Sporting bold foliage and early spring flowers, heartleaf brunnera is a choice perennial for moist, shaded sites. This low-maintenance plant, a native to Siberia, readily handles Minnesota winters through zone 3.
Heartleaf brunnera has large, heart-shaped basal leaves that form a rounded mound about a foot tall. Its foliage is a pleasant green on the species, but you can find flashier variegated cultivars, as well. Look for 'Jack Frost,' with its silvery crackle patterns, cream-margined 'Variegata' or solidly silver 'Looking Glass.'
Heartleaf brunnera is an early bloomer, usually mid-May around the Twin Cities. Each leafy clump sends up many flowering stalks clad with small leaves and airy clusters of tiny sky-blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots. (Deadheading the stalks when the flowers fade will encourage a second flush of flowers.)
Plant heartleaf brunnera in moist soil and shade or partial sun. A thin layer of organic mulch such as pine needles or composted leaves helps keep soil moist. If the foliage looks tired in late summer, it can be cut back to the ground. Just be sure to keep the plants watered as fresh new foliage emerges.
Heartleaf brunnera combines beautifully with plenty of shade perennials and ground covers. Its blue flowers make a nice contrast to gold-leafed hostas or 'Gold Heart' bleeding heart. Variegated cultivars provide interesting foliage throughout the growing season. Plant colorful impatiens in front of them for extra pizazz.
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial.
Hardiness: Zone 3.
Size: 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.
Season of interest: Early spring bloom; foliage attractive through summer.
Fun Fact: Another common name for this plant is Siberian bugloss. Unfortunately, "bugloss" doesn't mean it will keep mosquitoes or other insects at bay.