Brunnera the Perfect Plant

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian Bugloss) is the most beautiful and versatile plant in my garden. It is blooming its little blue heart out right now, when very little else has started to flower.

Brunnera macrophylla \'Jack Frost\' (Siberian bugloss)

This plant has so many positive attributes. The beautiful sky blue flowers resemble forget-me-nots, and are held in airy sprays above the plant. The blooms of ‘Jack Frost’ are fairly long lasting for a perennial. It blooms early in the spring, and is the first plant, other than bulbs, to flower in my garden. I appreciate the early bloomers, after a long winter, more than any other plants in the garden.

Brunnera macrophylla \'Jack Frost\' (Siberian Bugloss)

The leaves are exquisite, each one a stained glass painting in silver and green. As they grow through the season, the leaves become more silvery, more heart shaped, and the dark green veining patterns more distinct. Its foliage really stands out in the shade. It is one of the last plants to be visible at dusk as I glance out my window for that final look at the garden before dark.

It’s incredible that such a beautiful plant could be so hardy and versatile. Every one of my B. macrophylla survived over the winter in our zone 3 cold climate. It also adapts very well to shade. I have this plant in 3 different aspects, from semi-shade to medium deep shade and it has no problems. One area gets only an hour of light in the very early morning, yet they are blooming right now. I’ve been surprised at how well they handle the competition from willow roots too. I squeezed a few plants into tight pockets between roots, and they are doing just fine.

I heartily recommend Brunner macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ for its beauty and versatility in the garden. You can get away with buying the smaller less expensive sizes, since they grow quickly over the summer.

While in the garden centre recently, I saw the newly introduced B. macrophylla ‘Mr Morse’. The leaves are very similar to ‘Jack Frost’, but the flowers are white instead of the sky blue flowers of  ‘Jack Frost’. If you if you would like the foliage effects of this plant, but with white flowers, then you might want to check out ‘Mr. Morse’. Here is a post I wrote on 3 silver toned Brunnera macrophylla plants, including ‘Jack Frost’. You can see pictures of ‘Mr. Morse’, along with ‘Looking Glass’, an even more silvery Brunnera that I’ve planted. You can see how great Brunnera still looks after the first frosts here. There are many Brunnera between some spruce in my front garden , too.

45 thoughts on “Brunnera the Perfect Plant”

  1. They are definitely worth it, and I think you will find them successful in your northern garden. The plants are still a little expensive, but I found they grew fairly fast, so even smaller ones should be a decent size by the end of the summer.

    1. I planted the Jack Frost last fall and this spring the plants have come up but they are small and the foliage is small. It is planted under a maple and is mostly in shade. Do you the leaves are small because they aren’t getting sun or is it just too early in season or could it be not enough water. I live these plants but am not sure if they are in the right spot.

    2. Julie Read, it could be that they are still young, and might get larger next year. I have some under a maple and they are a good size. However, they can get stunted under some trees, as I also have some planted under a willow, and the ones very close to the trunk are quite small.

  2. I agree with you. This plant is beautiful and easy to care. I have some of the Jack Frost’s in my garden too. I’m glad you mentioned “Mr Morse”, as I am always looking for plants with white blooms. I never saw this “Mr Morse” in any catalogue / gardencenter here. Maybe it is coming from an US plant grower?

  3. Pomona, ‘Jack Frost’ is a good looking plant, both the leaves and flowers. The flowers just faded this week, so each plant bloomed for 6 weeks, which is fairly good for a perennial. Its tolerance of a variety of conditions is another endearing trait.

  4. picked up a brunnera at a plant sale in our old neighbourhood- its is blooming in a pot but leaves are solid green, not frosty looking, flowers are blue not unlike forget-me nots- what about solid green leaves?

    June 7, 2009

    1. Patricia, the basic Brunnera macrophylla does have solid green leaves. There are a number of named types that have different leaf markings. The basic Brunnera is a nice plant, but I find the ones with silver markings to be the loveliest.

      I have three types that have silver markings. ‘Jack Frost’ has silver leaves with green veins, giving it the stained glass effect. ‘Mr. Morse’ has very similar leaves to ‘Jack Frost’, but it has white blooms. I also have ‘Looking Glass’, which has an overall silver colour, with much fainter green. ‘Looking Glass’ has the same blue flowers as ‘Jack Frost’. These three will not come true from the seeds, so you’d have to purchase them, and then divide them as they grow to expand your groupings.

      There are other types that have various cream coloured markings on them as well. I’ve heard that the ones with cream coloured markings are not as shade tolerant, but I haven’t tried them myself.

  5. I agree with all of the writers about this lovely announcement that spring is here again. I have three in my garden and in early spring, the blue flowers with the variegated leaves of “Jack Frost” spread delicate charm throughout the shade/part shade garden from early April through to late June. In summer, they set off foam flower clusters (Lime green to burgundy) as well as Hostas of any hue. Unlike their cousins, the Forget-me-nots, they keep their proper place but if they like where they are, they can grow to a 24″+ spread so… allow them that room in the garden.

