How to Grow Virginia Bluebells


The Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is a perennial woodland flower native to the eastern United States. Virginia bluebells quickly appear in early spring, bloom, and just as quickly disappear, often by June. However, their blooms are lovely, and the clusters of trumpet-shaped lavender flowers make them a sought-after plant for the shade garden. But not every garden can sustain the bluebell; full sun, dry soil, and heat will prevent a bluebell from any repeat performance. Bluebells are also notoriously difficult to transplant, and do not do well when their roots are disturbed in any way. With a few precautions, this delicate flower may be transplanted, but many gardeners find better results by sowing fresh seed directly into the garden in early summer. If seed is not available, dormant bluebells may be planted.

Step 1

Obtain dormant plants from a reputable source in summer or early fall. The bluebell will usually be shipped as a thick, fibrous root, and should feel firm, not withered or dry. The tuber should be free of mold or decay.

Step 2

Prepare the planting area. Virginia bluebells need well-drained, rich soil in a shady location. Add compost or other organic amendments as necessary to create a deep humus. The planting bed should be moist in springtime, and the bluebell's tendency to naturalize by offsets and by seed should be kept in mind when choosing a location.

Step 3

Plant the dormant bluebells with their growth buds, or "eyes," pointing up and roughly 2 to 3 inches from the soil surface. Firm the soil around the root and mulch well.

Step 4

Define the new planting with a carefully placed plant stake or other marker. Because bluebells lose their foliage quickly, it may be lost among summer plants, and a gardener may unintentionally dig up or plant over dormant bluebells.

Step 5

Do not disturb the newly planted bluebell. Disturbing an actively growing bluebell may damage or even kill the plant. If a bluebell must be moved, wait until the growing season is over before digging. Lift and replant as a clump, if possible, to increase the chance that at least a few will survive.

Tips and Warnings

  • Virginia bluebells are threatened in some areas. Buy from reputable sources, and never remove Virginia bluebells from public or private land without permission.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil amendments
  • Planting trowel
  • Dormant, healthy bluebells
  • Mulch


  • USDA: Plants Profile for Mertensia Virginica
  • "Perennials for Every Purpose"; Larry Hodgson; 2000
Keywords: Virginia Bluebell, transplant bluebells, planting bluebells

About this Author

Kimberly Fuller has been a writer for 15 years, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah. She has written successful grants for local schools as well as articles for Demand Studios, Constant Content and other online sites.