A small family of low growing bulbous perennials, loved for their dainty racemes of star shaped flowers.
The scilla family once included the English common bluebell Scilla nutans. However, its botanical name changed three times in the 90s and has now been reclassified as Hyacinthoides non-scripta.
Botanical Name: Scilla
Common Names: Squill
Foliage: Deciduous, green, short strap-shaped glossy leaves
Flowers: Star or bell shaped flowers in various shades of blue, white or pink.
Flowering Period: Spring to summer, depending on variety.
Soil: Well-drained but moisture retentive soil. (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH.
Conditions: Full sun or partial shade. Best in a south or east facing aspect, in either an exposed or sheltered location.
Habit: Low growing, clump forming.
Type: Bulbous perennial.
Origin: Europe, Asia and Africa.
Hardiness: Fully hardy in most regions of the UK.
Plant bulbs 3in (8cm) to 4in (10cm) deep (depending on bulb size) in late summer to early autumn. Choose a sunny spot. Although they will tollerate some shade, they flower better in full sun.
Scilla prefer a moderately fertile, humus-rich, well-drained soil. So add plenty of well rotted organic matter at planting time. Do not plant in heavy clay or soil that can become waterlogged. Top dress alpine forms with gravel to improve drainage.
Scilla are ideally suited to the rock garden or in the border under deciduous shrubs such as roses. The taller forms naturalise well on a grassy bank.
For indoor displays, plant early flowering forms in a free draining compost in shallow pots or pans. Plunge them outside until growth appears, then bring them indoors. Keep them in a cool light possition at a temperature of around 16 deg C. Keep the soil moist at all times.
Scillas are very hardy and easy to grow. They can be left in the ground all year, to naturalise and spread to form large clumps. Mark the planting positions so they are not disturbed once the leaves die down.
Slugs may occasionally attack bulbs or shoots in mild winters.
Can be affected by fungal diseases, rust and smut.
Divide clumps or separate offsets when the plants are dormant in early autumn. Replant at once.
Alternatively sow seed outdoors in September. Cultivars will not come true from collected seed.
There are several species that flower in the spring and others that flower in summer and autumn.
Scilla bifolia (alpine squill) produces clusters of blue star-shaped flowers in March. Pink and white forms are also available. Height to 8in (20cm).
Scilla peruviana (Portuguese squill) produces dense heads of flattish small deep blue, lilac or white flowers from May-June. Height to 12in (30cm).
Scilla siberica (Siberian or Spring Squill) has glossy leaves and deep blue bell-shaped flowers in spring. Height to 8in (20cm).
Scilla scilloides produces spikes of small pink flowers in late summer and autumn. Height to 12in (30cm).
Scilla tubergeniana is the earliest and smallest flowering form. Pale blue flowers with deep blue stripes from February to March. Flowers start to open as soon as the shoot break through. Height to 6in (15cm).