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Bethlehem sage

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. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Pulmonaria saccharata

All Common Names:

Bethlehem sage, lungwort

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

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 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil

Season of Interest:

  • Early spring,
  • Mid spring,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Blue,
  • Pink

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

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.

Plant Care

Long-leaved lungwort needs shady conditions and moist soils for best growth.  Plants grown in dry conditions often don't look good

Disease, pests, and problems

Slugs can be a problem.  Leaf spots and crown rot can occur if the plant is in a wet site.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to deer and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Europe.

Leaf description

This plant has both basal and stems leaves, with the stems leaves being alternate.   The leaves are 6 inches long;  dark green with white spots.  This gives 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.

Cultivars and their differences

Dora Bielefeld Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata 'Dora Bielefeld'):  Coral buds open into pink flowers.  The flowers usually stay pink instead of changing to blue.

Leopard Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata 'Leopard'):  Large leaves heavily spotted with silver; pink flowers.

Mrs. Moon Bethlehem sage (Pulmonaria saccharata 'Mrs. Moon'):  Dark green leaves with round silver spots; pink buds open to pink flowers that turn blue.  Pink and blue flowers are often together in quantity.


Related species

Common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis):  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'.

Location of Pulmonaria saccharata (Bethlehem sage) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.