Last Updated on May 20, 2022 by Real Men Sow
The English bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta flowers in large numbers and carpets the ground before the leaves are fully unfurled. The British Isles are home to between 25 and 49 percent of the bluebell population in the world, making the plant a national treasure. The English bluebell is a small, bulbous perennial that spreads easily under the right conditions. Bluebells can thrive in a shade garden and make a good spring groundcover.
British vs Spanish Bluebells
Our native bluebell has been able to cross with Hyacinthoides hispanica (a Spanish-type bluebell) in recent years. Hybridization has caused problems for the native bluebell and could lead to its eventual demise. The Spanish bluebell grows larger and is more vigorous than the native variety. The most common bluebells in British gardens are hybrids, which are fertile and can reproduce themselves.
Although they look very similar to native bluebells, their leaves don’t have the ‘drooping effect’ that English bluebells do. Their petals can sometimes be pink, and their leaves are thicker. Hybrids can also cross breed with native bluebells.
Although hybrid and Spanish bluebells aren’t on the Government’s list, Plantlife recommends you not grow them if they’re within a natural bluebell colony. This protects the native British bluebell by preventing accidental hybridization.
How To Plant Bluebells
Bluebells can be grown in partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. They thrive under deciduous trees that provide shade in the spring and shade in the summer. You can grow them in the green for best results, but you can also grow them from seeds. If they are growing in grass, don’t mow until the leaves have completely died down. Mulch in autumn with a thick coating of leaf mold to replicate the woodland floor habitat.
Where To Plant Bluebell Seeds
Bluebell seeds flourish in well-drained, moist soil with lots of leaf litter. They grow best under partial shade, but will also tolerate sun.
How To Plant Bluebells
Bluebells can be planted ‘in the green’ after flowering in late spring. This is the most reliable and easiest method. Plant naturalistic drifts are approximately 10 cm deep and 10 cm apart.
How To Care and Propagate For Bluebell Bulbs
If bulbs are in grass, wait until the leaves have fallen back before cutting the grass. Although you can plant dry bluebell bulbs in fall, it is more likely that they will be successful if the bulbs are planted ‘in the green’ in spring.
After the bulbs have finished flowering, divide the clumps and replant them. However, remember that it is illegal to remove bluebell clumps from the wild. This applies only to bluebells grown in gardens.
Bluebell seed can be saved and sown immediately in composted pots, but would take many months to germinate. They also need cold weather to start growing. This method can lead to hybrids. Bluebell seed should only be purchased from a trusted supplier to get the best results.
Growing Bluebells: Problem Solving
Bluebells are usually healthy and free from disease. Hybridization is the main problem. Once established, hybrid and Spanish bluebells can be very difficult to get rid of. It is likely that you will need to try several times to get rid of bluebells.