Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Slightly acid
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES Cold-hardy plants with dainty blue flowers; for naturalizing, beds, lawns
FAVORITES: Scilla siberica, Pushkinia scilloides, Hyacinthoides italica
QUIRKS: Needs a minimum of 8 weeks below 40°F (4°C); short-lived in hot climates
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Crocus, daffodils, tulips, spring-flowering shrubs and trees
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: Slightly acid, well-drained soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Hot weather cuts short the life cycle, weakening the bulbs
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives many years in cold climates; divide crowded clumps in late spring
PLANTING DEPTH: 4 in (10.2 cm)
DIMENSIONS: 6 in (15.2 cm) tall

Squill in the Landscape

If true blue color appeals to you, you will love die variety of dainty spring-flowering bulbs that are known as squill. Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), and Italian squill (Hyacinthoides italica) all produce charming starlike flowers in shades of blue in early spring, creating pools of color in the woods, under shrubs and trees, or in die perennial bed or rock garden.

You can pair squill with small, early-blooming tulips, such as the Kaufmanniana and Greigii tulips, or let them form a carpet under tall-stemmed tulips. Use groups of 50 or more squill to every 10 tulips, planting the squill together so that the tulips appear to float over a wave of blue flowers. You can also scatter bulbs under early-flowering shrubs, such as azalea or viburnum. These little bulbs are so sturdy that they can even be planted in a lawn, provided you are willing to wait until the bulbs' leaves wither before you mow.

An Extended Family

These bulbs grow approximately 6 in (15.2 cm) tall and have short, irislike foliage. Siberian squill has nodding, deep electric blue flowers that hang like bells from leafless stems. Striped squill has pale, almost translucent blue flowers with a dark blue line penciled down the center of each petal. They grow in dense clusters along the end of the flower stem, resembling small hyacinth blossoms. Italian squill has fragrant, violet-blue flowers that form little rounded clusters at the top of its flower stems.

Growing Squill

Squill bulbs are inexpensive, making it affordable to plant them in large numbers. Informal drifts look more natural and have more impact than lines or circles. Plant squill bulbs in early fall, before planting hyacinths or other big bulbs, in a sunny location in well-drained soil. To plant dozens of bulbs quickly, use a hand tool called a bulb planter, which pulls out circular plugs of soil about 4 in (10 cm) in diameter and equally deep. Make holes 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) apart, drop in the bulbs so that the pointed ends are pointing up, and cover them with the excavated soil.You can also dig a large hole and gently scatter the bulbs in it, making sure they are spaced 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) apart.

The following spring, after the leaves emerge, water the new planting to keep the soil moist if rainfall is lacking. To make sure the bulbs have stored plenty of nourishment for next year's flowers, do not mow or otherwise remove the leaves until they turn yellow in late spring.

Unfortunately, squill do not thrive in heat and may flower well for only a few years in regions with consistently hot summers, but it is affordable to replant as needed. On the other hand, they laugh at the cold, making them care-free choices for areas with deep freezes in the winter.

Increasing the Bounty

These bulbs increase by self-sowing. Fledglings can be encouraged with a dose of balanced liquid fertilizer applied according to package label in spring, while squill are actively growing. To divide congested colonies, dig some bulbs after they've flowered, separate them, and replant promptly. Like other early-blooming bulbs,
squill remains disease- and pest-free because it goes dormant before most pests and diseases become active.

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