Brunnera macrophylla

posted in: Gardening | 6
Have you ever considered growing Brunnera macrophylla? Moist well drained shade can be daunting especially for first time gardeners. You want colour like everywhere else in the garden but this one area defeats you time and again. You’ve spent money on plants …they look great for a few weeks …then they just sulk and never flower. Or worse still never re-appear after the winter. You really wanted this part of the garden to have colour like all the others parts  but “what’s ever going to grow here from one year to the next?” I hear you exclaim!

Brunnera macrophylla are woodland plants that thrive in moist well drained shade. Furthermore they have wedge-wood blue flowers during April | May. Moreover they are reliable herbaceous hardy perennials. Consequently every subsequent year they will grow and flower better and better.

Brunnera macrophylla


Brunnera macrophylla | Siberian bugloss foliage leaves

I grow :

  • 1 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’  (left in photo)
  • 2 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking glass’  (middle in photo)
  • 3 Brunnera macrophylla  (right in photo)


  1. Each of these plants is suitable for moist shade.
  2. They can tolerate morning sunlight in a northern hemisphere garden. However the soil needs to be moist.
  3. They are neat clump forming plants.
  4. Each plant grows to about  15 inches high x 12 inches wide.
  5. The plants are also deer | rabbit resistant.
  6. They don’t mind growing in a north facing aspect.
  7. Every April/May they produce long thin wirey stems with sprays of tiny little blue flowers. As a result they seem to dance in mid air for about 6 weeks.
  8. The brunnera spring flowers are so similar to ‘forget-me-nots’ (a cousin). In fact they’ve been nicknamed the ‘Great forget me not’ though in reality the flowers are almost the same size.
  9. They are very easy to grow.
  10. The plants are not prone to any diseases. Though like any other plant slugs,snails and aphids might take a liking to the leaves.
  11. Likewise they are also good foliage plants for borders and containers.
  12. Good for ground cover and suppressing weeds.
  13. They require 1 balanced feed at the start of the spring season.
  14. Leave the old leaves on over the winter time to protect the crown of the plant. However you need to remove them in early spring before the new growth starts.

#1  Brunnera macrophylla

Brunnera macrophylla | Siberian bugloss is the ‘plainer’ of the three types that I grow and it’s a native plant from the Caucasus.

Brunnera macrophylla

It has large green heart shaped leaves and sprays of tiny little blue flowers. Mine grows in the shade underneath the golden bamboo Phyllostachys aurea and receives some morning sunlight.


Brunnera macrophylla

Brunnera macrophylla | Siberian bugloss

It really does have to compete with the bamboo and I wonder how much more vigorous and floriferous it could become if I placed it in a ‘less root compacted’ area with richer soil?

#2  Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ was introduced in 2000 from the USA. It has large heart shaped crinkled edged leaves with green and silver markings. In 2012 it was Perennial of the Year in the USA.

In my garden it is the most robust out of the three plants. It also has very good silvery foliage throughout spring, summer and autumn.  Its leaves are tightly packed together and a group of these will certainly suppress the weeds.


Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’  AGM – RHS Award of Gardening Merit

It can also be grown in a container. Though you need to be careful with the watering as the edges of the leaves will go brown if there’s not enough moisture in the soil.


#3  Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ is my favourite and is usually the first to start flowering each year. It has much smaller elegant heart shaped leaves compared to ‘Jack Frost’. In fact they aren’t as coarse. It’s a sport from ‘Jack Frost’ and was first introduced in 2004.

It also seems to be a looser clump and the leaves are not as tightly packed together the way they are with ‘Jack Frost’.


Brunnera macrophylla 'Looking Glass'

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Looking Glass’ AGM – RHS Award of Gardening Merit

Finally by the middle of summer all hints of green have disappeared from the leaves. As a result it displays a silvery patina across the whole leaf.



Brunnera macrophylla can self seed while ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Looking Glass’ can only be grown from division. Hopefully this year I’ll have plants big enough to start to propagate from.

So maybe your shady area isn’t the problem you first thought it was! These are low maintenance plants and great to grow alongside ferns, grasses and hostas.  How could anyone resist growing at least one of these! 

Do you grow any Brunnera in your garden?

Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh. She also writes and shares her nature images on

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6 Responses

  1. Alistair

    How topical Rosie. We planted Jack Frost for the first time a couple of years ago, just love it. Only this afternoon we were considering what to do with a shady spot and came to the decision to get Brunnera which we then ordered online. Went for the plain macrophylla this time thinking it would be even more robust, hmm maybe wrong about that but should be ok. Love your images of them all.

  2. A Garden of Threads

    I grow 'Jack Frost' and the plain Brunnera. They struggle in with not having enough moisture, but a gardeners we are always trying something new and pushing the envelope.

  3. Rosie Nixon

    Hi Alistair It certainly will be robust for your area plus it might even self seed for you too. I'm thinking of moving mine as the bamboo must be starving the plant.

  4. Anna

    Beautiful aren't they Rosie and so easy going too 🙂 Have recently treated myself to 'Langtrees' and 'Silverwings' to add to the ones already growing in the garden.