now it has a place in gardens all across the United States.


A close-up of Lungwort captures the exquisite details of its flowers, leaves, and branches. Vibrant pink and purple flowers stand out, attracting a bee perched atop the petals. The heart-shaped leaves, covered in soft hairs, extend from the branches, adding depth to the composition.
Over the years, various cultivars have been developed for gardens. These are primarily hybrid varieties known for their attractive characteristics.

There are 25 species within the Pulmonaria genus. Among those species, 7 of them are typically found in our gardens. Pulmonaria officinalis is a common garden species. There is also Pulmonaria angustifolia, which is a narrow-leaf species. Pulmonaria longifolia is another narrow foliage species with frosted-colored spots.

Over the years, many different cultivars have been developed for gardens from these and other species. These are usually hybrids bred for their beautiful features. ‘Raspberry Frost’ and ‘Spot on’ are popular hybrid varieties. I will dig into more detail in the varieties section below.


Purchasing or dividing already existing plants are the best ways to obtain a lungwort plant. This herbaceous perennial is known to spread, so ask around neighbors and friends if they would be willing to share some of their established patches. Alternatively, purchase a specific variety at the local garden center or nursery.

Purchasing Starts

Lungwort's captivating features are shown. The vibrant flowers steal the spotlight with their delicate pink and purple petals, providing a striking contrast to the surrounding upright branches and green leaves. In the background, other Lungwort plants create a lush backdrop, emphasizing the plant's natural beauty.
Avoid buying plants that have a thick mat of roots protruding from the pot’s bottom.

You can purchase lungwort from garden centers or nurseries. You can usually find a friend or neighbor to share the common variety. But if you want a specialty variety, you will likely have to purchase it at your local garden center.

Look for a plant with healthy, robust foliage. Check the bottom to see if it is root bound. Avoid purchasing plants with a thick mat of roots emerging from the bottom of the pot


A close-up showcases a group of Lungwort plants with their enchanting flowers and leaves. The flowers, in various shades of pink and purple, create a visually stunning display. The broad, heart-shaped, green leaves complement the blossoms, contributing to the overall lushness of the plant.
It is important to exercise caution with specialty varieties as they are more delicate than the common variety.

Lungwort can be aggressive; you may need to dig it up and divide it to keep it in its place.

Dividing your lungwort is best done in the fall or spring, preferably after it blooms. But honestly, I’ve moved the plant at some not-so-ideal times, and it was fine.

Be more careful with specialty varieties, as these are more sensitive than the common variety. To divide them, wait until they finish blooming in the late summer or fall.


A close-up reveals the exquisite beauty of Lungwort flowers, showcasing delicate petals in shades of purple, pink, and blue. The leaves, rich green and speckled with silver markings, provide an enchanting backdrop, accentuating the vibrant blooms. The plants thrive in the nurturing embrace of the brown soil, displaying nature's artistry.
To plant the lungwort, place it into the hole and adjust the depth by adding soil as necessary.

Planting lungwort is a straightforward process:

  1. Start by digging a hole two times as wide and deep as the plant’s root ball.
  2. Fill the hole with water and let it soak in.
  3. Optionally, throw in a handful of transplant fertilizer, bone, or blood meal.
  4. Next, if you purchased your lungwort from a garden center, remove it from its nursery pot.
  5. If the roots are tangled and growing in the shape of the pot, break them up with your fingers.
  6. Place the plant into the hole.
  7. Check that the plant’s crown (where the stems meet the root) should be at the soil line.
  8. You may need to fill the hole a bit to get it to the correct depth.
  9. Fill the rest of the hole with a mixture of the original soil and some organic matter.
  10. Press the plant in firmly.
  11. Give it a deep watering. You will need to water frequently until the plant establishes.

How to Grow

Lungwort is a relatively fuss-free perennial that can grow in various conditions. But if you want them to bloom regularly and have a long-lasting and healthy life, you must provide optimal growth conditions. Let’s look at how you can best provide for this plant species in your garden.


