Forget-me-nots, famous for their little blue flowers, boast some 50 species worldwide. The genus name, Myosotis, means "mouse ear" and refers to the shape of the small, oblong leaves. Legend says that the plant got its common name when a knight strolling along a riverbank with his sweetheart bent to the pick the flowers and fell into water. As he was swept away by the current, he cried out, "Forget me not!"
The alpine forget-me-not, or Myosotis alpestris, is the state flower of Alaska. This compact, short-lived perennial prefers alkaline soil, and the five-petaled, sky-blue flowers bloom in mountain meadows. The water forget-me-not, or Myosotis scorpioides, is a perennial that thrives in a water garden or alongside a stream; it grows in up to three inches of standing water. The sky-blue, five-petaled flowers with yellow centers bloom spring through summer on stems that grow 6 to 10 inches tall. The common forget-me-not of borders and woodland gardens is Myosotis sylvatica. This hairy, tufted, spring-blooming plant typically grows 5 inches to 1 foot tall. It can be grown as a short-lived perennial, biennial or annual. Regardless of the gardener's intent, these plants will aggressively self-seed and persist in the garden for many years. To minimize self-seeding, some gardeners remove the clusters of small blue flowers immediately after bloom.
Forget-me-nots like shade, but will tolerate full sun if provided adequate shade in the afternoon, particularly in hot summer climates. Most varieties do best in consistently moist soils; this is especially important when the flowers are planted in full sun. One exception is the alpine forget-me-not, which prefers the dry, alkaline soil characteristic of its native habitat. The water forget-me-not, naturally found in marshes and wetlands, requires continuously damp soil to survive — and will not flourish in a normal, backyard garden.
The blooming season of forget-me-nots varies with the species. Most flower from spring through summer, with typically long blooming seasons that provide consistent color as the other garden flowers bloom and die. Common forget-me-nots bloom most profusely in April and May with sporadic blooming through the mid-summer months. The water forget-me-not has a longer bloom time, flowering all spring through summer. Alpine forget-me-nots bloom all summer, but are most dense during June and July.
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Forget-me-nots are widely used as bedding, filling in large garden areas with their small, blue clusters of flowers and abundant greenery. They work well as border fronts, in rock gardens, around ponds and water gardens and in wild and woodland areas. Many gardeners plant the flowers to fill in around spring bulbs and provide continuous background color for their garden throughout the spring and summer.