Heralding the arrival of spring are the bell-shaped flowers of Virginia bluebells. Native to most of central and eastern North America, they have painted woodlands sapphire blue in April for hundreds of years. In Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book 1766 – 1824, Jefferson writes of “bluish colored, funnel-formed flowers in lowgrounds in bloom.”
Mertensia virginica, commonly called Virginia bluebells, grows one to two feet tall and almost as wide. Plants slowly expand to form magnificent colonies.
Clusters of pink flower buds burst into nodding, trumpet-shaped, sky blue flowers.
Every so often, buds open to soft pink flowers.
Virginia bluebells are easy to grow. Plant them in moist, compost-amended, well-drained soil in part to full shade. They are charming growing in large drifts or planted at the bases of shrubs in mixed borders. Bees and other pollinators love them as much as gardeners.
A spring ephemeral, the plants go dormant in late summer, disappearing from the landscape. To avoid empty spots in the garden, plant Virginia bluebells among other perennials like hostas that will quickly grow to fill the vacancies. Ferns, astilbes, or shade-loving annuals are other possible bedfellows.
Plant Mertensia virginica in a shady spot in your garden this spring. Garden with me!