Virginia bluebells, or Mertensia Virginica, are native to Wisconsin and much of North America. They are produced from hardy rhizomes that grow to be 18 – 24 inches tall and establish trumpet shaped, blue flowers that bloom from late April to mid-May.
Buds often start out pink, then turn purple before blooming as blue flowers. Flowers at the end of their life cycle then turn back to pink.
These are some of the prettiest flowers in the garden, and I would argue that they are THE most attractive flower in the woodland garden.
The rhizomes of bluebells are easily dug up and divided in late spring or summer after the leaves die back. It is important to keep from transplanting them while they are still in bloom. Transplanting bluebells while they are still in bloom could cause so much shock that the entire plant could be lost. Bluebells should be in their dormant state in order to tolerate being divided.
Bluebells can also be grown from seed, and this may in fact, may be the best way to plant them. Plant seeds, or divide rhizomes, in fall or very early spring to ensure blooming occurs by May.
Bluebells do best when planted in moist organic soil that is well-drained. Too much water can cause problems for this plant, and care should be taken not to over-water them. Soil should be “moist”like a wrung-out wet sponge, but not “soggy”.
Virginia bluebells perform at their best when they are planted in part to full shade, and they are easily naturalized in the woodland garden. They pair nicely with ferns and daffodil flowers, although daffodils are not a native species.
These plants produce large, oval leaves that turn yellow just before dying in June or July. Do not cut them down until the foliage has completely died back, as they are storing energy to return to their rhizomes for the upcoming growing season.
Because of the unattractive quality of the leaves at this stage in its life cycle, it is recommended that bluebells be paired with other plants that will take over as focal points once the foliage on the bluebells has died. Once this plant has died back it will leave a hole in the landscape. Plans should be made during planting to have something else to replace the loss.
Virginia Bluebells are a much better alternative to Siberian Squill (follow the link to learn more about the invasive quality of this plant), with some of the same qualities…namely, the beautiful blue flower! And bluebells will thrive with little to no maintenance or upkeep, which in my opinion is always a plus!
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