Scilla are diminutive bulbs that carpet the ground in color each spring. They are often overlooked by gardeners 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 four 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 as it is in a rich, moist garden bed.
Bulbs should be planted in 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 not necessary to irrigate. In fact, it is important to not over water, as the bulbs can rot. The foliage should be left after the flowers fade, though it, too, fades in the heat of summer.
Once Scilla leaves are all yellow they may be cut to the ground, and the plant 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 seed as soon as ripe – place in cold frame or cold greenhouse. Too much heat will delay germination of Scilla seeds. They will show through in around 6-8 weeks.
Digging up and then division of the bulbs after – take off the offsets – in autumn is the quicker 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
There are no pests or disease 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 a variety of uses, including container gardens and rock gardens. Perhaps its best use, however, is to encourage it to naturalize in a meadow-like planting or in 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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