The native British bluebell, with its purple-blue flowers is so much more languid and romantic than the spiky and upright greyish blue flowers of the Spanish variety. It is illegal to dig up wild bluebells from the woods, but why not plant your own bulbs and create your own little woodland scene right in your back garden?

Growing bluebells:

Bluebell bulbs can be bought from many reputable plant nurseries. They are far more vividly coloured and arguably more pleasing than the Spanish ones which were introduced in 1680 and are found, more often than not, when people have bluebells growing in the garden. English bluebells can also be grown from seed, though as it takes five years for the seed to turn into a bulb you will have to be very patient!

If you wish to create a magical bit of woodland in your garden then you can plant English bluebell bulbs in the autumn. They will grow best in the dappled shade of deciduous trees, perfect for naturalising in an informal area of grass beneath a tree or in a full blown woodland or forest garden. Plant some bulbs one autumn and you will have some blooms in the following spring in April and May. One of the brilliant things about bluebells is that they will just continue to proliferate each year until they cover all the ground in a vibrant display.

Bulbs should be planted individually at a depth of around twice the height of the bulb, or at a depth of around 10cm. If you want to create a natural looking drift beneath a tree then you should gently scatter the bulbs across the ground and plant each one wherever it has landed.

Bluebells like a moist soil, but one that drains freely. If necessary, water during very dry periods until the plants become established. One reason that bluebells may fail to return is winter waterlogging. Bluebells also like a relatively nutrient rich soil so if you fear the soil conditions where you wish to plant the bulbs are less than optimal then you can add a good rich compost to the soil to increase its fertility.

Why grow bluebells in the garden?

Bluebells have a certain fairyland appeal and can look at place in any woodland garden, informal orchard or cottage garden. They will also be an excellent addition in low-maintenance forest gardens and wildlife gardens.

The flowers are attractive to a range of native insects and have a pleasing fragrance. While so familiar to people, it is thought that 25% to 49% of English bluebells are found, so this is a protected species that it is good to grow in your garden instead of the Spanish variety.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Hyacinthoides non-scripta