These spring-blooming bulbs were once classed in the genus Scilla and are still popularly known by that name; some bulb dealers continue to list them as such. They resemble hyacinths but are taller, with looser flower clusters and fewer, narrower leaves. Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is the preferred choice for most Southern gardens. English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) definitely prefers colder winters and moderate to cool summers. When grown near each other, the two species sometimes hybridize, producing intermediate forms.
- Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9.
- From Spain, North Africa.
- Prolific and vigorous, with inch-wide, strap-shaped leaves and sturdy, 20 inches stems bearing 12 or more nodding, unscented bells about 34 inches long.
- Blue is the most popular color, 'Excelsior' (deep blue) the most popular selection.
- There are also white, pink, and rose forms.
- Leaves can look a trifle ratty before dying back.
english bluebell, wood hyacinth
- Best in Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7.
- From western Europe.
- Fragrant, blue flowers are narrower and smaller than those of Hyacinthoides hispanica, on 1 feet stems that nod at the tip and carry their flowers on only one side.
- Leaves are also narroweronly about 12 inches wide.
- Alba is white flowered; 'Rosea' has pink blooms.
Plant bulbs in fall, setting them 3 inches deep in mild climates, as deep as 6 inches where winters are severe. Space about 6 inches apart. Propensity for reseeding makes these good subjects for naturalizing; lovely in informal drifts among tall shrubs, under deciduous trees, among low-growing perennials. Need regular moisture from planting time until foliage dies and at least some moisture in summer. Divide infrequently; when division is needed, do it in late spring or early summer, when the leaves yellow. Plants thrive in pots, and flowers are good for cutting. Bulbs can cause allergic reactions on contact. Not favored by browsing deer.