English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

bluebells

Last Updated on March 9, 2021

Explore British planting with English Bluebells. These bluebell flowers brighten up any garden, but there are some precautions to take when flowering. In this article, we’ll share some ways to manage an invasive plant and take a look at the difference between British and Hispanic varieties.

Overview

  • Scientific Name: Hyacinthoides non-scripta
  • Common Name/s: bluebell, English bluebell, British bluebell, English harebell, wild hyacinth, cuckoo’s boots, granfer griggles, witches’ thimbles, lady’s nightcap, fairy flower, cra’tae (crow’s toes)
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Origin: native
  • Habitat: broadleaf woodland, fields, along hedgerows
  • Flowering Season: mid-April to late May

Identify English Bluebells

The English bluebell has bowing, violet-blue flowers that are bell-shaped and feature six petals and up-turned tips. They smell sweet and nod or droop to one side of their stem. Inside, they have creamy, white-coloured pollen.

What Is the Difference Between English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells?

There are two species of bluebells in the UK, and it is important to be able to tell the difference. The Spanish bluebell has bells that are around the steam and not just on one side, which doesn’t create a drooping stature like the English bluebell flower. The leaves are much wider and bigger on the Spanish plant, too. The petals also open wider and flare at their tips as opposed to curling under.

You’ll notice that the bells are much slimmer on the native English bluebell, and it has a yellow stamen rather than a blue one like on the Spanish flower. Moreover, the English flower consists of a deeper blue, compared to the Spanish paler blue. The Spanish bluebell is taller, and the scent isn’t as strong.

Spanish bluebells can lift their heads to face the sun, whereas English plants never do that. In fact, the native flower is never found in open spaces and prefers at least partial shade, which is why you are likely to find them in woodland areas. In comparison, the Spanish plant will happily grow in large, open spaces and can tolerate full sun.

The Spanish species are threatening the native bluebell and may threaten their existence in woodland habitats.

What Other Names Does the Bluebell Have?

The plant is commonly known as the English bluebell or Hyacinthoides non-scripta, but it’s also referred to as the British bluebell, wood bell, fair flower, or wild hyacinth. There’s also the Spanish bluebell (also called Hyacinthoides hispanica) which, as discussed earlier, has slightly different qualities.

Seasons

Hyacinthoides non-scripta bloom from the middle of April to late May, although it depends on the weather conditions. In particular, if spring is a mild month, English bluebells will bloom earlier. You’ll also see them appear early in the southwest, where it’s slightly warmer than the remainder of the UK.

Where Do They Grow?

These flowers are a woodland plant, so they’ll blossom best in the woodlands. They also grow and bloom best in environments with part sun and part shade where the soil is moist and won’t dry out throughout the summer.

How to Grow This Plant in Your Garden

If you want the beautiful Hyacinthoides non-scripta in your garden, planting them is easy. Plant the bulbs at least 10cm deep and keep them 10cm apart. Make sure that the growing tip faces upwards in the ground. To create a natural effect, you could throw the bulbs randomly in the garden and plant them wherever they land.

After you’ve planted the bulbs, make sure to water them well first. Once the bulbs leaf, don’t remove any of the foliage; the leaves need sunlight to make their food, helping to strengthen them and keep them growing for the remainder of the year.

However, you can remove the heads after flowering to prevent spreading, and you can dig up any unwanted bulbs during the growing season, where they’re easier to locate.

Are English Bluebells Invasive?

As described earlier, there are two species of bluebells found in the UK. Spanish bluebells are considered to be invasive, but you can easily keep control of the flowers. To do so, make sure to dig up the bulbs where the plants have leaves (making them easier to find). Dig the soil surrounding the plants and feel the soil until you can locate all of the bulbs.

British bluebells are not considered invasive in the UK. In fact, Britain is home to a large portion of the bluebell population due to the ideal woodland habitat that can be found there.

Bear in mind that these plants are tough and resilient, so as soon as you place bulbs into a compost heap, they’ll begin sprouting again. Therefore, we suggest killing the bulbs by laying them out on sheets of cardboard where they’re exposed to full sunlight for a few weeks.

Is It Illegal to Pick Bluebells in the UK?

Yes. Native bluebells are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Therefore, digging up the flowers in the countryside is prohibited, and landowners shouldn’t remove bluebells from their land in order to sell to customers.

Are Bluebells Poisonous?

All parts of this plant contain glycosides, which are poisonous to humans, dogs, cattle, and horses. It can create a serious stomach bug, and if consumed in large quantities, it could be fatal. This often happens as the plant is mistaken for spring onions or garlic.

Can You Buy English Bluebells?

Yes. The best time to buy the bulbs is in spring during active growth, where they’re more likely to become established. Alternatively, you can buy dry bulbs at other times of the year and store them until you’re ready to plant them.

Found in woodlands throughout the UK, the Hyacinthoides non-scripta are a wonderful flower species. The bell-shaped flower is iconic throughout British woodland. But we’d love to get some insight from you.

Do you have any tips on planting the native bluebell, whether it be the bulbs or plant? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments.

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