Gardening in shade can be quite a challenging task. Add in dry soil conditions and pest problems and the list of plants that can perform well under these circumstances gets shorter and shorter. If you are looking for ways to beautify the shady spots in your garden or searching for the best flowering plants to brighten up your backyard, look no further than bergenia.
Bergenia refers to a group of about ten different species of flowering plants in the Saxifragaceae family. These evergreen perennials are a truly unique variety that beautifully fills the shady or dappled spots in the garden where other plants tend to shy away. Native to central Asia including regions like Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, and the Himalayas, bergenia are hardy plants that can do well in poor soil and harsh weather conditions.
Bergenias are the ideal candidates for shade gardens. They serve as an excellent rockery plantation and are often used for groundcover as well. When grown in sunny areas, the exquisite flowers of bergenia excel above its lush green foliage and provide quite a stunning sight.
The word ‘bergenia’ was coined by German botanist, Conrad Moench, who named the genus in honor of fellow botanist and physician, Karl August von Bergen in 1794. [Source: ABCGardening]
Table of Contents
- Common Names for Bergenia
- Types of Bergenia Flowers (by Species)
- Types of Bergenia Flowers (by Cultivars)
Common Names for Bergenia
Bergenia is also known as pigsqueak owing to the distinct sound produced when two of its leaves are rubbed together. Other names for bergenia include large rockfoil, elephant-eared saxifrage or elephant’s ears. This is because the leaves of these garden plants closely resemble the shape of an elephant’s ears.
Although the nicknames might sound rather weird, there’s no denying that bergenia plants are a popular variety amongst both novice and expert gardeners alike. They enchant gardeners with their thick glossy leaves highlighted all the more by the attractive and showy blooms.
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Discover the most popular types of bergenia flowers that you can plant in your own front or back yard.
Types of Bergenia Flowers (by Species)
Of about 10 different species in bergenia family, the most popular ones are discussed below.
Bergenia Ciliata (Hairy Bergenia)
Native to Afghanistan, Bhutan, and South Tibet, bergenia ciliata is a rhizomatic herb that grows up to 2 feet tall. It features fleshy leaves that turn slightly reddish during winter. The plant blooms in early summer and produces small white-pink or purplish flowers that grow together in clusters.
In India, this bergenia variety is known as pathar phor buty (transliteration: stone-cracking flower or a flower that blooms from a stone). This is because it is often found in rocky areas such as mountainsides where it has no trouble growing in the midst of stones.
Bergenia ciliata is held in high importance in certain parts of India due to its medicinal value. It is rich in bioactive compounds such as gallic acid and B-sitosterol that are used in making ayurvedic medicines. The rhizomes and roots of this plant have an anti-inflammatory effect and are used to treat stiff joints, renal failure, headaches, vertigo as well as abscesses and other skin infections.
Given its short stature, hairy bergenia is ideal for groundcover as well as planting in rock gardens. It will thrive best in humus-rich soils or soil that is rich in organic matter but you can also plant hairy bergenia in loamy or dry soils as long as it is supplemented with manure.
Bergenia Classifolia/ Cordifolia (Heart-Leaved Bergenia)
Bergenia classifolia is an evergreen perennial that grows a little over one foot high and spreads about 3 feet wide. The dark green leaves of this bergenia variety provide color all year round whereas the pretty little blooms that appear in early spring further add to the same.
The plant forms low-lying and colorful mounds featuring bold, spoon-shaped leaves and magenta or deep pink flowers. The species is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7 and is often found in natural areas such as alpine forest and near rock streams.
Bergenia classifolia is known by a variety of names that include leather bergenia, winter-blooming bergenia, Siberian tea, Korean elephant ear and Mongolian tea amongst others. However, the most widely used alternative name for bergenia classifolia is heart-leaved or heartleaf bergenia.
The leaves of this flowering plant are often used to make tea in regions such as Siberia (hence the name Siberian tea). After hostas, heartleaf bergenia and its cultivars are the most widely grown plants for part shade gardens.
Bergenia Stracheyi (Himalayan Bergenia)
Native to Afghanistan and western Himalayas, the bergenia stracheyi is an original dwarf variety. It reaches a maximum height of about 20 cm and spreads just a little over 2 feet wide.
Also, known as Himalayan bergenia, this species features evergreen foliage that consists of small, round leaves. Rose pink flowers that grow in tightly packed clusters appear in late spring or early summer and look truly spectacular against the backdrop of greens. They are shaped like bells and have a bright red color near the stem.
In late winter, the leaves also adopt a tinge of red. The pale pink flowers of this type of bergenia are mildly fragrant and will uplift the aura of your garden in a really fascinating manner.
Bergenia ligulata is mostly found in temperate regions of the Himalayas. It is a common sight on the hills in Kashmir, Bhutan, and northeastern India.
This bergenia species is relatively unknown in the home gardens but occupies a prominent place in traditional Indian medicine where it is commonly known as Paashaanbhed or Prashanbheda. This rhizome is often used to extract chemical compounds which are in turn used to make medicines for the treatment of kidney stones.
Types of Bergenia Flowers (by Cultivars)
Following are some of the most widely known cultivars of bergenia flowers that you can easily find at most of the leading garden stores.
Apple Blossom Bergenia
Bergenia cordifolia ‘Apple Blossom’ is an engineered variety of the heartleaf bergenia. It features large pale pink flowers growing on bright red stalks that gracefully rise above the glossy dark green leaves.