Bathed in sunlight, Lungwort flowers captivate with their intricate details and vibrant colors. The velvety petals, ranging from deep purple to pale blue, create a mesmerizing display against the backdrop of lush green leaves.
Lungwort prefers partial sunlight to full shade, and its growth rate slows down in shadier areas.

Lungwort thrives in part-sun to full-shade conditions. They will grow and creep slower if they are in more shade. If they are in too much sun, you will notice they will get crispy leaves. 

This perennial is one of my top suggestions for planting under large, thick evergreen trees such as spruce trees. They can handle the dry shady conditions created by the tree.


A close-up of Lungwort leaves adorned with small spots that add a touch of whimsy and character. These charming speckles, scattered across the verdant foliage, bring a sense of uniqueness to each leaf. Despite their petite size, the leaves radiate vitality and resilience, thriving in the nourishing embrace of rich, dark soil.
It thrives in loose, loamy soil with organic matter that can drain well.

Lungwort isn’t too fussy about soil. They prefer nice loose, loamy soil filled with organic matter that can drain freely, but they don’t demand it. Hostas, hydrangeas, brunnera, and other shady perennials you might pair your lungwort with also prefer these soil conditions.

However, I’ve also seen lungwort grow in heavy clay and dry sandy soil. If you have poor soil, choose the common variety. Any of the specialty hybrid varieties will usually require good-quality soil.


A close-up of  Lungwort showcases a harmonious ensemble of flowers, leaves, and branches. The vibrant flowers, ranging from soft pink to deep purple, bloom in clusters. Lush green leaves provide a verdant backdrop, while slender branches extend gracefully, adding an elegant touch to the overall composition.
The only condition lungwort cannot endure is constant exposure to standing water.

Established lungwort only needs additional water in times of drought. Established means it has been in the ground for a season. You must water it more often for the first year after planting your lungwort.

Lungwort likes evenly moist soil and can go in with other shade-loving perennials. It can also tolerate semi-dry conditions, like under a spruce tree. Supplemental water may be required if it is too dry.

The only condition lungwort will not tolerate is sitting in standing water. Make sure the soil can drain.

Climate and Temperature

Against the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset, Lungwort flowers and buds steal the spotlight. The flowers have dainty petals in shades of purple and pink, inviting us to indulge in their beauty. Adjacent buds, still tightly wrapped, promise the arrival of new blooms. The graceful branches, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun.
It generally doesn’t demand excessive watering unless the region experiences extreme dryness.

Lungwort is a hardy perennial that grows in USDA zones 3-9. It prefers cool shady areas in the garden. While it is not considered a drought-tolerant plant, it does not usually require much extra water unless it is really dry in your area.

It is one of the first plants to emerge in spring. The exact bloom time depends on your location and the snow cover. In warmer areas, it is more of a semi-evergreen plant that never completely dies back.


A man with gardening gloves carefully pours liquid fertilizer from a cup into a green watering can. In the ground beside the can, there are other potted plants.
Remember to periodically add a layer of organic matter to your garden during autumn.

I am not a huge advocate for fertilizing perennials and perennial beds. I think amending and taking care of your soil is a better way to promote the overall health of your plants and garden.

Great gardens start with great soil. Be sure to amend your soil with plenty of organic matter. This includes worm castings, sea soil, aged manure, or compost. This will give your garden all the nutrients and provide light, free-draining soil.

I top-dress my garden with organic matter every few years in the fall and apply organic liquid fertilizer in the spring. Compost tea or a kelp fertilizer are great options. Water your beds with a diluted mixture to keep everything growing beautifully.

If you want to go the fertilizer route, I recommend sprinkling a slow-release organic granular fertilizer in the spring or as directed.


A close-up captures the intricate beauty of Lungwort flowers and branches. Delicate purple and pink blossoms, resembling tiny bells, gracefully adorn the slender branches, creating a stunning visual display.
Lungwort is an easy-to-care-for plant that produces abundant delicate pink bell-shaped flower that turn purple later in the season.