    1. Shaaron, my one group of 3 Brunnera is about a metre (3 feet) in diameter. It makes a great display. some of the other Brunnera have not grown as large. I love those sky blue flowers, and they do pair up well with other plants.

    1. Hi # 11, If you can find the smaller size for less money, it would be a good buy, since the Brunnera grow quickly, and can be a good size by the end of the season. I bought some of mine as a less expensive small size, and they grew well the first year. Although they grew quickly to almost their full size, they never continued growing into the surrounding plants, a happy combination. I also found some on sale in the fall.

  6. I love brunnera’s I have three different types
    basic green
    jack frost
    varigated
    I love the varigated the best with the cream and green mixed
    the jack frost is easily reseeded

    1. Bonnie, another nice Brunnera is ‘Looking Glass’, which develops an overall silver colour in summer. It has the same pretty blue flowers. If you’re looking for a Brunnera with white flowers, ‘Mr. Morse’ has them, with the same leaf pattern as Jack Frost.

  7. I bought “Looking Glass” this spring from one of the specialist greenhouses in my area. It was $10.95, a nice large plant, healthy and really looking good. I bought 2 more for our “Gardens in Bloom” entry, and they all thrived.This plant is one of the reasons that we did really well in the contest (all across Canada). We are a small town, 1000 persons, but we love to beautify our town! Brunnera helped!

    1. Anicatz, congratulations on the Gardens in Bloom. ‘Looking Glass’ really stands out in the garden with its beautiful silver leaves. They look so good next to other plants, playing up the colour difference. I like them combined with feathery textured plants or next to blue flowers, too.

  8. Looking at my plant now that it has been a very hot, hot summer, I found that it needs more water than the hostas I planted it with. Wilted a bit, and was not doing too well. I mulched it (with believe it or not, my cat litter, which is pine and cedar bedding)added a bit of lime, and wet it down thoroughly. Really did the trick! Big growth in the leaves, beautiful colour and healthy looking. I think I will do the same in late October, and see what happens in spring. We have a sort of temperate (for Canada) winter, coldest is about -18C, and that is pretty unusual. If that baby survives the treatment, I will be getting even more; would love to get more of the different ones. Can someone provide a list? I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to browsing the web for these. 75 and gardening til I drop.

    1. Anicatz, another Brunnera that has the same looking leaves as ‘Jack Frost’, but with white flowers is ‘Mr. Morse’. If your like the beautifully silver patterned leaves, you will love ‘Mr. Morse’. It is easy to combine with other spring flowering perennials with its white flowers. Another Brunnera that has even more silver silver on the foliage than ‘Jack Frost’ is ‘Looking Glass’. ‘Looking Glass’ starts off in early spring with almost the same silver and green patterned leaves, and blue flowers. Then as the season progresses, it gets more and more silver on the foliage. It is a standout and shows up very well in the shade, because of the light coloured leaves. You can see pictures of these Brunnera in another post I wrote here, by following the link.

  9. I planted two beautiful Jack Frost plants near the base of a maple tree a few weeks ago. It was quite deep shade and the plants seem to be doing well, but now my husband has decided to cut down the tree to make room for two others to spread, and he is planning to build a shed nearby next year. My problem now is that the plants chosen for shade, will have much more sun for at least one season until other trees fill in. I am wondering if the Jack Frost will be able to handle this, or if I should just move them now while they are still quite new. Has anyone grown them in a hotter spot with only partial shade?

    1. Hi #19, I have a number of Brunnera from light shade to deep shade, and they all do well in those light conditions. I haven’t tried them in full sun. I think they would probably require extra water, especially depending on your climate.

  10. Thanks Northern Shade,

    It can get quite hot in the daytime with cool nights. Most of my property is shaded by maple trees, so I think if he decides to remove this corner tree I will move the Brunnera to another spot. There would still be dappled shade for part of the day, but when it heats up here the sun can really scorch. I selected Brunnera because I heard that it can handle root competition and relatively dry deep shade, but if the conditions will be changing they might need a fresh start elsewhere.

    1. Okanagan Dry Shade, Brunnera do handle root competition very well. I have some planted just 30 cm (a foot) from a maple trunk, and the plants do exceptionally well. They grow to a good size there, with three mature plants covering about a square metre. Some other Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ under a willow tree, which has extra greedy roots, grow a little smaller, but still do very well and look perfect.

  11. I know I am late for this post, but after seeing Jack Frost last year for the first time, I knew I had to have it. The problem was I only have a full sun garden. So I planted it in full sun, carefully watching every day and sure enough it survived. I live in Montreal, and we get 80 to 90 degree days, so it gets hot. This spring it has come back about 50% larger with the most gorgeous blooms I have ever seen. My garden loses the sun in late afternoon only. Bonne chance with your gardening.

    1. Barbie, I love that these plants have equally attractive leaves and flowers. Those pretty blue flowers last a good length of time for a spring plant, too. It’s good to hear that your plant has increased in size so quickly. They can form a good sized clump, and make and attractive display. I like them planted next to lightly textured leaves, for a nice contrast. In the sun you would have to be careful to give it enough water.

