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Virginia bluebell has fascinating flowers that can be a variety of colors, but may often have pinkish buds and blue flowers. This is a spring perennial that likes to spread, and would be a great addition to a shady garden or naturalized area. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) borage
  • Family (botanic) Boraginaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Blue, Pink, Purple, White
  • Shape or form Mounded, Round
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Insect pollinators

Size: 

Virginia bluebell is typically between 1 to 2 feet tall and wide when mature. It spreads by sending out underground stem structures (rhizomes) that produce offsets, as well as self-seeding.

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Great blue lobelia is native to the Eastern and Central United States. C-Value: 4Virginia bluebells are native to the Eastern United States. C-Value: 5.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Virginia bluebells attract butterflies, moths, skippers, and different long-tongued bee species. They may attract hummingbirds in some areas.

Leaf description: 

The leaves of Virginia bluebells are large, soft, ovate, and light bluish-green in color. They are hairless (glabrous) and have smooth edges (entire margins). The leaves grow in an alternate arrangement along the stems. Leaves that grow nearer to the base of Virginia bluebells will have stalks (petioles) that have wings on either side. Higher leaves may not have stalks (sessile).

Flower description: 

The flowers of Virginia bluebells are typically blue, pink, or white and look like long, narrow funnels with a wider, ruffled portion towards the tip. The buds of the flowers are often pink, but can be purplish, and look a bit like balloons that have not been fully inflated. They grow in groups on the terminal ends of the upper stems. Each individual flower has long, slender stalks that grow from one side, causing the groups to coil (helicoid cyme). They will begin to straighten as the flowers mature. The funnel-like tubular petal structure (corolla) is comprised of five fused petals and is surrounded at the base by a leaf-like structure (calyx) that is divided into five teeth. The corolla surrounds the reproductive structures, including five white structures with light brown structures at the tips (stamen) and one long, white central structure (style).

Fruit description: 

Virginia bluebell fruit are dry and four-lobed with one seed per lobe (schizocarps). They look a bit wrinkled. The calyx from the flower persists around the fruit, and the long center style will also protrude from the center of the fruit.

Plant Care:

Virginia bluebell goes dormant in the late spring, dying back to the ground, and will emerge again the following season. They do not like to dry out and may require supplemental water. This plant can form colonies that may require division.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Slugs and snails can be pests of Virginia bluebells. This species is resistant to rabbits.

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