Britain is home to half the world’s bluebells, and the delicate blue flowers are one of the first signs of spring. Several top British gardeners, including Monty Don, advise choosing the British bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) over its Spanish cousin Hyacinthoides hispanica) to help preserve native species. You can grow the plants from either bulb or seed, but “Gardener’s World” presenter Chris Beardshaw recommends using seed to avoid the possibility of buying bulbs that have been dug up from natural woodlands. Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland advises planting your seeds in early spring.
Choose a site for your bluebells. The plants prefer either full or partial shade, which explains their association with deciduous woodland. They seem to prefer sites under deciduous trees, particularly native beech trees (Fagus sylvatica), or alternatively under shrubs such as ornamental cherries (Prunus Kursar) or the guelder rose (Viburnum opulus).
Bring the pots to the place you intend the bluebells to grow. Fill the pots with a mix of soil and compost. Bluebells like a moist soil, and the compost will not only help to retain moisture, but will also provide nutrients for the developing seedlings.
Scatter the seeds onto the soil and cover with a thin layer of your soil and compost mix. Water the plants in well.
Monitor the plants' progress as they grow and give them a liquid feed if they are not developing properly.
Divide the seedlings after the first year into smaller pots of three plants. This will give them more room to grow.
Keep the seedlings in their pots for at least one further year. After this time, they are ready to plant out in their permanent positions.
Gardener Val Bourne suggests planting male ferns (Dryopteris filix-mas) or Wallich’s fern (Dryopteris wallichiana) nearby as companion plants.
Tips and warnings
- Gardener Val Bourne suggests planting male ferns (Dryopteris filix-mas) or Wallich's fern (Dryopteris wallichiana) nearby as companion plants.