Lungwort is a fairly low-maintenance plant. It will flower a profusion of dainty pink bell-shaped flowers that will turn purple. After that, it will leaf out its fuzzy pointed leaves.

As the summer wears on, I find my lungwort will show signs of powdery mildew. I will cut out all the bad-looking leaves, and new shoots will emerge. You might even get a second small flush of flowers. 

In warmer climates, lungwort is considered a semi-evergreen perennial. This means it will not need to be cut down. You can snip out any dead or dying leaves. In colder climates, I cut down the plant in the fall for a tidier appearance, but it is unnecessary.

Make sure to wear gloves when handling lungwort. Their fuzzy leaves are irritating to the skin. The little pieces are a pain to pick out of your skin. 


Numerous Lungwort plants are seen blooming in clusters. The flowers form charming bouquets, showcasing shades of pink, purple, and blue. Their green leaves, shaped like speckled ovals, provide an elegant backdrop to the blooming branches.
Its shorter height makes it perfect for borders and the front of beds.

On its own, lungwort is easy to overlook. It’s a small leafy plant that blooms in the early spring. But when it is added to a perennial garden, it adds a whimsical touch of lushness. 

Lungwort is a great filler plant to add to your garden. As a shorter plant, it should be used in the border and front of beds. Additionally, it can be used as a ground cover. It can also be planted underneath large trees where little else will grow.

Lungwort can be used in container plantings. Some of the newer varieties feature all sorts of funky foliage patterns. This makes it an interesting little filler plant in a container design.


I usually go to the common variety Pulmonaria officinalis when I think of lungwort. But many varieties have different lead shapes, sizes, and patterns. They also can have different flower colors. 

Some varieties have an exotic look to them. They remind me of the houseplant Aglaonema. But they are simple, hardy, lungwort plants. Here are a few of my favorites:

‘Spot On’

A close-up of Lungwort flowers with their hues of pink and purple shine with vibrancy. Surrounding them are lush, green leaves that bear intricate silver markings. The branches, delicate yet strong, intertwine to create a mesmerizing composition.
This variety is ideal for both garden beds and container planting.

‘Spot On’ is a popular hybrid variety. It is a nice compact mounding variety. It features small pointed leaves that are covered in frosted spots.

The flowers bloom a bright coral pink and eventually turn blue and purple. Because of its compact size, it is good for container planting and small gardens.

‘Trevi Fountain’

Abundant Trevi Fountain plants showcasing their flowers and leaves. The blossoms bloom in various shades, ranging from soft pinks to vibrant purples, contrasting beautifully against the backdrop of rich green foliage.
Consider planting ‘Trevi Fountain’ if you are concerned about heat and humidity tolerance.

‘Trevi Fountain’ is similar to the common garden variety. It has medium-sized pointed leaves with silver spots. It blooms pink and purple in the early spring.

This variety tolerates heat and humidity better than other varieties. If this concerns you, consider planting ‘Trevi Fountain.’

‘Raspberry Frost’

A close-up of the Raspberry Frost plant reveals delicate pink and purple flowers blooming in clusters. The upright, hairy branches are adorned with tiny buds and vibrant green leaves, creating a lush display of nature's beauty.
What sets this variety apart is the frosted margin that outlines its pointed leaves.

‘Raspberry Frost’ is an interesting hybrid variety. It features narrow, pointed leaves with the trademark irregular spots of lungwort. But this variety also features a frosted margin that defines the pointed leaves.

The scarlet red flowers are the most notable difference between this variety and other cultivars. ‘Raspberry Frost’ looks great in containers and in the garden.

‘High Contrast’

A close-up of High Contrast plant showcasing its exquisite flowers in striking shades of purple and pink, boasting intricate patterns and velvety petals. The sturdy stems stand tall, supporting the blossoms with resilience, while the vibrant green leaves provide a lush backdrop, adding a touch of freshness.
This variety produces pink flowers in early spring that gradually fade to blue and purple.

