Dictionary of Flowers: Bergenia
(Elephant Ears, Pigsqueak)

Amazing blooms of Bergenia, also amusingly known as Pigsqueak or Elephant Ear. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of pittigliani2005 and Flickr
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Amazing blooms of Bergenia, also amusingly known as Pigsqueak or Elephant Ear.
Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission
of 
pittigliani2005 and Flickr

  • Bergenia
  • Common name: bergenia, pigsqueak, elephant ear
  • Family: Saxifragaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 4-8
  • Height: 12" to 18"
  • Width: 18" to 24"
  • Part shade
  • Blooms: mid to late spring
  • Growth habit: clump forming, prostrate. Used as a filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: rich, moist, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers; never allow the container to dry completely.
  • Garden uses: containers, front of border and beds, groundcover, rock gardens
  • Diseases: few, disease resistant
  • Pests: none

Bergenia is both grown for its large, green, leathery leaves that appear in rosettes and for the bell shaped flowers it produces, mostly magenta pink, atop thick stems in thick clusters.

It has been a popular garden plant since the nineteenth century. 

The leaves remain green during spring and summer and in cold weather, they often turn red or bronze. Other flower colors include white, pale pink and even purple-pink.

If the flower spikes are deadheaded, the blooming period can be extended. 

Flower spikes might appear occasionally during the entire gardening season.

They require regular watering; if summers are hot and dry, they require additional water.

Bergenia prefers humus rich soil that is kept moist but well drained.

In northern gardens, they can handle a sunnier exposure, provided the soil is kept moist.

In colder climates, it might need to be mulched during winter months, unless there is a good snow cover. Remove mulch when temperatures warm up.

Fertilize with a slow release formula once in spring before it starts blooming.

Close-up of the beautiful flowers on Pigsqueak. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Jacinta Iluch Valero and Flickr
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Close-up of the beautiful flowers on Pigsqueak. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Jacinta Iluch Valero and Flickr

Divide clumps every two or three years in early spring.

Bergenia can be multiplied by division, or grown from seed.

Bergenia needs to be started indoors. Press the seed on moist starting mix, don't cover. Germination takes two weeks at 55°F. Plant outside after hardening once all danger of frost has passed. 




White variety of Elephant Ear flowers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Tim Waters and Flickr
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White variety of Elephant Ear flowers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Tim Waters and Flickr

Pests don't usually bother bergenia. Slugs might bother bergenia, place traps as needed. It’s not prone to disease. Bergenia is deer resistant.

Popular varieties:

  • Bergenia purpurascens - magenta flowers, excellent fall and winter reddish color
  • Bergenia 'Bressingham White' - white blooms on glossy, dark green leaves
  • Bergenia 'Morgenrote' - deep green leaves and rosy red flowers on red stems
  • Bergenia 'Schmidtii' - strong plant, widely used. Pink flowers
  • Bergenia cordifolia 'Winterglow' - pink flowers with some rebloom after first bloom. Spreads well. Good fall and winter foliage color
Bergenia looks amazing in the sunshine. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Morgaine and Flickr
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Bergenia looks amazing in the sunshine. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Morgaine and Flickr

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