Scilla (Scilla spp.) 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.
Surprising Scilla in the Garden
Scilla is one of the first things 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 depending on the variety. It's hardy in USDA zones 2 through 8S/9W.
All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested.
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.
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.
Scilla bulbs should be planted in fall. Plant the bulbs in loose soil three to four inches deep and eight inches apart with the tapered end pointed up.
Care and Maintenance
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.
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.
Scilla is not always available at retail nurseries, though it is widely available through mail order suppliers. It is typically shipped in the fall. In addition to the typical deep blue scilla, several named cultivars can be found.
- 'Persian Bluebell' grows eight to 10 inches with ultra pale pastel blue flowers.
- 'Amethyst' is a variety growing six to eight inches tall with powder blue flowers.
- 'Rosy' is just four inches tall with pale pinkish white blossoms.
- 'Alba' is a pure white variety growing six to eight inches tall.
A Sea of Scilla
Scilla is a dainty plant for semi-wild gardens. The lush green foliage and azure colored flowers bring the forest floor to life just as winter fades away.