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If You Want to Add Virginia Bluebells to Your Garden, Now is the Time!

Look to buy ephemeral plants now.

blue flowers in flower bed
Virginia Bluebells in Spring

Happily, it seems as though we have more and more places to buy native plants. This means more availability for Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) this year. A good sign indeed. Some years, they have been harder to find.

You likely already know Virginia bluebells. A great beginner plant and oh so cheerful in any type of garden, Virginia bluebells grow best in moist soils where they get bright sun in spring and then shade for the rest of the growing season. Under a deciduous tree is perfect. Mine grow in average moisture soil and do just fine. Virginia bluebells will self seed if the conditions are right.

These plants are ephemeral, meaning they emerge in late March to early April, bloom for about three weeks or so, and then the plant dies back and will not emerge again until the following spring. Once you plant them, there is no care needed. The plants take care of everything!

Because they do die back in May, Virginia bluebells are usually planted in between later blooming perennials. In the bed above, I first planted the silver sedge (Carex platyphylla) and then later added the bluebells. In spring you don't even see the sedges. Once the bluebells die back, it's just sedges.

These bluebells are planted with wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), native to more western parts of the watershed. The foliage of the wood poppies also dies back once the heat of summer arrives. This bed is planted with later blooming perennials that take over once the spring flowers are gone.

Here, bluebells are planted with golden ragwort (Packera aurea), another moisture loving spring flowering perennial. I also have neighbors who planted Virginia bluebells in and among an array of non-native tulips - to stunning effect. You really can't go wrong with bluebells!

Most native plant nurseries and many garden centers have Virginia bluebells in quart sized pots now. Plant More Natives and Izel Plants have Virginia bluebells available by mail. Once bluebells go dormant though, they are typically not offered for sale. If you miss the spring availability, several on-line sources sell bare root plants during the winter.

If you have tips for encouraging Virginia bluebells to self sow, please add them in the comments!

Happy spring gardening.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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