Heartleaf Bergenia - Bergenia cordifolia

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Bergenia cordifolia 'Red Beauty' Picture courtesy TuberfloraBergenia cordifolia 'Red Beauty' Picture courtesy TuberfloraCondensed Version:

Bergenia is a fast growing evergreen perennial that produces showy clusters of waxy bell-shaped flowers on long red stalks in late winter and spring. Numerous garden hybrids have been bred, providing colours ranging from deep purplish pink to pale pink and occasionally white. The rounded to heart-shaped and sometimes puckered leaves are a glossy dark green and remain attractive even after the flowers fade. Bergenia is an excellent plant choice for families with young children, as the plants are non-toxic. The handsome leaves provide strong contrast for most garden plants, but especially when combined with fine leaved plants like ferns. They make excellent woodland plants and grow well in moist conditions. They are also excellent groundcover and border plants for the shade garden and grow easily in pots.

Bergenia is very hardy to frost and tolerates temperatures as low as -15°C; growing very well in most of the temperate summer rainfall or Highveld regions of South Africa. It can struggle in the dry continental regions; as well as in the drier parts of the winter rainfall regions.  In very hot or humid areas, it is susceptible to fungal leaf spot and rhizome rot. Although this plant thrives in semi-shade, in regions with high rainfall it can be grown in full sun. It thrives if watered regularly and is planted in humus rich, acid soils; but adapts to most garden soils which have been enriched with compost. Although it thrives in moist conditions, it also tolerates drought; growing slowly in dry areas and rapidly in constantly moist spots. The plants can spread up to 75cm; forming expanding clumps of beautiful leaves about 20cm tall; they are vigorous, yet not invasive.  Although the plant remains low growing, the flowering stems can reach up to 50cm tall. Mulch and feed regularly for best results.

Full Version:

Description, History & Interesting Facts:

Bergenia is native to the cold regions of central Asia, from Afghanistan to China and the Himalayan region; and can be grown in many different environments. It is a fast growing perennial that produces showy clusters of waxy bell-shaped flowers on long red stalks in late winter and spring. Numerous garden hybrids have been bred, providing colours ranging from deep purplish pink to pale pink and occasionally white. The rounded to heart-shaped and sometimes puckered leaves are a glossy dark green and remain attractive even after the flowers fade; and in cold regions turn a rich bronze in autumn and winter.

Uses:

The roots of Bergenia have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and you can find Bergenia in over the counter medicines for weight loss and kidney health.

In the Garden:

Bergenia ia an excellent plant choice for families with young children, as the plants are non-toxic. The handsome leaves provide strong contrast for most garden plants, but especially when combined with fine leaved plants like ferns. They make excellent woodland plants and grow well in moist conditions besides water features and ponds. They are also excellent border plants for the shade garden and grow easily in pots. Planted about 30cm apart, they make a useful groundcover. Try planting yellow daffodils between the clumps and a border of grape hyacinths; for a stunning spring display.

Cultivation:

Bergenia is an evergreen, fast growing herbaceous perennial which has adapted to growing in many climatic conditions around the world. It is very hardy to frost and tolerates temperatures as low as -15°C; growing very well in most of the temperate summer rainfall or Highveld regions of South Africa. In the dry continental regions, it will need lots of shade and plenty of water. It will also grow in the higher rainfall areas of the winter rainfall regions; as long as it can be watered throughout the hot, dry summer season.  In very hot or humid areas, it is susceptible to fungal leaf spot and rhizome rot.

Although the heartleaf bergenia thrives in semi-shade, in regions with high rainfall it can be grown in full sun. It thrives if watered regularly during dry spells and if it is planted in humus rich, acid soils; but adapts to most garden soils which have been enriched with lots of compost. Although it thrives in moist conditions, it also tolerates drought; growing slowly in dry areas and rapidly in constantly moist spots. The plants can spread up to 75cm; forming expanding clumps of beautiful leaves about 20cm tall; they are vigorous, yet not invasive.  Although the plant remains low growing, the flowering stems can reach up to 50cm tall. Mulch the roots regularly with organic matter to keep them cool and to retain moisture. Fertilise three to four times per year with a balanced organic fertiliser.

Propagation:

Propagation is by division of the roots, and after 3 to 4 years the clumps will become untidy and will need to be split and transplanted. This is best done is early summer when they have finished blooming, and an ideal time to start new plants.

Pests & Diseases:

Bergenia do not suffer from many pests and diseases, but in very hot or humid areas is susceptible to fungal leaf spot and rhizome rot. Watch out for snails and slugs, especially during spring.

Additional Info

  • Common Name: Heartleaf Bergenia
  • Latin Name: Bergenia cordifolia