Scillas are tiny bulbs that carpet the ground in color each spring. Gardeners often overlook them in favor of tulips and daffodils, but they are one of the easiest early-season wildflowers to naturalize in the landscape.
Scilla is one of the first plants to bloom in spring, surprising gardeners with its intense blue color well before any trees have leafed out. The foliage consists of narrow strap-like stems, usually no more than a few inches tall, with the flower stalks rising anywhere from 4 to 12 inches (30 cm), depending on the variety. It's hardy in USDA zones 2 through 8.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Scilla is adapted to full sun or dappled shade and likes well-drained soil. It naturally grows in rocky wooded areas, so it is just at home in dryish semi-wild parts of the landscape in a rich, moist garden bed.
Bulbs should be planted in the fall. Plant the bulbs in loose soil three to four inches deep and 8 inches (20 cm) apart with the tapered end pointed up.
Scilla should receive regular water during the spring flush of growth. However, since the weather tends to be cool and moist during this time, it is generally unnecessary to water. It is important not to overwater, as the bulbs can rot. The foliage should be left after the flowers fade, although it also fades in the summer heat.
Once Scilla leaves are all yellow, they may be cut to the ground, and the plant is allowed to remain dormant until the following spring. It is important that the bulbs not be watered during the dormant period.
Growing Scillas from seed is easy but takes a few years to get into flower. Sow harvested seeds as soon as ripe, and place them in a cold frame or cold greenhouse. Too much heat will delay the germination of Scilla seeds. They will show through in around 6-8 weeks.
Digging up and then dividing the bulbs after taking off the offsets in fall is the quickest way to amass another belt of vivid blue. Plant in their flowering positions but expect to wait a further year before any flowers of consequence are seen.
Pests and Diseases
No pests or diseases are of concern though Scilla grows weakly in hot climates. It is at its best in regions with pronounced winters and mild summers.
Ways to Use Scilla
The petit nature of Scilla lends itself to various uses, including container and rock gardens. Perhaps its best use, however, is to encourage it to naturalize in a meadow-like planting or the understory of a woodland garden. The dwarf varieties are small enough to be naturalized in a lawn, adding flecks of blue amid the blades of grass.
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