Scilla (Squill)

Squills multiply every year and naturalize easily

The Scilla genus contains bulbous perennials, commonly called scillas, squills, or bluebells, that are grass-like flowering plants. Grown from true bulbs, most are planted in fall and bloom in early spring, but some grow in summer and bloom in late summer or fall. Borne on erect stems, the dainty flowers are starry or bell-shaped and are usually blue but sometimes lavender, purple, pink, or white. Each bulb also produces a few to several linear, lance-shaped leaves.

Scilla is a large genus with about 90 species included today. Although the classification of the species has been difficult and variable and the taxonomy is unsettled, today, DNA sequencing is reorganizing the genus (like many genera). The remaining scillas belong to 2 geographical groups: sub-Saharan African/Indian and North African/European/Asian. In addition, the genus Chionodoxa is now widely considered to be included in the Scilla genus. S. siberica (Siberian squill) is the best-known species. It has brilliant blue flowers and is extremely cold hardy. S. peruviana (Portuguese squill, Cuban lily [syn. Oncostema peruviana]) is widely grown in Mediterranean type climates. A few more familiar species include S. bifolia (Alpine squill), S. hyacinthoides (hyacinth squill), S. litardierei (amethyst meadow squill), S. madeirensis (madeiran squill), and S. sardensis (lesser glory of the snow).

Squills typically range from 2 inches to 2 feet tall. They are shown to best effect when planted in large drifts or in groups of 10 to 15 bulbs in mixed beds, borders, or containers. Squills return and multiply every year, naturalizing easily by bulb offshoots and self-seeding to form large showy colonies over time. Squills are so easy to grow, they're virtually foolproof. They grow almost anywhere but perform best in sunny to partially shady locations with fertile, well-draining soil. Squills are deer and rabbit resistant and generally pest and disease free.