Plant of the Month April 2018
Photo: Virginia Bluebells in bloom. Photo by Gary Chafin.
Submitted by Gary Chafin, Northern Neck Chapter,
Virginia Native Plant Society
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is one of the most beautiful of the native spring ephemerals that has been introduced into our area. Although it does not grow naturally in the Northern Neck, it is found throughout much of the rest of Virginia, including the Middle Peninsula.
The smooth blue-green leaves appear very early in spring followed by clusters of narrow, bell-shaped flowers which emerge pink but quickly become sky blue. The flowers persist for several weeks, gradually getting farther and farther from the leaves. Hardly have the flowers faded when the leaves turn yellow as the plant returns to dormancy until the next year.
In nature, Virginia Bluebells usually grow in partial shade where there is humus-rich alluvial soil; often on riverbanks and in floodplains. If it likes its growing site, it spreads to form large colonies. Easily adaptable to the home garden, the main problem is remembering its location during its long dormancy.
See Go Native—Grow Native to find out more about native plants that are appropriate for landscaping