How to Grow Bluebells — Hyancinthoides

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Hyancinthoides — sometimes called bluebells–bears charming racemes of small bell-shaped flowers in spring. Blossoms are blue or white and sometimes pink; they appear above lance-shaped or linear leaves. 

Hyancinthoides is a Turnicate bulb which means it is renewed annually–new bulbs form each year to replace the old one that dies. Hyancinthoides also self-sows, so there is little need for replanting once Hyancinthoides is situated in the garden.

Hyancinthoides grows best in partial shade. It is a good choice for a woodland garden or for naturalizing in a lawn. Hyancinthoides prefers partial shade as the season goes on so a good location is under a deciduous tree where plants get early spring sun and then are shaded in late spring.

Hyancinthoides is a genus of three or four species. Hyancinthoides were once classified in Endymion by taxonomists.

Hyacinthoides flowering bluebells
Hyacinthoides flowering bluebells

Get to know Hyancinthoides 

  • Plant type: Bulb 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 4 to 9. 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 4
  • Height and width:  4 to 16 inches (10-40cm) tall and half as wide depending on the variety.
  • Foliage:  Basal, strap- to lance-shaped or linear leaves.  
  • Flowers: Small bell-shaped flowers have six lobes, petal-like tepals that are united at the base are borne on racemes; colors in shades of blue, lavender, violet, pink and white; some species are fragrant.   
  • Bloom time: Early spring 
  • Uses: Wildflower or woodland garden or shrub border.  
  • Garden companions: Daffodils, tulips  
  • Common name: Bluebells  
  • Botanical name: Hyacinthoides 
  • Family name: Liliaceae 
  • Origin: Western Europe and North Africa

Where to plant Hyancinthoides 

  • Plant Hyacinthoides in partial or dappled shade.
  • Hyacinthoides will tolerate full sun; they can thrive under deciduous trees, where they will receive a good amount of sunshine in spring during active growth.  
  • Plant Hyacinthoides in well-drained, humus-rich soil.  

When to plant Hyancinthoides 

  • Plant Hyacinthoides bulbs in spring.
  • Plant Hyacinthoides offsets in fall.
  • Sow seeds in containers as soon as they are ripe–end of the bloom period.

Planting and spacing Hyancinthoides 

  • Set Hyacinthoides bulbs 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2cm) deep.    
  • Hyacinthoides produce abundant offsets; space them generously—about 6 inches (15cm) apart–so they don’t need division each year.
Bluebells or Hyacinthoides
Bluebells or Hyacinthoides

How to water and feed Hyancinthoides 

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Hycinthoides with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.

How to care for Hyancinthoides 

  • Remove flowers as they fade to prevent self-seeding.
  • All parts of Hyancinthoides can irritate the skin and cause illness if ingested.

Hyancinthoides pests and diseases 

  • Hyacinthoides can develop blight, mosaic, or rot. 
  • Hyacinthoides can develop aphids.  

Hyancinthoides propagation 

  • Separate Hyacinthoides bulbs after blooming in early summer as the foliage die down; divisions and offsets can be replanted right away or in autumn.  
  • Divide Hyacinthoides only if they become overcrowded and begin to bloom less.  
  • Hyancinthoides will self-sow if flowers are left on the plant.

Hyancinthoides varieties to grow 

  • Hyacinthoides hispanica (formerly Endymion hispanicusScilla hispanica, and S. campanulata), Spanish bluebell: produces blue flowers above clumps of glossy green leaves topped by showy racemes; bears 6 to as many as 15 bell-shaped, unscented, lavender-blue .75 inch (1.8cm) flowers in spring; the plant grows 12-16 inches (30-41cm) tall. ‘Rosabella’ has lavender-pink flowers. ‘Excelsior’ has violet-blue flowers with pale blue stripes and is somewhat larger, reaching 20-24 inches (51-61cm) in height. Zones 4 to 9. 
  • H. italica (formerly Endymion italicusScilla italic), Italian Squill: grows 4-8 inch (10-20cm) tall; bears dense, somewhat rounded racemes of 6 to as many as 30 bell-shaped, .5 inch (1.3cm) long flowers that face upward; flowers are blue or sometimes white and appear in spring. Zones 4 to 9.  
  • H. non-scripta (formerly H. Scilla non-scripta, and S. nutans), English bluebell: vigorous growth from 8 to 15 inches (20-38cm) tall; bears racemes with 6 to 12 lavender-blue or white scented flowers in spring; flowers are arranged all on one side of the raceme; individual flowers are narrowly bell-shaped, .5-.75 inches (1-1.8cm) long, and have tepals that are curled back at the tips. Zones 4 to 9.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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