Scilla: squill/bluebell

Height 10-45cm (4-18in)

Planting distance 7.5-10cm (3-4in)

Flowers from early spring to early summer

Moist but well-drained soil

Sun or partial shade

Bulbs available late summer to late autumn

This genus includes the bluebells that form such magnificent blue carpets in woodlands from mid spring to early summer. In the garden these colonize rapidly so they are ideal for naturalizing beneath shrubs, in a wooded corner, or among grass that can be left uncut until after the leaves have died down in summer.

The other common species in this genus are smaller with similarly coloured blue blooms. They are ideal for rockeries, sink gardens and the fronts of borders. All scillas require moist but well-drained soil and, therefore, a site that is not too dry, in sun or partial shade.

Popular species

Scilla campanulata (syn. Endymion hispanica), the Spanish bluebell, is a robust plant with large flowers and wide glossy green leaves. It stands 30-45cm (12-18in) high. Blue, pink and white forms have been developed from this species.

Scilla nutans (syn. Endymion non-scriptus), the native English bluebell that grows wild in the woods, is distinguished from the Spanish bluebell by its more delicate form, narrower leaves and the curved tips of its flowering stems. It stands 25-30cm (10-12in) high.

Scilla siberica has small drooping bell-like flowers of an intense blue. These appear in early spring, just 15cm (6in) above the ground. Each bulb produces several stems so only a few bulbs are needed to make an impact in a rockery, sink garden or at the base of a shrub. A white form ‘Alba’ and an earlier flowering sky-blue form, ‘Spring Beauty’, are also available.

Scilla tubergeniana is similar to S. siberica but it has paler blue, striped blooms that appear earlier on in spring. The plants reach 10cm (4in) high.


Any moist but well-drained soil will suit scilla bulbs. Plant as soon as they are available in autumn. Scatter the bulbs so they are approximately 7.5-10cm (3-4in) apart and plant with a bulb trowel or dibber. Bulbs vary in size and should be planted at a depth of three times their size.


Bluebells increase rapidly if left alone. Lift and divide established clumps in summer or autumn and replant immediately. The smaller scillas produce few offsets, but vigorous leaf growth indicate their presence. Lift and divide them as bluebells, or buy in fresh stock.

Pests and diseases

Rust disease may sometimes affect the leaves.

22. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Annuals, Biennials, Bulbous Plants, Featured Articles | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Scilla: squill/bluebell


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