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Hyacinthoides

Bluebell, Wood Hyacinth
Liliaceae
Bulbs and bulblike plants, Perennials

These spring-blooming bulbs were once classed in the genus Scilla and are still popularly known by that name; some bulb dealers continue to list them as such. They were later reclassified as Endymion and now have been renamed Hyacinthoides. They resemble hyacinths but are taller, with looser flower clusters and fewer, narrower leaves.

Climate will determine which species is better for your area. Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is the better choice for warmer regions. The English species (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) definitely prefers colder winters and moderate to cool summers. When grown near each other, the two species sometimes hybridize, producing intermediate forms.

Plant bulbs in fall, setting them 3 in. deep in mild climates, as deep as 6 in. where winters are severe. Space about 6 in. apart. Propensity for reseeding makes these good subjects for naturalizing; lovely in informal drifts among tall shrubs, under deciduous trees, among low-growing perennials. Need regular moisture from planting time until foliage dies and at least some moisture in summer. Divide infrequently; when division is needed, do it in fall. Plants thrive in pots, and flowers are good for cutting.

Hyacinthoides hispanica

From Spain, North Africa. Prolific and vigorous, with inch-wide, strap-shaped leaves and sturdy, 20-in. stems bearing 12 or more nodding, unscented bells about 3/4 in. long. Blue is the most popular color, ‘Excelsior’ (deep blue) the most popular variety. There are also white, pink, and rose forms. Leaves can look a trifle ratty before dying back. Grows well under deciduous trees.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Hyacinthoides non-scripta

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Hyacinthoides non-scripta

From western Europe. Fragrant blue flowers are narrower and smaller than those of H. hispanica, appearing on 1-ft. stems that nod at the tip. Leaves are also narrower—only about 1/2 in. wide.

‘Alba’ is white flowered; ‘Rosea’ has pink blossoms.

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