Creeping navelwort – planting, care and tips

Creeping navelwort (Omphalodes verna)
Creeping navelwort (Omphalodes verna) © Baumschule Horstmann

The creeping navelwort reveals its beautiful leaf and flower decoration in the light shade. This is how the flower is planted and cared for.

Profile of creeping navelwort:

Scientific name: Omphalodes verna

Plant family: borage family (Boraginaceae)

Other names: blue-eyed-Mary

Sowing time: –

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: April to May

Location: partially shaded

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich, tolerates lime

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: ground cover, grave planting, group planting, planters, under planting, overgrowing area, greening borders, flower garden, natural garden, park, potted garden, forest garden, cemetery

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of creeping navelwort

Plant order, origin and occurrence of creeping navelwort

The creeping navelwort (Omphalodes verna) is a pretty low ground cover from the family of the borage family (Boraginaceae). The plant is also known as blue-eyed-Mary and originally comes from Southern Europe. Omphalodes verna is particularly widespread in damp mountain forests from the Eastern Alps to Romania.

Characteristics of creeping navelwort

Plant

The creeping navelwort is spreading by runners. At attractive locations, it forms dense polster, above which the delicate inflorescences rise. The low perennial is usually between 10 and 20 centimeters high (4 and 8 in) and 20 to 30 centimeters wide (8 and 12 in).

Leaves

Not only the flowers, but also the leaves of the spring bloomer are a beautiful eye-catcher: they are long-stemmed, egg-shaped, and appear fresh green.

Blossoms

The delicate sky-blue flowers of Omphalodes verna open from April to May and are strongly reminiscent of the flowers of forget-me-not, a relative of the borage family. They stand in loose racemes and have a white, ring-shaped eye. Bumblebees, bees and other insects use the flowers as a source of food.

Fruit

After the flowering period, the creeping navelwort forms inconspicuous nuts.

Creeping navelwort – cultivation and care

Location

As in its natural location in the forest, creeping navelwort feels most comfortable in the garden in a partially shaded place. Places under trees or bushes are wonderful.

Soil

Creeping navelwort is relatively adaptable. Ideally, it should be a fresh to moderately moist soil, nutritious, humorous and well-drained. In addition, a low-lime, moderately acidic to neutral soil is advisable.

Planting

Between April and early June, the ground-cover plants shine in their full bloom and conjure a touch of spring in the garden. But even in the rest of the growing season, the deciduous plants are an ornament and cover up some dreary locations. Outdoor planting is usually done in spring. This leaves the perennials enough time to grow root and to survive the cold season without protection.

Proceed as follows:

  • The planting hole must be 1/3 deeper and wider than the root ball
  • Mix excavated earth with compost and pebbles
  • Fill compost into the planting hole
  • Insert perennials up to the root crown
  • Fill up with substrate and press
  • Water rigorously

Keep a distance of about 30 centimeters (12 in) between the individual plants. In order to immediately achieve a dense area, you can plant up to 9 perennials on one square meter (10 sq ft.). After a few months, remove withered or small plants to give the others more room to grow.

Watering

Omphalodes verna needs a moderately moist substrate. However, once the plant is firmly rooted, it can easily withstand short-term drought in the hot summer months. When there is a lack of water, the plants often have brown leaves and withered shoots, from which the ground-covering plant completely recovers. Water, if possible, with lime-free water. It is best watered in the early morning or late afternoon, so you avoid an excessively high evaporation rate of the water and the perennials get more moisture.

Fertilization

The polster, dense growth of the plant makes regular mulching and adding of compost into the soil difficult. When planting, mix small pebbles in the ground to counteract the compaction of the substrate by the roots of the plants. This also prevents waterlogging. For the supply of nutrients, you should use liquid or slow-release fertilizers at the latest in the second year of planting. Fertilize strictly according to the package instructions to avoid oversupply. As an alternative you can add compost in water and use this for fertilizing.

Pruning

The creeping navelwort belongs to the type of perennials, which can be stimulated with a prune for a second bloom. To do this, cut the plant back up to a hand’s breadth, straight after flowering in May or June. Immediately after this action, the perennial must be adequately supplied with liquid fertilizer. In this way you support the new shoot. About six to eight weeks after the cut, the ground covering plants form a second bloom. However, this is much less than the first flower. Also remove dead and sick leaves regularly. This measure also strengenth the growth and resistance of the plants.

