What’s blooming in my yard? Bluebells

Blog and Photos By Kathy Bildner
Member, Wild Ones – St. Louis Chapter

Close-up of blue bell-shaped flower

The distinctive shape of bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Plant Name: Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Description: The flowers are pale blue, one-inch long, bell or trumpet shaped. They hang down in loose clusters from the top of the plant. There are more leaves than flowers with leaves being a beautiful smooth gray-green color, oval shaped with rounded tips. The plant can grow up to two-feet tall.

The seeds form in the flower as four nut-lets. The blue flower petals will drop off to reveal the seeds, which will then turn tan or yellow when they are ready to harvest. Plants grow from seed easily. Let them fall where they are or collect them and throw them in other flower beds in your yard.

Green plant leaves and blue bell-shaped flowers

When the young plants come up next spring, you can recognize them by the leaf color. It is the same color and texture as the parent plant. Bluebells will not bloom the first year but should the second. Remember, they wither and completely disappear after they drop seeds. Do not dig them up by mistake when you plant other plants in the same area.

Why I chose this plant: I love them because they are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring.

Visitors: I have noticed that many types of bees visit the flowers. I have never seen rabbits eating it. This is a big issue in my yard.

Green leaves with some blue bell-shaped flowers

Environment: In the wilds of Missouri, they grow in large patches in low rich woodlands. In our yards they do well underneath trees in the leaf litter. They come up, bloom, and are gone early in the spring before most of our prairie plants have started and before the trees leaf out.

Where to see bluebells in the wild: I have seen them growing at Shaw Nature Reserve down on the floodplain close to the Meramec river. They grow in a similar situation along the Al Foster trail in Glencoe and along the LaBarque creek at the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Conservation Area

Available to purchase: During the Mother’s Day weekend sale at the Shaw Wildflower Market at Shaw Nature Reserve, one can buy bluebells. The plants at the sale will have bloomed already and may be dormant.

8 thoughts on “What’s blooming in my yard? Bluebells

  1. Thank you Kathy for this post. I love bluebells also! There’s usually a wonderful patch of bluebells at Quail Ridge Park in St. Charles County on the back wooded hillside.

  2. Thanks, Kathy,
    I have a few bluebells. Love them. I think from your post I need to add rich leaf mulch as mine are under big pine tree and I think soil there is not rich. I have only used the fallen pine needles as mulch there. I do want to be careful to not smother the pine tree. Will keep mulch away from trunk.
    For past 3 years I have transplanted quite a few bluebells from friend’s yard after their bloom time. Still have only a few coming up this year…like 4 plants. Rabbits have eaten some in the past. Hoping they find other food this year.
    Bluebells have no downside…definitely not aggressive.

  3. I have had them in my woodland garden for several years and noticed this spring that they have multiplied very nicely. Gorgeous plants!

  4. I’m glad to know more about the seeds and how to use them more effectively. I hope that this year, because I got rid of sweet gum balls that were several inches deep, the plants will spread better. Also, I’m going to try collecting some to share.
    Thanks, Kathy.

  5. My bluebells are not as tall as last year. I think the 2 nights of frost might have stunted them. Hundreds of them are blooming along with spring beauty ,bloodroot, bleeding hearts [pink & white] & celandine poppies. This time of year is glorious! Some minor bulbs are blooming, too.

  6. Just went for a walk in St. Francois state park. More Blue than blue! So gorgeous. Apparently they self seed quite a bit that’s why there are large patches everywhere they started. Give them time. I only started 1-2 years ago and am waiting to see a yardful any time now (wishful thinking?).

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