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Bluebells - How to Grow Hyacinthoides. English bluebell bulbs

How to Grow Hyacinthoides - Bluebells

Firstly, let's clear up the legal aspect of buying and selling Bluebells. There is a little confusion as to what the law allows in the UK.

It is illegal to offer for sale, English bluebell bulbs that have been collected from the wild. It is in effect, illegal to dig up Bluebell bulbs on any land - other than your own land - for any purpose. You CAN collect the seed of Bluebells from wild stands - if you have the owner's permission! You can also pick the flowers - with the owner's permission.

There are two basic types of English Bluebell bulbs for growing in the garden, either to make naturalised drifts, or small clumps for border use etc. The true wild English Bluebell bulb is Hyacinthoides non-scripta, whilst those sold as 'cultivated' Bluebells are normally of the Hyacinthoides hispanica group.

The English wild Bluebell

The English wild Bluebell has pendant bell flowers on straight stems which arch over at the top, and is best suited to growing in light woodland or part shaded borders - also suited to being naturalised in grass. It prefers a moist location, with dappled sunlight in the spring - at flowering time. It will not do well in heavily shaded areas.

Bluebell - Hyacinthoides hispanica

Bluebell - Hyacinthoides hispanica

Flowers of the English bluebell bulbs are normally blue - with just the odd white rogue popping through from time to time. White it may be, but a Bluebell it still is! The leaves on the English Bluebell are narrow linear leaves.

The English Bluebell bulbs readily seeds itself in the right conditions, and there is no need to lift and divide the clumps - other than to establish them quickly in another part of the woodland or garden.

The Cultivated Bluebell - Hyacinthoides hispanica is probably better for normal garden or border use. The flowers colours are various shades of blue, white or pink. They are held on top of erect stems and form clusters of pendant bell flowers - but slightly wider and more open than the wild counterpart.

It is better to remove the faded flowers with these, as seedlings might revert to a less attractive form. Clumps - which are soon formed - can be lifted and divided right after foliage has died down.

The leaves on Hyacinthoides hispanica are long and linear, nut wider than the leaves of the wild Bluebell.

Hyacinthoides hispanica can be grown in most soils types, and are quite happy in a wide range of situations, including part shade as might be the case when planted in shrub borders. They are also excellent for planting in containers, in which case lift the bulbs once flowered and plant elsewhere in the garden - allowing the container to be readied for spring and summer bedding plants.

Propagation of Bluebells

Both types of Bluebells are easily grown from seed, which should be collected from the plant as soon as ripe, and sown right away, with the seed container in a coldframe or other cool place. Keep the emerging seedlings growing and water well - but not over-water. Basically do not allow the seedling Bluebells to dry out.

Small bulb offsets can be removed from lifted clumps in the summer dormant season, and either planted elsewhere - where they will probably flower in year two, or can be grown on in containers.

Problems with Bluebells

We know of no problems with bluebells - other than theft! This is particularly so if you have a section of woodland with Bluebells planted. In spite of the law, the digging (stealing) of bluebell bulbs is still more common than is desirable. 

More Bulb Articles are

Growing Hyacinths in the Garden

Growing Hyacinth Flower Bulbs

Growing Hyacinth Flower Bulbs

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