Pulmonaria saccharata 'Dora Bielefeld'

Common Name: Bethlehem sage 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Boraginaceae
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Pink
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade, Clay Soil, Black Walnut


Best grown in cool, humusy, organically rich, evenly moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Soils must not be allowed to dry out. Avoid locations in full sun where leaves will often scorch or wilt. Intolerant of wet, poorly-drained soils. Spreads very slowly by creeping roots, but is not invasive. Divide plants in fall if they become overcrowded. Plant leaves may retain some color (semi-evergreen) in warm winter climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pulmonaria saccharata, commonly known as Bethlehem sage or lungwort, is more valued for its attractive foliage than for its flowers. It is a setose-hairy, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial of the borage family that features basal clumps to 8-12” tall of slightly-winged, long-stalked, acuminate, elliptic, bristly-pubescent, deep green leaves (4-12” long) which are heavily mottled with striking white spots or blotches. Sparsely-leaved flowering stems with ovate-oblong, short stalked to stalkless, cauline leaves (to 6” long) rise above the foliage clump to 18” tall in early to mid spring (April-May) topped by nodding branched terminal cymes of funnel-shaped blue bell-like flowers (to 1” long). Flower clusters are often two-toned because flowers emerge pink from pink buds but mature to blue. The basal foliage clump slowly spreads by creeping rootstocks to 24” wide. This plant is native from France to Italy.

Genus name comes from the Latin pulmo meaning lung. In accordance with the Doctrine of Signatures, genus plants were once believed by Medieval herbalists to be an effective remedy for treating lung diseases because the spotted plant leaves purportedly resembled diseased lungs. It is, however, well established today that there is no valid basis for believing genus plants have any value as medicinal plants.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word saccharatus meaning sugary in reference to the foliage being covered with a white film suggesting a powdering of sugar.

Common name of lungwort is in reference to the supposed resemblance of the spotted leaves to a diseased lung.

'Dora Bielefeld' is a German selection of lungwort that was awarded four out of four stars by the Chicago Botanic Garden based on its floral display, habit, adaptability and resistance to disease and harsh weather. It forms dense spreading clumps with fuzzy green leaves that have pale silvery green spots. The foliage retains its ornamental qualities until it dies back in winter. Clear pink, funnel-shaped flowers emerge from coral buds and unlike other lungworts, they rarely age to blue. 'Dora Bielefeld' grows 1 to 1.5 ft. tall and 1 to 2 ft. wide.


No serious insect or disease problems. Slugs and powdery mildew are occasional pests. Leaves can depreciate considerably in extremely hot weather and/or too much sun, particularly if soils are allowed to dry out. Root rot may occur in wet, poorly drained soils.

Garden Uses

Best grown in groups or massed as a ground cover in shady areas. Woodland or shade gardens, shaded border areas or shaded areas of rock gardens. Also can be an effective edging plant for shady paths.