Virginia bluebells

Mertensia virginica, commonly known as Virgnia bluebells, is a native woodland perennial found in most Illinois counties, including Cook County, and is featured in the Botanic Gardens Native Plant Garden. It pops up through the silla in mid-spring, and rapidly grows into big, spreading, bouquet-like plants of up to 2-1/2' tall, with delicate lavender-blue bell-shaped flowers that bloom for up to a month.


Virginia bluebells like the cool and wet of early spring and can even tolerate a late snow. They wilt once it gets hotter or drier, usually by late May in northern Illinois. The big foliage is kind of messy, but rather than cut it, I tie it back, or at least wait until the bluebells have dropped their seeds. Virginia bluebells tolerate light shade to partial sun as well as moisture, and if not cut back too aggressively, will tend to colonize, and so make a good choice for difficult shady, wet areas, especially along pathways or around trees.