Bergenias have pretty spring flowers, but these perennials are best known for their large, evergreen leaves that take on shades of red, orange, and purple during the winter. The glossy, leathery foliage arises in dense rosettes from thick rhizomes; individual leaves are rounded and up to 12 inches across, giving the plant a bold, architectural appearance that contrasts beautifully with fine-textured perennials like ferns and columbines. Blooming fairly early in spring, bergenias send up stout stalks topped with dense clusters of flowers. Many bergenia cultivars are available with flowers in shades of pink, red, peach, and white.
Common name: Bergenia, pigsqueak
Botanical name: Bergenia spp.
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 1 to 2 feet
• Sun: Partial shade or shade
• Soil: Moderately fertile loam, though also tolerates poorer soils
• Moisture: Evenly moist but well-drained
• Mulch: Add a 1-inch layer of compost, shredded leaves, or other fine-textured mulch.
• Pruning: Cut off any winter-damaged leaves in early spring.
• Fertilizer: Top-dress with compost annually.
Pests and diseases
• Vine weevils, slugs, and snails occasionally damage leaves.
• ‘Apple Blossom’ has pale pink and white flowers.
• ‘Bressingham Ruby’ has rose-pink flowers and good red winter leaf color.
• ‘Pink Dragonfly’ has coral pink flowers with glossy oval leaves.
• ‘Winter Glow’ (syn. ‘Winterglut’) is noted for bright winter leaf color.
• These are a great choice to add bold texture to woodland or shade gardens.
• The common name “pigsqueak” refers to the noise made if you rub the glossy leaves between your fingers.
• Bergenias spread at a moderate rate and can be used as a ground cover.
All in the family
• Bergenia is a member of the saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae). Other garden perennials in the family include Heuchera, Tiarella, and Rodgersia.
• Most bergenia cultivars are hybrids of several Bergenia species, including B. crassifolia, which was formerly known as B. cordifolia.
Where to buy
• Joy Creek Nursery, Scappoose, OR, 503-543-7474, www.joycreek.com
• Plant Delights Nursery, Raleigh, NC, 919-772-4794, www.plantdelights.com
• Wayside Gardens, Hodges, SC, 800-845-1124, www.waysidegardens.com
(Photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden)