Perennials forum: stupid question on pulmonaria

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Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
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Polymerous
Apr 6, 2017 3:32 PM CST
I beg your patience and indulgence with a stupid question.

Years ago, I bought my first pulmonaria, 'Trevi Fountain'. It lived in a 1 gal pot just off my patio for those years. (I didn't know how well it would do for me, or if I would like it, or where I would finally plant it out - if I did like it.) Last year I picked it up to move it, and found that it had rooted into the ground. (I moved it anyway.) This pot was kept company by a collection of other pots in a sort of temporary (months to years long "temporary") nursery. (Just off the patio meant that they would not be "out of sight, out of mind".)

This spring, after we did some work elsewhere in the garden, I was finally able to plant out the 'Trevi Fountain'. It took the transplant like a champ (again, it had rooted down from its pot into the soil), and is thriving in its new home.

Yesterday I went to move one of those other pots (holding a fern, which I am also trying to figure out a spot for). It, too, had rooted into the ground.

But to my great surprise, when I moved that fern pot, there were 3 tiny plantlets of pulmonaria right around the base! (There is nothing else that I am growing, other than pulmonaria, that has that distinctive foliage.)

Now, I have no idea if these plantlets were volunteers that were self-sown by the 'Trevi Fountain', or perhaps by some 'Dark Vader' that I also had. (The 'Dark Vader' were in smaller 4" pots, and I don't recall exactly where I held them, or for how long, before they were planted out last fall.) OR (here is where I need your indulgence/expertise), is it possible that these plantlets came up from the bits of root left behind when the 'Trevi Fountain' pot was uprooted? Confused

It's a stupid question, I know, and I apologize for my ignorance. *Blush* I just don't know how much of a root is needed to be left behind to grow a new plant, and if the roots coming out of the bottom of the pot would suffice. (The Plant Delights website does state that pulmonarias can be propagated by root cuttings.) I also don't know how easily pulmonarias will self-sow (but I have also read on plantdelights.com, and elsewhere, that they can).

Today I tried pulling up one of the plantlets which seemed to have a very long stem (I think it was trying to get out from underneath the fern pot, to where it could get some light?). I did so because I was trying to see if it was a distinct plantlet (and thus probably a seedling) from the other two. Unfortunately, I broke it off. It might have one bit of root on there (something sticking out from the stem), so I stuck it in a pot. I am afraid to touch the other two at this time - the soil there is pretty dense clay, hard to dig in, and there are a ton of tree roots in there too, from a weeping beech.

It is actually okay with me if a/some pulmonaria takes up permanent ground-level residence in that spot (about 6 inches over would be a better location, lol), as it really is a lovely plant, and its spring flowers are very welcome there. I just would like to know (barring distinctly different blooms), how to figure out what the heck these little plantlets are!

Any ideas? (Thanks for your help!)
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Name: Betty
MN zone 4
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daylilydreams
Apr 6, 2017 6:48 PM CST
Perhaps when the leaves get larger you could tell by the leaf pattern. I have Trevi Fountain it is planted in ground it has not seeded itself here, but it just might do so in your climate. I totally agree with you it is a lovely plant, it took me years to decide to purchase one so glad it likes the shady garden area where it is planted. I would just leave them there as they must like the spot they picked. When they get much larger perhaps you could dig one up to move it.
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Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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crawgarden
Apr 6, 2017 7:33 PM CST
I also have pulmonaria, not sure what variety, they have been in place for 15-20 years. Estimate it has tripled in size width wise, however I have 2 additional plants in 2 different locations, that are probably 40 feet away from the original plant, so it must reseed. Agree with Betty, a more agreeable climate would probably encourage self seeding and expansion of the plant.
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Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
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SunnyBorders
Apr 7, 2017 10:21 AM CST
We have about two dozen named pulmonaria cultivars (including those mentioned above).

The big problem in keeping plant identification, with pulmonaria, is their seeding; that is from cross-pollination between different cultivars by bees in the early spring. Hence, I always dispose of all seedlings that appear and only spread pulmonaria around the garden by vegetal means. In my experience, the individual plants easily pull apart after they're dug up.

I'd also assume that even if you had Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountain' alone (and cross-pollination between different cultivars aside), it would not come true from seed. The cultivars are likely horticultural "selections" that would have to be maintained by continued selection; that is if propagation was by seed. As indicated above, pulmonaria is said to be a "very promiscuous perennial".

Your question is certainly not stupid, Polymerous. Seeding pulmonaria is a real problem to pulmonaria enthusiasts (purists?) like me. Of course, for others it may not matter, but it's still nice to know what's going on. I also find that the key part of learning about gardening is "learning-on-the-job"; and, as could be expected, that learning never stops.

Thanks for raising the issue, Polymerous.
Name: Marilyn, aka "Poly"
South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
"The mountains are calling..."
Region: California Garden Photography Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Pollen collector Dog Lover
Moon Gardener Irises Heucheras Vegetable Grower Garden Ideas: Level 1 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Polymerous
Apr 8, 2017 1:55 AM CST
Thank you, everyone, for your kind and thoughtful replies.

I guess I will wait a little while for the two surviving plantlets to get bigger, before I try to dig/divide/move them.

I also now know to be vigilant around the pulmonaria, and to look for seedlings. (I just hope they don't pop up in the middle of the clump - that might be difficult to sort out.)
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Name: Meredith
New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
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Meredith79
Jul 7, 2017 8:13 PM CST
I know I am late to this question but I noticed it and I had just finished reading the linked article.. I remembered reading in it that you can propagate it by root cuttings, instead of me possibly writing incorrect I will quote the article. "Pulmonaria are quite easy to propagate. I've already mentioned dividing plants, but cultivars can also be increased by root cuttings. Any Pulmonaria roots that are the width of a typical pencil lead can regenerate new plants. Root cuttings need to be 2-3" long and stuck vertically with the end furthest from the plant crown down ... polarity is very important. Pulmonaria will also seed in the garden in well prepared, organic soil, so watch closely and you may discover something unique." SO I bet your roots were just the right size that they were able to propagate. I had the same thing happen from a flowering Quince I have been keeping in a pot. I was rather excited because now I have a baby to plant in a different spot.
https://www.plantdelights.com/...

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