Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Pulmonaria Rubra

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Pulmonaria rubra Flower (11/03/2012, Kew, London)

Pulmonaria rubra Flower (11/03/2012, Kew, London)

Position: Partial shade to full shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 40cm

Eventual Spread: 60cm

Hardiness: 4a – 9a

Family: Boraginaceae

Pulmonaria rubra is a clump forming, spreading herbaceous perennial. Its light green leaves are unspotted, elliptical, have entire leaf margins, a hairy upper surface  and are arranged in rosettes. Its red  flowers are 5 petaled and lobed, have a tubular corolla with 5 stamens and are produced in bunches along the stalks just above the foliage. The fruit is a dry 1-4 seeded drupe or nutlet. The roots are rhizomes which aid the spread of this plant. 

Pulmonaria rubra, commonly known as Red Lungwort, is native to the south east of Europe. Pulmonaria rubra is synonymus with Pulmonaria angustifolia ‘Rubra’ and Pulmonaria officinalis rubra.

The etymological root of the binomial name Pulmonaria is derived from the Latin pulmo ‘lungs’ in reference to its historic use. Rubra is from the Latin meaning ‘red’, in reference to the color of the flowers.

Pulmonaria rubra (11/03/2012, Kew, London)

Pulmonaria rubra (11/03/2012, Kew, London)

The landscape architect may find Pulmonaria rubra  useful in woodland setting or as understory ground cover as it can tolerate full shade and will form an effective ground cover. The plant may die back in hot dry periods and will recover when the temperature falls.

Ecologically,  P. rubra is attractive to bees, bumblebees, butterflies and pollinating insects. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some moths.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given P. rubra their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

P. rubra prefers moist, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate waterlogged soils.

P. rubra requires little maintenance. Large clumps may be lifted and divided in autumn.

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