Bergenia is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the family Saxifragaceae, native to central Asia, from Afghanistan to China and the Himalayan region.
The leaves are large, leathery, ovate or cordate, and often have wavy or saw-toothed edges. For most of the year, the leaves have a glossy green color, but in cooler climates, they turn red or bronze in the fall.
They prefer sun but will grow in shady areas as well. Plants can grow to about 24 in (61 cm) tall and 24 in (61 cm) wide. They do well in most soils, but moist, humus-rich soil is preferable.
Exposure and dry soils tend to stunt growth but can enhance the winter leaf colors. In areas with cold, strong winter winds, protection from the wind may be required.
Bergenia will grow a spike from 12 to 16 inches tall, and the tiny, bell-shaped blooms will cover the spikes in pink, white or purple flowers.
These flowers remain for a number of weeks, then begin to die off. Deadhead the spent blooms by snipping off the spikes once the flowers brown and begin to fall off.
Remove any dead, brown leaves you find through the summer as part of your Bergenia plant care, but don’t chop off the plant in the fall.
Bergenia needs these leaves as food to survive through the winter, and many of them are evergreen. In the spring, search for dead leaves and remove them at that time.
The small, bell-shaped flowers are produced in compact clusters atop twelve inch burgundy stems in the early spring. Bergenia flower colors range from the palest pinks (almost white) to ruby red or dark purple.
Each flower spike usually only lasts for a few weeks, but the blooming period can be prolonged by removing the spent spikes regularly.
Bergenia grows in almost every Finnish garden, and is at least by appearance familiar to all Finns. It is instantly recognizable by its big, leathery, wide, heart-shaped, leaves that remain green throughout the winter.
Its beautiful rose-red flowers are in wide inflorescences at the top of the scapes.