  12. Have just purchased my first 2 brunnera Jack Frost which will be planted in shade. I am so hoping they will do well.

    1. # 26, They should do very well for you. Mine all flourish in varying degrees of shade. I was out doing some spring garden cleanup today, and noticed the tips of the Brunnera sprouts emerging. They grow very quickly once they emerge, and I look forward to those sky blue flowers.

    1. Uli, you should really enjoy your new Brunnera. Mine are just coming in to bud now, and I’m anticipating those pretty blue flowers over the silvery leaves.

  13. I am wondering if this wonderful plant would survive under a spruce tree? Has anyone had experience growing them in such a location?

    1. Janice, I have some underneath a pine tree, and they are doing well. However, I give them some extra water. Also, the ones under the pine do get a bit of light at times. The Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ are flowering right now with a cloud of blue over top of them. Under my front pine, the Brunnera are right next to some Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’, which are blooming in a lilac purple colour, and I was just admiring the combination yesterday. I also have some Brunnera in my back garden that are at the edge of a pine, and under a maple.

  14. Hi there, I just read about these lovely plants. I am always on the lookout for plants that grow well in shade. The Brunnera Jack Frost seems to be the perfect solution to my shade gardens. I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (zone 3) and I am not sure where to buy these plants. Any suggestions? I can’t say I have seen this plant when I am looking for perennials, perhaps I have just missed them. I wonder if I can order them online ? Any help would be appreciated

    1. Carole, when I first got mine I only saw them in a few nurseries, but I see the Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ around more and more every year now. The last couple of years I’ve noticed them in the large home building stores with plant departments, and this year I even saw them at a larger supermarket chain. If they aren’t available to you locally, Fraser’s Thimble Farms has them available by mail order in Canada. I’ve ordered plants from them before and been very happy with them.

  15. I’ve grown Jack Frost Macrophylla Brunnera for years in Durham, NC, where they flowered beautifully every spring. Three years ago, I moved to the mountains of NC (far better suited for this plant) and yet mine have not bloomed once in that time. Great foliage, but no flowers. I cant find anything online about this problem. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

    Anne F

    1. Anne F, I’m not sure, since they’ve always been reliable bloomers for me. Some of mine are in very shady areas, yet they still flower. Also, my Jack Frost are growing in a very harsh climate, with winters down to -35°, so it wouldn’t be the cooler air of the mountains, or shorter growing season. You would think that after 3 years they would have settled in for you. They do appreciate some extra moisture if they are in a dry area, but if the leaves are looking healthy, then they should have enough to flower, too.

  16. My ‘jack frost’ Brunnera is in the west end of my lot in my woodland garden. It is shaded by a Highbush Cranberry shrub. It gets some filtered sun from 2 p.m. Till 6 p.m. And that’s it. I have had this plant 2 springs now and it was full of blooms and 3 times the size it was when I planted it in the fall of 2012. I have mulched it and give it ample water (you”ll notice the leaf edges look dry or brittle, but improve with ample water). Easy, lovely plant and I can hardly wait till mine is large enough to divide.
    Plants in same area – barrenwort, primroses, lungwort, host as, dutchmans britches, Ivy vine and regular bleeding heart plant.
    Lorraine

    1. Lorraine, we have many of the same plants growing with our Brunnera. I have barrenwort, Hosta, lungwort and bleeding heart with some of my BRunnera groups, too. They do grow to a substantial size in a few years. Mine are mostly under the trees.

      There are two new Brunnera that I am trying this summer that are the same coloring as ‘Jack Frost’. ‘Silver heart’ and ‘Sea heart’ have the same patterns as ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Looking Glass’, but with thicker leaves.

  17. I have planted 3 Jack Frost Brunnera’s. On reading about these plants, it says to deadhead the stems after flowering in on article. And in another article it says to deadhead after flowering. Could anyone please tell me which is the best to do. Just the flower or the whole stem right back to the stalk. Thank you.

    1. Ontario, It’ best to cut the flowering stalks right down to the base when they are done blooming, since the small leaves on the flowering stems will start to decay and brown after the plants have finished flowering on the Brunnera. You end up with a nicer looking plant if you remove the entire flower stalk after those beautiful blue flowers are done, since the regular large leaves make such a wonderful foliage display. Enjoy your Brunnera.

  18. Northern Shade, thank you so much for replying with an answer to my question. This really helps as this is the first time planting a Brunnera plant. You are very knowledgeable and helpful to us not so garden savy people. Enjoy your weekend and summer.

  19. I planted 4 Jack Frosts around our North facing raised-bed bay window this spring. They are beautiful! I’m wondering about care for the winter. They are under the eaves, so shouldn’t get too much snow. Should they be covered or mulched? Should I pick the leaves back? Any info will help. Thanks.

    1. Nelson, B.C. Judy, I usually leave the leaves on the plants very late since they will keep their colour in the fall and look great in the garden. Jack Frost is very hardy, but if they aren’t going to have regular snow cover over the winter, then I would pile some of the autumn tree leaves over them to help protect them for the winter. Mine are mostly under trees, so they get a natural leaf mulch for the winter, and do very well. The new leaves will start coming up very early in spring.

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