Dictionary of Flowers: Brunnera (Siberian Bugloss)

Brunnera is also known as Siberian Bugloss. Lovely! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Armin Kowalski and Flickr

Brunnera is also known as Siberian Bugloss. Lovely! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Armin Kowalski and Flickr

  • Brunnera
  • Common name: brunnera, Siberian bugloss
  • Family: boraginaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 3-7
  • Height: 12" to 18”
  • Width: 12" to 15”
  • Shade/part shade
  • Blooms: mid spring, grown for foliage
  • Growth habit: clumping. Used as a filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, moist, acid to neutral free draining. Water regularly if grown in containers. 
  • Garden uses: containers, front of mixed border, woodland garden, ground cover. Filler for container combinations
  • Diseases: viral diseases
  • Pests: aphids, slugs

A shade loving perennial native to Eastern Europe, brunnera blooms during spring with small, delicate blue flowers similar to forget-me-nots.

Brunnera's leaves, however, are heart-shaped, larger than forget-me-not's. They provide foliage interest even when the plant has stopped blooming. The flowers appear in clusters, on stems above the foliage. 

It's a woodland plant in its native habitat, so it prefers average to fertile, moist and shady conditions. Improve soil with compost if needed before planting.

In northern growing zones, it is more sun tolerant provided the soil stays moist. It is frequently used as a ground cover for shady areas. The leaves might scorch if brunnera receives too much sun.

It spreads by underground rhizomes, and if not deadheaded, it can self seed a little.

Brunnera can be propagated by division or seed.

Very little maintenance is needed to keep brunnera happy.

Deadheading might prolong blooming somewhat. In spring, remove winter damaged foliage.

Divide plants if crowded every two to three years and plant the divisions with their crowns flush with the ground level.

It requires little fertilizing. If not watered enough during summer, the plant might go dormant.

Close-up of the lovely flower petals. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

Close-up of the lovely flower petals. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

Brunnera seed requires stratification, so it's a good candidate for wintersowing. The seed is slow to germinate. 

If grown indoors, stratify seed in the refrigerator for a month, and then sow on moist starting medium. At 60F, it can take as long as three months to germinate.

Plant outside in fall or spring, after the last frost.

Brunnera looks great against a red brick wall. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

Brunnera looks great against a red brick wall. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

Brunnera is deer resistant. Aphids might be a problem, treat with insecticidal soap or blast off with a jet of water from the hose. Generally disease resistant when not stressed. 

Popular varieties:

  • Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' - silver and light green foliage, this cultivar can be grown in sunnier conditions than other varieties
  • Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass' - very light foliage, mostly silver. 
  • Brunnera macrophylla 'Diane's Gold' - chartreuse green leaves
  • Brunnera macrophylla 'Hadspen Cream' - doesn't tolerate sun. Leaves are pale green with wide white margins. Brunnera m. 'Variegata' is very similar, but with wider margins
This picture shows the true shape of the green leaves. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Beautiful Cataya and Flickr

This picture shows the true shape of the green leaves. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Beautiful Cataya and Flickr

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