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How to Grow Siberian Bugloss (False Forget-Me-Not)

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


I prefer growing plants from seed because it is much cheaper but some plants cannot be grown from seed because they are hybrids. In that case, I am forced to buy them as young plants. The most money that I ever spent on a plant was a cultivar of Siberian bugloss called “Jack Frost”, the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2012. It was worth every penny.

What is Siberian Bugloss?

Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) is a member of the borage family. As its name indicates, it is native to Siberia and the eastern Mediterranean. It is called False Forget-Me-Not because the plants have bright blue flowers in the spring that strongly resemble Forget-Me-Nots.

The flowers are bright blue and look like Forget-Me-Nots.

The flowers are bright blue and look like Forget-Me-Nots.

Siberian bugloss is a perennial flowering plant that is hardy in zones 3 – 8. It grows best in moist shade, but will tolerate some sun in the mornings. It’s low growing, about 12 – 18 inches tall and 12 – 24 inches wide. It is often used as a ground cover because it grows in clumps that spread by underground rhizomes. The leaves are 6 inches wide and heart-shaped. Newer cultivars have variegated leaves. My favorite is Jack Frost which has silver variegation and really shines in a shady spot in my garden. The newer variegated cultivars spread more slowly than the original green leaved plants.

The flowers are bright blue and held above the plants on racemes. Bloom time is April – May. The flowers will last up to 4 weeks. These plants will readily self-sow so you may want to remove the flowers after they die before they have a chance to form seeds. If you don’t mind the plants self-sowing in your garden, be mindful that only the original green plants will come true from the seed. The newer cultivars with the pretty leaves are hybrids so their offspring will not look like them.

My favorite cultivar "Jack Frost".

My favorite cultivar "Jack Frost".

How to Grow Siberian Bugloss

Plan on adding this beauty to your shady or semi-shady garden. It will grow in full sun, but the leaves tend to get scorched and you will need to water often to maintain the moist soil that it prefers. Choose a site that is either full shade or only gets sun in the mornings.

Siberian bugloss is not fussy about soil pH, but it does need rich, moist soil. You will need to add a lot of compost and even using it as a mulch to keep your plant happy. A thick 2 – 3 inch layer of any kind of organic mulch will help keep the soil moist. There is no need to add fertilizer to this plant.

After blooming, the older leaves may get a little tattered looking. Prune those away which will encourage growth of new leaves. In the fall, the leaves will die, but don’t remove them. They are needed to protect the crown of the plant through the winter. Once the new growth starts to appear in the spring, you can finally prune away the old, dead foliage from the previous year.

A cultivar called "Variegata" with heavily variegated leaves.

A cultivar called "Variegata" with heavily variegated leaves.

How to Divide Siberian Bugloss

Siberian bugloss is usually divided every 3 – 5 years in the early spring just as the plants are growing their new foliage. They can also be divided in the fall as the leaves are dying. I always divide my perennials in the fall because I am too busy in the spring to do it. Fall is also a good time for me because I am working in my gardens planting bulbs, so it’s easy to also divide my perennials at the same time.

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Use a spade to carefully dig up your clumps and gently pull the crowns apart. Make sure each division has both foliage and roots. Discard any dead or diseased pieces. Replant your divisions 12 – 18 inches apart.

A cultivar called "Diane's Gold" with yellowish leaves.

A cultivar called "Diane's Gold" with yellowish leaves.

How to Grow Siberian Bugloss From Root Cuttings

Another way to propagate your plants is to create new plants from root cuttings. Root cuttings are exactly what they sound like: cuttings taken from the roots of your plants. You want to take your root cuttings in the late winter or very early spring when the plant is dormant.

Carefully dig up a few roots and choose one that is about the thickness of a thick wire. Cut it into 1 - 2 inch pieces. Lay the pieces on top of pre-moistened soil in a container and barely cover with soil. You should see leaves starting to grow in 3 – 4 weeks. This indicates that roots have developed.

At this point, you can transplant them into separate containers. Your seedlings can be moved into your garden after your last frost. Space them 12 - 18 inches apart.

© 2020 Caren White


Caren White (author) on June 07, 2020:

You should use fresh potting soil each year in your containers. Make sure that you are planting your seeds at the correct depth. The seed packets will tell you how deep to plant them.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 07, 2020:

wow , you have great green fingers!

My garden is full of weeds now.

Since lockdown, the grass cutter guy couldn't come.

I have a couple of plants in giant flower pots.

Does the soil affect the flower seeds from growing?

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