‘High Contrast’ is another heat and humidity-tolerant variety. It proves fairly resistant to powdery mildew. It is a compact mounding variety that features large pointed leaves. The high contrast comes in with the light silvery spots against the green foliage.

This variety has more silvery spots than green on it. To me, this variety almost resembles an Aglaonema houseplant. It’s very trendy and cool looking. Like most lungworts, it blooms pink flowers that fade to blue and purple in the early spring.


Like I said in the introduction, lungwort on its own isn’t going to win any awards or turn any heads the way a peony does. But, when it is mixed and matched with other perennials, it adds something special to your garden landscape. Here are a few of my favorite plants to plant with my Pulmonaria.


Hosta plants that have large, broad leaves that grow in a rosette-like pattern. The leaves are green in color, and variegated with white or yellow. The green stalks emerge from the center of the rosette of leaves.
Pair hosta and lungwort for a lush, classic combination of leafy marvels.

Hosta and lungwort are a classic pairing. They are both leafy marvels. Lungwort is up and blooming before your hostas fully emerge from the ground.

It’s a wonderful welcome to spring. The hostas’ big smooth round leaves contrast nicely to lungwort’s fuzzy pointed leaves with irregular spots. It looks lush, and lungwort is an inexpensive filler. They also pair excellently in containers.

Coral Bells

Several Coral Bells have long and thin stems, and the branches are slender and brown, supporting the loosely scattered, pinkish-red flowers.
The colorful ruffled coral bells bloom later in the season, complementing the early spring blooms of lungwort.

Another shady foliage combination that I love is coral bells and lungwort. Various coral bell varieties’ ruffled and colorful foliage looks nice alongside Pulmonaria.

Coral bells bloom later in the season, which is the perfect complement to the early spring blooms of lungwort. Planting lungwort with coral bells is a great way to stagger blooms and use stunning foliage simultaneously.


A close-up of Astilbe flowers which have fluffy pink plumes. The branches are thin and delicate. The leaves are lush and dark green, adding a rich backdrop to the vibrant flowers.
Combine lacy astilbe foliage with spotted pointed lungwort for a striking look.

Lacy astilbe foliage rising out of spotted pointed lungwort foliage is an eye-catching combination. The lungwort blooms in the early spring and then leafs out. Then the astilbe will bloom, and the lungwort will make a great filler plant. 

Creeping Jenny

Close-up of Creeping Jenny that has bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers. Its leaves are small, round, and green in color. Its green stems are thin and flexible.
Consider the combination of lungwort and golden creeping Jenny for a foliage highlight.

Creeping Jenny isn’t for everyone; it is an invasive species in some areas. So be sure to check if planting in your area is OK. I love lungwort and golden creeping Jenny. The golden creeping Jenny will highlight all the irregular spots in the lungwort’s foliage.

Pests and Diseases

Lungwort is a fairly resilient and disease-resistant plant. It can have some issues with powdery mildew. Like most shade plants, slugs and snails can munch on their leaves.

Slugs and Snails 

A cluster of Lungwort flowers, delicate and vibrant, dotted with small shiny snails crawling on their petals. These snails, with their iridescent shells, have made themselves at home amidst the Lungwort blooms. The leaves of the Lungwort plants are lush and green.
Lift the leaves to check if you can spot any slimy pests feasting on your lungwort.

Lungwort grows great in damp shady areas of the garden. Unfortunately, this is where slugs and snails are found lurking through the foliage.

If you notice holey leaves and slime on the foliage, you may be dealing with slugs/snails. Lift the leaves to see if you can spot any slimy pests feasting on your lungwort. There are a few ways to deal with slugs and snails.

Hand Pick

The first way is the least glamorous, but it works. That is to hand-pick the slugs off the foliage. This is best done in the early morning or late evening hours when the weather is cool, and they are out on the plants. Pick them off and dispose of them.

