Forget-Me-Not Plant Profile

Learn more about the colorful, versatile plant

Forget-me-not plants in bloom.

 mikroman6 / Getty Images

Forget-me-not is a well-known flowering plant in the borage family (Boraginaceae), making it a relative of such herbs and landscape plants as borage (Borago officinalis), variegated Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'), and Italian bugloss (Anchusa azurea). It is grown for its pretty blue flowers and for the fact that some of our worst garden pests do not bother eating it.

Botanical Name Myosotis sylvatica
Common Name Forget-me-not, woodland forget-me-not, ornamental forget-me-not
Plant Type Biennial
Mature Size Up to 1 foot tall (but commonly shorter), with a similar spread
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Fertile, evenly moist, and well-drained
Soil pH Mildly acidic to mildly alkaline
Bloom Time April to May
Flower Color Bright blue, with a lighter (yellow or white) “eye”
Hardiness Zones 3 to 8
Native Area Europe (naturalized in North America)

How to Grow Forget-Me-Nots

If you wish to grow new plants from seed, sow the seed in a suitable garden area in mid-summer. The plants will bloom the following year.

Tolerant of rabbit and deer pests, forget-me-not does attract wildlife valued by gardeners: It draws butterflies.

Forget-me-not has the potential to be invasive. This is because it reseeds, allowing it not only to survive for years in the landscape but even to spread. In fact, it is considered a noxious weed in the Midwest, one of the regions of the United States where it has naturalized. Deadhead it to cut down on its reseeding if you want to exercise control over forget-me-not. Some gardeners, though, will be quite happy to let this attractive plant spread.

Light

At the southern end of its range, give forget-me-not some afternoon shade. In the North, provide it with full sun.

Soil

Give forget-me-not a well-drained soil.

Water

Forget-me-not tolerates wet soil. At the very least, it needs to be grown in soil kept evenly moist.

Fertilizer

Fertilize forget-me-not with compost or with a general-purpose fertilizer annually, as the plant performs better in soil with adequate fertility.

Uses for Forget-Me-Not

Myosotis sylvatica is perfectly safe to have in the yard around small children. You may have heard that forget-me-nots are poisonous, but this is a case of confusion caused by the use of common names. Some plants commonly known as “forget-me-nots” are, in fact, toxic, including:

But Myosotis sylvatica is not toxic.

Despite its classification as a biennial, some gardeners buy forget-me-nots already in flower at the nursery and treat them as annuals. Those who treat forget-me-nots as annuals may want to grow them in pots because they lack the space to grow something that spreads so much by reseeding. Happily, they grow quite well in containers.

As a biennial, forget-me-not is short-lived. But its capacity to reseed makes up for its short lifespan.

This is a versatile plant. For example, it can be used in the yard as:

Regardless of how you use it, it looks best when you grow it massed together, because the flowers, although pretty, are rather small.

Varieties of Forget-Me-Not

The Myosotis genus contains a number of species. The species referenced here is Myosotis sylvatica. Other species, in addition to true forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides), include:

  • Small-flowered forget-me-not (Myosotis stricta)
  • Broadleaf forget-me-nots (Myosotis latifolia)

Meaning of the Name

The genus name of “Myosotis” means “mouse’s ear” in Greek, a reference to the shape of the plant's tiny leaves. The species name of “sylvatica” means “of the forest."

Modern languages, in giving the plant its common name, have derived inspiration from plant symbolism (the symbolic meanings of particular flowers) rather than from the plant's appearance. The Germans are credited with the original naming of the plant, and “forget me not” is a literal translation from the German.

This common name makes perfect sense when you consider that forget-me-not, in plant symbology, signifies remembrance and various aspects of remembering (such as remembering to be loyal to a friend). Because forget-me-not's symbolism focuses on memory, it can hold great significance for those struggling to cope with family members who have Alzheimer’s disease.