Scilla: species, planting & scilla care

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Along with snowdrops, scilla are among the plants that first present their flowers in the new year.

Many blue flowering scilla
Squills add a wonderful pop of colour to the otherwise bleak winter months [Photo: Edita Medeina/ Shutterstock.com]

As early as February, the blue, star-shaped flowers can be found along roadsides and in meadows. In addition to the native species of blue asters (Scilla), you can also keep other species in the garden as ornamental plants.

Scilla: flowering time and properties

The (Scilla) is a genus of plants that, as a geophyte, forms its organs of survival in the soil in the form of bulbs. Scilla are found in Asia and Europe. In southern and southeastern Germany, two-leaved scilla (Scilla bifolia) usually thrive near rivers, in wetlands such as floodplain forests. These native occurrences of scilla are protected.
The Scilla genus contains a total of about 83 species, which include, for example, glory of the snow. The herbaceous plants, up to 50 cm high, have basal leaves and leafless stems, at the end of which are the star-shaped flowers.

Tip: Fortunately, scilla bulbs are uninteresting to voles.

In early spring, as one of the first harbingers of spring, the scilla sprouts and its leaves emerge from the ground. The flowering period of scilla, which can be found in our garden, occurs shortly after and extends from February to April. Thus, the scilla is an early bloomer. But there are also species that bloom later in the year. The pretty flowers are mostly blue, sometimes purple or white. You can also find the decorative early bloomers under the name of blue star scilla. After flowering, the scilla retracts its leaves in the summer and sprouts again the following spring.

Scilla flowers blooming in snow
As a typical early bloomer, scilla is one of the first to show its colourful flowers [Photo: Nick Pecker/ Shutterstock.com]

When does scilla bloom? Depending on the species, scilla has its flowering period between February and September. Our native, two-leaved scilla (Scilla bifolia) blooms from about February to April, shortly after the snowdrops (Galanthus).

The most beautiful species and varieties

With so many scilla varieties to choose from, it can be difficult to decide. Here we present the most beautiful and popular varieties and species of scilla.

Two-leaved scilla (Scilla bifolia): This native wild plant is not only suitable for the garden. It can also be found in parks and next to paths when the upright, star-shaped, blue flowers appear in spring. Despite its small height of 10 cm, this native scilla is extremely valuable for pollinators. The species is tolerant of lime, fairly competitive, and grows on moist, fresh, nutrient-rich soils on semi-shaded forest edges.

  • ‘Alba’: forms white flowers.
  • ‘Rosea’: has pink flowers.
Pale pink-white scilla flower
Scilla bifolia ‘Rosea’ is a variety with pale pink petals [Photo: Aleksandr Naumenko/ Shutterstock.com]

Siberian scilla (Scilla siberica): This species is also a popular garden plant, reaching heights of about 10 cm. The flowers are blue and have a blue central stripe on the petal. It is somewhat bell-shaped and the flowers sit nodding on the stems. Like the two-leaved scilla, this species is competitive and lime-loving. It grows particularly well in heavy, clay-rich soils and in light partial shade.

  • ‘Spring Beauty’: taller and stronger growing variety with flowers in even deeper blue.
  • ‘Alba’: flowers white.
  • ‘Grace Lofthouse’: rare variety in violet-blue.
Blue-purple scilla flowers
Siberian scilla has nodding, bell-shaped flowers [Photo: mizy/ Shutterstock.com]

Mishchenko scilla (Scilla mishchenkoana): this species grows to about 20 cm tall, making it the largest scilla species for the garden. Mishchenko scilla blossoms white and not blue. Since it occurs naturally in mountainous areas, it is more suited to somewhat more well-drained, drier soils that are in full sun or partial shade. The species is also called Russian scilla or Caucasian scilla.

