Plants & Gardens Blog

Native Virginia Bluebells Blooming

What could be more lovely than a clear sunny spring day, the fresh green shoots of plants juxtaposed against a powder-blue sky? The flowers of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are as if tiny pieces of that sky came floating down to earth, giving us a fleeting glimpse of the heavens. Emerging from the earth with precocious energy, the foliage is at first tinged with deep purple margins, eventually giving way to soft arching flower stems that bear those ethereal bells of rapture. The flower buds fade quickly from pink when closed to azure blue when open. This species is robust and easy to cultivate in moist, rich woodland soils. It prefers the cooler temperatures of spring and goes yellow and dormant rapidly once the heat of summer arrives.

Uli Lorimer is director of Horticulture at Garden In The Woods, in Framingham, Massachussettes. Previously, he was curator of BBG's Native Flora Garden.


  • Ellen Minet, Rosarian, Planting Fields Arboretum June 13, 2013

    I grew up in rural Virginia years ago and never saw a bluebell! Years later a friend also living on the North Shore of Long Island gave me one, which I thought had died. To my delight it came up the next year and now blooms in profusion among my shrubs, roses, and anywhere else I allow it! What a beautiful springtime delight and how fascinating to see the speed with which it grows. I give a lot of them away, but always with the warning, “If you can’t stand a messy look for a short time, don’t take one. Nature has its messy moments and bluebells are very natural!”

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