Friday, May 4, 2018

Brunnera macrophylla for Part-Shade to Full Shade

Brunnera macrophylla has dainty sprays of sky-blue flowers each spring, but the reason you'll want to consider this perennial for your garden is its unique and attractive foliage.

The species plant sometimes sold as Anchusa myosotiflora

The species plant, which has the common name Siberian Bugloss, is admittedly a bit plain-Jane-green, but modern cultivars can have silvery or variegated foliage that is well worth seeking out.

The blue flowers of Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' 

Brunnera macrophylla is also a terrific low-maintenance plant for moist, part-shade to full shade.

Unlike hosta, Brunnera cultivars that have thicker leaves are pretty slug-resistant. If you're tired of looking at hosta riddled with holes, this plant might be an excellent option!

One drawback– you'll find Brunnera is a bit of an investment. They're a slow-growing perennial, so you'll find even small plants can be a bit pricy. 

Ongoing Care

Given the right conditions, Brunnera is an easy-care perennial. They prefer cool summers and soil that is rich in organic matter. While they like moist conditions, Brunnera macrophylla requires free-draining soil that is evenly moist, but not soggy.

Keep new plants well watered in their first season. If moisture conditions become too dry, the plant may fade and die (there goes your investment!). Adding a top layer of mulch will help the plant stay cool and moist.

Brunnera macrophylla can be great self-seeders. Unfortunately, while the species plant will come true to seed, the fancier cultivars will not. To avoid unwanted generic seedlings, cut the flower stems all the way back to the base of the plant as soon as they begin to fade. Removing spent flowers also has the added bonus of keeping Brunnera looking tidy through the remainder of the gardening season.

Brunnera is a clump-forming perennial that spread slowly by creeping rhizomes. Divide them in the fall. Regular division, every 4 or 5 years, will ensure they stay vigorous and long-lived. 

Cultivars to Collect

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' 

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' has heart-shaped, silver-colored leaves that are veined in a bright green. Sprays of blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. This cultivar can take more sun than many other types of Brunnera, but it still prefers afternoon shade particularly in hotter gardening zones. Average garden soil is fine, but 'Jack Frost' prefers rich soil and moist conditions. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-8.

 Brunnera macrophylla 'Variegata' has heart-shaped splashed with cream and green. The flowers of this cultivar are bright blue. Average soil is fine. Note: leaf edges of this cultivar may scorch in the sun. Part to full shade and moist conditions. Height: 30-40 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm.  Zones 2-8.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass' has cool-toned silvery-grey leaves that have fine blue-green veining and leaf edges. Sprays of pale blue flowers, which closely resemble forget-me-nots, appear in mid-spring. Average soil is fine and moist conditions are best. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 3-8.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Sea Heart' The veining on this cultivar is bright yellow-green giving Sea Heart's silver-green leaves a slightly warmer cast. Sprays of sky-blue flowers appear in mid-spring. Average soil and moist conditions are best. Height: 30-40 cm (12-16 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm ( 12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 2-8.

Companion Planting

Trillium and  Brunnera macrophylla 'Variegata' 

Brunnera makes great companions for other woodland plants that like similar conditions; Bloodroot, Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Erythronium, Wood Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides), and Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum).

Primrose with Brunnera flowers in the background.

Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis

Brunnera with Ferns in the background.

Primroses, Ferns, Foam Flowers (Tiarella), Hellebores and Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) would also make excellent companion plants. 

Brunnera combined with Hosta.

Brunnera 'Jack Frost' (left) with Heuchera 'Silver Scroll' (in the foreground) 
and Hosta 'Fire and Ice' (in the upper right).

The silvery foliage of Brunnera macrophylla looks terrific when paired with just about any hosta. Heuchera is another foliage plant that works well with either of these two perennials. 

Plant type: Perennial

Height: 15-40 cm (6-16 inches) depending on cultivar

Spread: 30-60 cm (12-23 inches) depending on cultivar

Flower: Sprays of blue forget-me-not type flowers

Bloom period: Early spring

Leaf: Silver-green or white and green depending on the cultivar

Light: Part to full shade

Soil: Average

Moisture conditions: Moist

Divide: In fall

Deer & Rabbit Resistant

Problems: No serious problems

USDA Zones: 2-8


  1. Thank you for posting this. I am making a list of plants I would like to have for our next home and some of these are so pretty.

  2. These are really beautiful little flowers, Jennifer.
    They remind me of Forget-Me-Nots, but the leaves are much prettier.
    You have a wonderful week ahead, and as always, thank you so much for sharing here.

  3. I agree with you regarding the beautiful foliage of the Brunnera. I have three plants in the front garden and I look forward to the day when the leaves are like the large ones I see on my walks through the neighbourhood. Aside from the leaves, a great attraction of these plants is that deer leave them alone!


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