  • ‘Zwanenburg’: with light blue flowers.
White scilla flowers with blue stripes
Scilla mischtschenkoana has white flowers with a blue midrib [Photo: Elenkina/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Peruvian scilla (Scilla peruviana) has many small, purple flowers in a head-like arrangement. Use as an ornamental plant is limited to warm regions for this species native to the Mediterranean region. Unlike the other varieties, the evergreen, Peruvian scilla is not hardy. The heat-loving plant must be overwintered at a minimum of 5 °C and flowers from May to June. The species should be fertilised and watered regularly during the growing season and requires a bright location.

Purple Peruvian scilla flowers
Peruvian scilla is not winter hardy [Photo: tamu1500/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting scilla: location and procedure

Before planting the scilla, it is necessary to find a location that suits the needs of the early bloomer. The scilla needs light, but due to the early flowering period, it can also be placed under deciduous shrubs, as they do not yet bear leaves at flowering time. A suitable place is light or partial shade, and preferences, in terms of soil, depend on the species – the above list on species and varieties will tell you about the requirements of your scilla.

Scilla are planted in the autumn, between September and November.
Planting in troops or small groups of at least 5 to 20 bulbs will produce an attractive overall appearance later. Since scillas do not grow large, a distance of about 10 cm between the bulbs is enough, which corresponds to about 100 plants per square metre.

Scilla flowers on the forest floor
The dainty scilla flowers are usually planted together in loose groups

Tip: if you have a little patience, you can put fewer plants per square metre. The scilla then forms a closed crop by itself in suitable locations.

In the autumn, between October and November, the bulbs are placed in the ground about 8 cm deep with the tip facing up. After that, everything is covered with substrate and lightly watered.

In January, you will also find pre-sprouted scilla bulbs. These are suitable for keeping in pots, for example, on a sheltered balcony or in an apartment. For planting in a pot, it is best to use a humus-rich substrate, such as our Plantura Organic Flower Compost. After flowering, the scilla retracts its leaves. The bulbs can be planted outdoors in the fall or overwintered in a pot in a cool, frost-free place, then they will sprout again the following year. If you bring the scilla pot indoors in December or January, water and fertilise it, you can enjoy the re-emergence of blue splendour especially early.

Organic Flower Compost, 40L
Organic Flower Compost, 40L
  • Perfect for all flowering plants in garden beds & pots
  • For beautiful blossoms & healthy plant growth
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Tip: two-leaved scilla spreads well and forms gorgeous, blue flower carpets over time. It is therefore suitable for planting in a lawn.

The right care

Scilla belongs to the frugal garden plants. With scilla, care is limited to soil preparation at planting and evenly moist soil. Watering is especially important from planting through to the end of the flowering period, when the foliage dies back. This will allow the scilla bulbs to sprout again next year. However, it should not get wet otherwise the bulb will soon suffer from rot bacteria.

Tip: the foliage should not be pruned or mowed under any circumstances because it is important for ongoing fertilisation of the bulb and thus flowering the following year.

Fertilisation is usually not necessary. On poorer soils, a little slow-release fertiliser can be worked into the soil for spring supply. Apply a fertiliser for flowering plants, such as our Plantura Flower Food, in spring as soon as the leaves begin to emerge. Our organic fertiliser lasts for up to three months and is safe for pets and garden animals. Thus, the scilla receives sufficient nutrients for a magnificent flowering period.

Pale blue scilla flowers
The two-leaf squill, known as Scilla bifolia, is found Europe [Photo: Dina Rogatnykh/ Shutterstock.com]

As a rule, the scilla is hardy. The bulbs even need the cool temperatures to sprout in the spring. Cold weather with temperatures down to – 23 °C does not bother the scilla.

Tip: scilla spreads by seeding. The individual seeds have appendages called eleiosomes, which are coveted by ants because of their fat content. These carry the seeds to their burrow, which contributes to the spread of the scilla.

Ant walking along scilla stem
Ants help to spread scilla [Photo: Haboco/ Shutterstock.com]

Is scilla poisonous?

Scilla is poisonous and should not be consumed. This applies not only to humans, but also to pets such as dogs or cats. The sap contained may cause irritation upon contact with the skin.

But it is not just scilla and snowdrops that bloom in early spring. We have compiled an overview of the 15 most popular spring flowering plants for you.

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