Content Detail

Bethlehem sage is a clumping perennial that is often planted in groups to form a ground cover. This plant has spotted leaves that are attractive long after the spring flowers are gone. 

  • Family (English) Borage
  • Family (botanic) Boraginaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Blue, Pink
  • Shape or form Mounded
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and Method of spreading: 

Bethlehem sage grows about 12 to 18 inches high and 24 inches wide. It is often used as a clump-forming ground cover. Clump-forming ground covers are plants that are not usually thought of as ground covers. They are perennials that can be planted closely together to provide the visual effect of a ground cover.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Bethlehem sage is native to Europe.

Leaf description: 

This plant has both basal and stems leaves, with the stems leaves being alternate. The leaves are dark green with white spots and 6 inches long and give the plant ornamental appeal throughout the season.

Flower description: 

The small funnel-shaped flowers are borne in branched clusters in early to mid-spring. The flowers emerge pink and mature to blue.

Fruit description: 

The small, dry fruits are not ornamentally important.

Plant care: 

Bethlehem sage needs shady conditions and moist soils for best growth. Plants grown in dry conditions are often unattractive.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Slugs can be a problem on this plant. Leaf spots and crown rot can occur if the plant is in a wet site. It is resistant to deer and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Related species: 

Common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is similar to Bethlehem sage, but shorter (6 to 12 inches high). While this species has flowers that open pink and mature to blue, it is best known for its white-flowered cultivars ‘White Wings’ and ‘Sissinghurst White’.

Dora Bielefeld Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Dora Bielefeld’): 

This cultivar has coral buds which open into pink flowers. The flowers usually stay pink instead of changing to blue.

Leopard Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Leopard’): 

This plant has large leaves which are heavily spotted with silver. The flowers are pink..

Mrs. Moon Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata ‘Mrs. Moon’): 

This cultivar has dark green leaves with round silver spots. Its pink buds open to pink flowers that turn blue. Large quantities of pink and blue flowers are often together on the plant at the same time.


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