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Bluebell

Sarah Stehr Sarah Stehr

Robust, easy-care, perfect to let run wild: These three terms are probably the most appropriate for describing bluebells. You can read about how to move the pretty bulb flowers into your garden here.

Origin

The Bluebell genus, which includes around twelve species, belongs to the Scilloideae family. It is a sub-family of the Asparagaceae family. Up until a few years ago, bluebells were still assigned to Scilla genus. However, today they form their own genus, namely the hyacinthoides. Why? Unlike the Scilla bulbs, Bluebells revive themselves every year through bulbils, so: The actual bulbs are only annual, whereas those of the Scillas last for several years. It has also been established that bluebells are more closely related to hyacinths. This is also how the botanical name, which basically means “hyacinth-like”, is derived.

The various Bluebell species are native to Europe and north Africa and thrive naturally in humus-rich soils under deciduous bushes. The best known representatives of this genus are the (Hyacinthoides hispanica) and the Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). While the former primarily grows in Portugal, west Spain, north Africa, and in the south and west of Europe in mixed forests and on shady cliffs, the Common Bluebell thrives naturally in mixed forests and the shady meadows of west Europe up to north-west Germany. It is a natural conservation plant in Central Europe and should not be picked or dug up in the wild. The Common Bluebell is the national flower of England, which is why it is also known as the English Bluebell.

Common Bluebell

Even from a distance, the numerous flowers of the Common Bluebell light up English parks

Appearance and Growth

Bluebells are long-lasting Bulb flowers that grow up to 15.75 inches tall. The flowers that appear on Spanish luBebells from May to June and on Common Bluebells in April and May, are very similar to those of hyacinths: They are bell-shaped - which is no surprise, considering their name. However, while hyacinth flowers are located on the sides, on Bluebells they are hanging. The Spanish Bluebells flower somewhat more richly than common bluebells and the flowers are more upright. They stand in a loose cluster along the linear to lanceolate leaves, which are arranged basally. Common Bluebell leaves are somewhat wider than those of the Spanish ones. Both species flower in blue, whereby those of the Spanish Bluebells are also available in white and pink varieties.

Location and Soil

A semi-shady, humid location under deciduous trees, where hyacinthoides also occur in their nature, is ideal. They also tolerate light shade well. The soil should ideally be fresh to damp, humus, permeable, and nutrient-rich. A high proportion of loam is preferable, but not essential. If the pH value is then still in the neutral to slightly acidic range, Bluebells will feel completely at home.

Spanish Bluebell

The flowers of the Spanish Bluebell hang down elegantly - as do those of the common bluebell

Planting

As with all early-flowering bulb flowers, the perfect time for planting Bluebells is also in the fall. It’s best to plant them in September or October, when the soil still holds residual warmth from the summer. Plant the bulbs in the ground at a depth of about 1.97 to 3.94 inches deep, at distances of 5.91 to 7.87 inches apart in a semi-shady to shady spot in the garden. Important: Treat the bulbs similarly to raw eggs - they are highly sensitive to pressure and the outer skin in particular should not be damaged.

Care Tips

If Bluebells are happy in their location, they are really easy-care. So: It’s best to just leave them alone. With one exception: If it is very dry, hyacinthoides appreciate additional watering - after all, bulb flowers like damp soils! If you don’t have any large, deciduous trees in the garden that naturally supply the plants with nutrients from their fall foliage, you should give the plants a little help and work some compost into the soil every few years in the spring, around the time they grow shoots.

Winter Protection

Bluebells are fully winter-hardy at our latitudes and do not require additional protection.

Use

If you are looking for a bulb flower you can let grow wild, you’re spot on with Bluebells! In particular the Common Bluebell which is native to us quickly forms large stocks in semi-shady and shady spots under trees. This makes it predestined for natural gardens or nature-themed garden parties. Beautiful combinations can be created with low grasses such as Luzula or sedges (Carex), but ferns, dogtooth violets, and large flowered daffodils also make good planting partners. Important to remember if you want to let Bluebells grow wild: Choose an area in the garden which is as low maintenance as possible, so that it can spread out in peace.

Important Species and Varieties

Two species are particularly important for gardening: The Spanish and the common bluebell. The Spanish Bluebell in particular is also available in numerous varieties in trade shops. The Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) grows a little taller than the Spanish bluebell. ‘Dainty Maid’ adorns itself with vibrant pink flowers, while ‘La Grandesse’, ‘White Queen’, and ‘White Triumphator’ all flower pure white. ‘Excelsior’ has dark blue flowers.

Propagation

The hyacinthoid species propagate themselves through bulbils and seed sowing and so remain in the garden for years. If you want to actively propagate Bluebells, you can dig up the bulbs in the fall, carefully separate off the bulbils and then directly replant them in the desired location. They are either sown out in the fall directly in the bed or in seed trays in the spring.

Diseases and Pests

Bluebells are really robust and not very sensitive where plant diseases and pests are concerned.

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