Bergenias make excellent ground cover plants, with large, semi-evergreen leaves, that give them their common name of elephant’s ears.
The bold, rounded foliage makes bergenias good plants to use for textural contrasts with strappy-leaved, or fine-leaved plants and flowers.
Bergenias also work well as an alternative for hostas, if soil conditions are poor. They have been used really effectively in Beth Chatto’s gravel garden as they’re drought-tolerant.
- Bergenia and saxifrage container display
- Flowering ground cover plants for shade
- Ground cover plants for sun
Take a look at our handy bergenia Grow Guide, below.
Where to grow bergenias
Plant your bergenia in moist but well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. Although bergenias have a reputation for being good shade plants, if you choose a variety for good leaf colour, these do better in sun and poor soil.
Dig a hole for your bergenia, adding in a little grit for added drainage if the soil is heavy. Follow our guide to planting herbaceous perennials.
Bergenias are clump-forming perennials that spread by rhizomes. This makes it easy to propagate plants by dividing in spring or autumn. Watch our video of Sarah Raven dividing herbaceous perennials.
Bergenias: problem solving
Check bergenia leaves regularly and tidy up decaying foliage to help stay on top of slugs, snails, vine weevils, and caterpillars.
Caring for bergenias
Encourage the bergenia leaves to grow as large as possible by mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure. Remove tatty leaves and faded flowerheads to keep plants looking good. Thin out clumps every few years to keep them healthy.
Beautiful bergenias to grow
- Bergenia ‘Ballawley’ – with extremely large, glossy leaves, green in summer, turning reddish with frost. Rose-red flowers appear on tall stems in spring
- Bergenia ‘Sunningdale’ – with large green leaves that turn red in the autumn, and deep-pink, bell-shaped flowers in spring
- Bergenia ‘Purpurea’ – with purple foliage all year round and pink flowers in late winter and spring. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
- Bergenia ‘Wilton’ – native to the Himalayas, with unusual large green, furry leaves. ‘Wilton’ has pretty pink or pink-white flowers in early spring and large grey-pink leaves up to 50cm in diameter. For best results grow in partial shade to avoid leaf scorch
- Bergenia x schmidtii – a tough plant, that copes well in poor soil and forms dense clumps. It needs dividing every three to five years