Like most of the other types of bergenia flowers, Apple Blossom is also rabbit and deer resistant. It is easy to grow and care for, plus, it can thrive in a variety of soil types ranging from dry and sandy to moist and clay-like.
This pink clump-forming variety is ideal for edging, massing, and groundcover as well as for planting in containers or in rock gardens. The large flower heads of Apple Blossom make striking cut flowers and look fantastic when placed in a sleek and slender glass vase.
Bressingham White Bergenia
Bressingham White is one of the hybrid varieties in the Bergenia Bressingham Series. As the name suggests, this variety has been specifically bred to produce pure white flowers. Borne on short stems, these white flowers bloom in early spring and highlighted against the dark green foliage, provide a dazzling sight all through the summer season.
The flowers of Bressingham White are initially pale pink but the subtle hues fade away as the flower matures. Its leaves feature a rich green color that gradually adopts a tint a bronze as autumn arrives.
Growing about one foot high, this bergenia variety performs well in humus-rich, moist and well-drained soils. It prefers sun or part shade but can easily tolerate a range of weather and soil conditions.
The pristine white flowers of this bergenia cordifolia hybrid are a welcome addition to garden beds and borders.
Bressingham Ruby Bergenia
Another hybrid species in the Bergenia Bressingham Series, this plant is a must-have for cottage gardens, rock gardens, and even coastal gardens.
Bressingham Ruby bergenia is prized for its incredibly showy and fancy red blooms that are guaranteed to catch every eye from afar. This compact clump-forming garden plant features evergreen foliage. The leaves are somewhat round in shape and have a thick, leathery texture with a glossy finish. Short, red colored stems rise from the mass of leaves and when bloom time arrives, become laden with bright red flowers. These crimson blooms grow as a rosette or upright clusters extending gracefully over the large green leaves. Rosette is a term used by botanists to refer to a circular arrangement of leaves or flowers.
By late winter, the leaves take on a maroon-red or burgundy shade, hence, providing year- round interest for gardeners. You can plant Bressingham Ruby along garden paths or walkways for a touch of class and extravagance.
Bressingham Salmon Bergenia
Noted for its bright green foliage coupled with rosettes of small orange-ish pink flowers, the Salmon bergenia is another famous hybrid variety in the Bressingham series. The plant is predominantly used as foreground cover under large trees or for bordering, edging or massing. It can also be planted in garden beds for a colorful groundcover.
Salmon bergenia blooms excessively during the months of March and April but stops flowering by late spring. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8 as it can tolerate semi-arid to dry soils really well. The flowers are shaped like bells and are best suited for planting beside walkways or on frontal borders.
A cultivar of the bergenia cordifolia, the Winterglut bergenia is known for its vibrant reddish-pink flowers that appear in early spring. The dark green leaves turn into deep red or orange colors in fall, providing year-round interest for gardeners all across America.
Its cabbage-like leaves are also used for making bouquets or planted as filler in garden beds and flower borders. This variety prefers full shade to partial sun and looks amazing when complemented with plants such as coral bells, hosta or bleeding hearts.
Bergenia Eroica or pigsqueak Eroica is an undemanding, disease-free and deer resistant plant that is best suited for planting under full sun or part shade. This dark pink clump-forming, evergreen perennial is not affected by frost and is suitable for planting in hardiness zones 3 to 8. It produces erect clusters of purplish-pink flowers surrounded by round, leathery leaves that turn deep purple or red in winter. The blooms grow on tall bronze-green stalks rising above the mound of foliage.
Owing to its low maintenance needs, bergenia Eroica is the go-to option for city dwellers who are keen on nurturing their own urban jungles. Fully mature plants measure about a foot high and 2 feet across which means you can easily grow this species even if you don’t have a very large space available for gardening. Like most of the other types of bergenia flowers, bergenia Eroica is also propagated by division or rooting rhizome sections in fall or early spring.
Also known as bergenia ‘Evening Bells,’ this hybrid variety is noted for its bold, large-leaved foliage that adopts a touch of crimson hues in late winter. The plant has short red stems that bear vivid pinkish-red rosettes. Each rosette consists of several small, bell-shaped florets having bright pink petals and a deep red base. The leaves are a bit crinkled but have the characteristic shine of all bergenia species nonetheless.
Bergenia Abendglocken looks magnificent when planted in sufficiently large groups.
Fringed bergenia, also identified by the common name winter begonia, is a truly incredible bergenia variety in the sense that it balances shapes and textures really well. The plant produces upright clusters of delicate florets that are a sharp contrast against the large round leaves lining the bottom. What makes this species different from other bergenia varieties is the fact that its foliage does not consist of the usually thick and glossy leaves. It comprises of soft leaves with a hairy texture instead.
Rosi Klose Bergenia
This highly sought-after bergenia variety is famous for its unique flower shape. The pale pink flowers grow in clusters containing lots of five-petal florets. The bunch of blooms tends to droop and trail due to the heavy growth pattern. The leaves are large and almost circular in shape. The lively green shade compliments the dull flower color in a gracefully stylish manner.
Prized by gardeners all across the world, bergenia is a truly exclusive garden plant – and for all the right reasons too. These plants produce captivating pink, red, purple or white flowers of tropical appearance that have great decorative value. Bergenia plants might be short in stature but what they lack in size they compensate with their ornate and eye-catching blooms. No matter which type of bergenia flowers you choose to grow in your backyard, rest assured that they make a fine addition to any garden.