How to Grow and Care for Bergenia Plants

Bergenia plant with small pink flowers clustered together next to large leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Despite the unflattering nickname pig squeak, so named for the sound its leaves make when rubbing together, perennial bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) has long enchanted gardeners with their large glossy leaves and pert springtime flowers. Bergenia foliage is mostly evergreen in milder climates, exhibiting a rich bronze color in the fall and winter. The leaves are quite attractive in their own right, but when its April flowers emerge and are held aloft on stiff stems growing in dappled shade you'll know you've selected a winner for your perennial flower border. The best time to plant and divide bergenia is in the spring. It grows to full maturity in two to five years.

Common Name Pig squeak, heartleaf bergenia, elephant's ears
Botanical Name Bergenia cordifolia
Family Saxifragaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial to full shade
Soil Type Moist, loamy, clay
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time April, May
Flower Color Pink, red, white
Hardiness Zones 3-8 (USDA)
Native Areas Europe, Asia

Bergenia Care

Bergenia plants are vigorous without being invasive and will slowly spread to form a ground cover in your full or partial shade garden. They tolerate a broad spectrum of soil types and won't wither when growing conditions aren't perfect. While they are relatively low-maintenance, a little caretaking improves their look: remove dead leaves in spring for a fresh start, and deadhead the flowers after the blooms fade for a neat appearance.

While these plants have some issues with pests and diseases, deer and rabbits tend not to be attracted to or eat bergenia.

Bergenia plant with small deep pink flowers clustered together in sunlight closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Bergenia plant with small pink flowers clustered together closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Bergenia plant with fuchsia flowers clustered together in between large leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Bergenia plants are ideal candidates for the shade garden. They thrive in partial shade but will also tolerate heavy shade. But, of course, the more sun plants receive, the more moisture they will need.


Like many plants, bergenia grows well in rich, loamy soil and will expand to grow large clumps in that environment. However, bergenia can also tolerate clay soil, which you can enrich over time with a top dressing of compost.


Bergenia likes consistent moisture. To maintain a moist root zone, spread a three-inch layer of mulch around the plants. Plants growing in deep shade can survive periods of drought better than those growing in a location that receives more sun.

Temperature and Humidity

Bergenia plants grow well in areas with hot or cool summers if they have enough shade and moisture. They also do well in humid areas. Winter damage is more extensive in colder climates.


Bergenia plants are light feeders and do not need supplemental fertilizer to look their best. Growing bergenia plants in loamy soil amended with organic matter provides all the nutrients they need.

Types of Bergenia

  • B. Cordifolia 'Winter Glow' has red stems and nodding pink flowers and grows to 12 to 16 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide.
  • B. cordifolia 'Bressingham White' can light up a garden with clusters of white blooms. It grows to the nearly same size as 'Winter Glow,' if a little bit shorter.
  • B. cordifolia 'Angel Kiss' is one of the shorter cultivars, at eight to ten inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide. Its blooms are white to light pink.
  • B. cordifolia 'Ballawley' might be the largest bergenia available, growing to 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It features rose-red flowers and red stems.
  • B. cordifolia 'Solar Flare' is prized for its variegated leaves of green edged with yellow. This cultivar is mid-sized (10 to 16 inches tall and about 18 inches wide) and has magenta-purple blooms.
Bergenia Winterglow
Winterglow Bergenia Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Bergenia Bressingham White
ChamilleWhite / Getty Images

Bergenia vs. Leopard Plant

Except for its yellow flowers, the leopard plant (Ligularia dentata) bears a strong resemblance to bergenia plants. Both plants thrive in shade and feature similar large, rounded leaves with a glossy finish. However, to be healthy, leopard plants need more moisture and shade than bergenia plants, so if you have a place in the garden that transitions between sun and shade, place your leopard plants in the location with more shade.

Leopard Plant; Ligularia dentata
Mark Turner/Getty Images 


In general, bergenia plants need little in the way of pruning. You can cut back spent flower stalks to keep plants looking tidy in the summer. In areas where the foliage is marginally evergreen, trimming back tattered foliage will also increase plant tidiness.

Propagating Bergenia

Making new bergenia plants is as simple as the process of dividing them. Divide plants in the fall to prevent any disruption to the blooming cycle. Here's how:

  1. Dig up the root ball, and tease apart a clump of foliage and roots with your fingers, as shown in the photo.
  2. Create big divisions with at least five to seven leaves to make an impact in the garden.
  3. Replant the divisions in a suitable location and water until moist.
Dividing Bergenia
Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images 

How to Grow Bergenia From Seed

If you have patience and want to grow many bergenia plants for the landscape, you can start from seed. Seeds need light to germinate, so press them lightly into sterile potting soil. Keep the soil moist and warm while waiting for germination, which can take four to six weeks.

Potting and Repotting Bergenia

Bergenia makes an attractive container specimen. Combine bergenia with other pretty foliage choices, like coral bells and Japanese painted fern.

Bergenia plants will grow in any commercial potting soil in a pot with a diameter of at least 12 inches. Repot your plants in the spring after flowering, and divide as needed to keep plants from becoming overcrowded.


Bergenia will survive the winter in an outdoor container in USDA Hardiness Zone 7 and warmer. Dress bergenia with a layer of compost in early winter. Cover clumps of bergenia with straw or chopped leaves to protect them against freezing winter temperatures. This barrier protects the foliage and roots from the freezing and thawing cycle.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Like many plants that grow well in shady areas, bergenia plants can suffer from slug and snail damage to the foliage and are susceptible to black vine weevils. There are several ways to deal with these pests, including beer bait traps, cardboard traps, and diatomaceous earth.

Bergenia, while resistant to many plant diseases, can get fungal leaf spot and anthracnose, which is another type of looks similar to fungal leaf spot. If you notice any spots on the leaves of your plant, treat them as soon as you can. Remove any infected leaves on the plant and the surrounding ground, and treat with a fungicide. Proper watering techniques can help prevent these types of fungus.

Crown rot is another disease that can affect this plant, so be careful when planting or mulching, and leave the crown of the plant uncovered to avoid the problem

How to Get Bergenia to Bloom

Bergenia blooms during the months of April and May, showcasing small clusters of flowers that come in pink, white, or red. To keep these plants blooming, plant them in a partial to full shade location in moist, rich soil, which will help stimulate its growth and produce more blooms. If you cut down the spent flower stalks, a new stalk might grow and produce more flowers.

  • How deep do you plant bergenia?

    Plant bergenia, in the ground or a container, just to the top of the root ball. Space multiple plants about 12 to 18 inches apart.

  • Do bergenia attract butterflies and bees?

    Pollinators including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to bergenia flowers.

  • What plants are good companions for bergenia?

    Other flowering plants that are good companion plants with bergenia include hardy geranium (cranesbill), lungwort, and brunnera.