Bergenia cordifolia

Bergenia cordifolia

This is a genus of only half a dozen species, but many hybrids. Originally from the moorlands,woodlands and meadows of central and eastern Asia, these evergreen perennials – otherwise known as ‘Elephant’s Ears’ because of their large rounded leaves – are extremely useful as they grow in shade or sun and wet or dry soil.

The leaves are glossy and leathery and colour well in the winter, especially in poor soil. They are excellent ground cover plants, especially in or on the edge of a woodland garden.

The flowers are handsome and are especially welcome in winter and early spring. They also last well in water, and the leaves are also long lasting, making them good flowers for arranging.

Bergenia leaves

Bergenia leaves

They benefit from regular lifting and dividing and this is the best way to propagate them, as gardens with more than one variety can hybridise and produce seed that is not true to the original types. Slugs can be a problem.

Bergenia 'Simply Sweet' in mass planting

Bergenia ‘Simply Sweet’ in mass planting

The Royal Horticultural Society has given its Award of Garden Merit (AGM) to some of the cultivars, including ‘Bressingham White’ and Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’.

Early spring bulbs (Snowdrops, Crocus, Scilla, Wood Anemones) are perfect partners for Bergenia- it’s best to plant both at the same time, ideally in autumn. Alternatively, using a narrow trowel, bulbs can be slipped in between established plants.

Further information:

How to grow Bergenias

BBC Plant finder

Cambridge Botanic Garden (national collection)

Quizzicals: two more cryptic clues to the names of plants, veg or fruit –

  • Helen drives a French car
  • The era of the taxi

Old School Gardener

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