Propagation

Creeping navelwort are propagated by division in spring or autumn. Separate the young plants with a spade and use them again if necessary. In this way, you can fill in existing planting gaps or cover other locations in the garden. However, under ideal location and soil conditions, the plants will propagate themselves by runners.

You need large, strong plants for root division. Use a spade or a sharp ax to cut them into pieces of the same size. No further treatment of these freshly obtained plants is necessary. You can put the plants back into the substrate immediately. Clean the tool before and after work to avoid transmission of any fungal pathogens.

Flowers of creeping navelwort
Flowers of creeping navelwort © Baumschule Horstmann

Diseases and pests

Fungi and harmful insects are rarely found on healthy plants. However, the dense growth and improper care often weaken the perennials and thus offer some unpleasant subtenants a host plant.

Aphids

The closely spaced plants are a real gourmet’s paradise for the insects, which are only a few millimeters in size. Infestation is often only recognized when the top of the leaves has already taken on a silvery-speckled color, which is slowly turning brownish. Aphids not only damage the infected plant, but also attract ants by their excretions. These make the use of natural predators more difficult because they defend the aphids against other insects. If you want to fall back on ladybugs, earwig and Co., you should therefore first take action against the ants and completely eliminate them.

A variety of natural home remedies have proven effective against aphids. For example, you can spray the plants with a swill of nettles or horsetail. The method is lengthy, but is tried and tested well. You should also put up yellow adhesive boards in the immediate vicinity of the infested perennials. The insects are attracted to this color and eventually die on the sticky surface of the traps.

Powdery and downy mildew

Not only pests like the group planting of creeping navelwort. Under certain circumstances, fungal pathogens also feel at home on the ornamental perennials. Powdery mildew is known as good weather fungus. This term is no coincidence, because hot summer months and plants weakened by drought promote infestation. An easily removable, dusty coating on the underside of leaves and shoots is a first visible indication of the “powdery mildew”. Downy mildew, on the other hand, prefers moisture and, unlike the good weather variant of the fungus pathogen, this type of mildew penetrates directly into the interior of the plants. A gray-violet fungus layer forms on the underside of the leaves, while the top shows only yellowish discoloration. If left untreated, mildew infestation inevitably leads to the death of the entire plant.

Remove the parts of the plant infested with mildew and dispose of them on the compost. A further spread of the fungal pathogen from there is impossible, since both types of mildew require living tissue. Powdery mildew can be successfully combated with a water-milk mixture in the ratio 10:1. Spray this over the perennials, because plants not affected also benefit from this measure. You can efficiently combat downy mildew with fungicides on perennials that cover the ground. If your plants are prone to powdery mildew, you should avoid watering directly over the leaves if possible. However, make sure that the substrate does not dry out completely in summer.

Wintering

Creeping navelwort are extremely hardy and do not need special protection for the cold season. The only exception here are potted plants. In order to prevent the planter from freezing, the entire pot must be wrapped with a fleece or sackcloth and placed on wood, so the planter is not connected to the ground. You shouldn’t completely remove the fall leaves of trees and shrubs from the plants outdoors. Due to the slow decomposition of the material, the ground covering plants receive important nutrients.

Use in the garden

The creeping navelwort provides leaf and flower decorations in semi-shady herbaceous beds or borders. The low ground cover feels particularly comfortable under trees and on the edge of woods. A colorful addition in spring are, for example, the flowers of meadowsweet, grabapple tree or magnolia. Good neighbors are bleeding heart, corydalis, barrenworts, wild strawberry, cowslip and ferns. Always be careful when choosing a partner: weaker neighbors can easily be pushed aside by the creeping navelwor . You can also use the spring bloomer for planting graves.

Varieties

The plant with its creeping growth and heart-shaped leaves is available in various heights and flower colors from specialist retailers. The best known and most popular varieties include:

  • Omphalodes verna “Alba” – The flowers of this variety shine in their white splendor from April to May. Healthy, vigorous plants can also cope with a shady location.
  • Omphalodes verna Omphalodes verna “Elven Eye” – This variety features a pale blue to turquoise flower, the center of which is adorned with a bright eye. The growth height of this variety is about 15 centimeters (6 in).
  • Omphalodes verna “Grandiflora” – This variety has sky-blue flowers. If you are looking for a slow growing ground cover, this species is ideal for this.

In recent years, other cultivars of the popular perennial have appeared on the market. The flowers of these Omphalodes varieties vary from white-blue to lavender. However, some of the new varieties are only partially hardy and should be additionally protected in the cold season by leaves or bark mulch.

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