Create a Barrier

Another method is to create a barrier between your plants and the slugs/snails. You can use diatomaceous earth (available at garden centers). Sprinkle it around your plants. The sharp edges will cut up the slugs and snails and they will avoid the plants. This will have to be reapplied often throughout the season as it stops working well when it gets too wet.rnrnSome people recommend crushed eggshells, but these don’t have the fine, razor-like micro-edges that diatomaceous earth has, so aren’t as effective against snails and slugs. However, bark fines have been shown to be less appealing for the soft, squishy bodies of slugs and snails to move across if you can’t find diatomaceous earth.

Traps and Bait

Trapping slugs and snails with shallow dishes of beer half-buried into the garden also works. You will have to check and refill the trays often. Ensure the lip of the dish is flush with the soil’s surface – this ensures the snail or slug can easily access the beer. Once it gets in to drink, it can’t easily exit and will drown.rnrnAdditionally, slug and snail bait works well. It can be purchased from garden centers and you sprinkle the pellets in the garden every couple of weeks. The slugs and snails just disappear. Be cautious of the ingredients if you have pets that like to nose around in your garden.

Powdery Mildew

A close-up of Powdery Mildew, forming a white, dusty coating on the surface of  a plant's leaf. The affected leaf exhibits a patchy appearance, with a layer of powdery substance inhibiting their normal growth and development.
To prevent any potential fungal issues, you can apply a fungicide to these new leaves as a precautionary measure.

No matter what I do, I find that my lungwort gets a fine white dust coating. This is the dreaded powdery mildew disease. Lungwort blooms in spring and shoots out pretty, pointed leaves with irregular spots. But as the summer wears on, the leaves fade, and the mildew sets in.

When this happens, I take my clippers, cut all the damaged leaves off, and dispose of them. There will be a smaller flush of new leaves underneath that will regrow. You can spray the new leaves with a fungicide as a preventative measure. You can also spray the new leaves after they bloom to help prevent mildew.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I look after lungwort?

A: Lungwort is a fairly fuss-free perennial. Plant it in a location with part sun to full shade. Once established, it won’t require extra water except during dry spells. Cut it back in the fall or very early spring (before it flowers). I usually cut it back a second time in the late summer if it gets powdery mildew. It will flush up new leaves.

Is lungwort invasive?

A: Lungwort is aggressive, but not invasive. It spreads through its rhizomes. However, it doesn’t spread quickly and it won’t pop up randomly in your garden. It stays in its place and can easily be dug up and removed if necessary. I also find some of the specialty varieties are even less aggressive than the common variety.

How do you winterize lungwort?

A: For cold climate gardeners, I usually cut down lungwort in the fall. This makes it easier when spring rolls around and it starts to bloom. But it can also be cut back in spring. It doesn’t necessarily need to be cut back at all. I like cutting them back for a tidier-looking garden, but the old growth will eventually disappear into the ground.rnrnIf you are in a warmer zone, lungwort is a semi-evergreen perennial. You will only have to trim out the old and dead bits to keep it looking good.

What can I plant next to lungwort?

A: Lots of shade perennials are suitable to plant with lungwort. Hostas, hydrangeas, coral bells, astilbe, bleeding hearts, and ferns are a few of my favorite things to plant with lungwort.

Do I need to deadhead lungwort?

A: You won’t need to deadhead the flower from lungwort because they disappear under the foliage. But in the midsummer, I like to cut back the foliage. This isn’t necessary, but you’ll get a small flush of new fresh leaves and sometimes you’ll get a smaller flush of flowers.

Final Thoughts 

While lungwort may never be the star of your garden, I hope I have convinced you that it deserves a spot in the supporting cast. Its beautiful, spotted foliage and bright bell-shaped flowers blooming in early spring make it an interesting perennial to add to your shade garden. It is a low-maintenance filler and ground cover that is reliable and easy to obtain.

Lungwort will rarely cause you problems. Many varieties can satisfy your need for unique foliage. Alternatively, there is the common variety that is vigorous and extremely hardy. Lungwort is versatile and beautiful. It is a perennial worth adding to your garden.

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