If your eye has been caught by a large swath of brilliant blue in an early spring lawn, chances are you've probably spotted a grouping of naturalized Siberian squill. Siberian squill, grown from a small bulb, is probably the most familiar of the scillas, and can often appear in lawns and gardens where the owner didn't even plant the bloom.
Native to Russia, the plants themselves don't get much taller than about 4 to 8 inches, but they make up for their diminutive size by spreading out and blooming profusely. The tiny bulbs grow and multiply easily and the plants will also self-seed, making Siberian squill easy to grow and a perfect choice for naturalizing.
Thin, sword-like leaves grow from the base of the plant and arch outward, allowing the flowers to be seen unobstructed. The flowers of Siberian squill are star or bell-shaped, and they nod and droop on short stems. There are three to five stems per plant, providing plenty of blooms.
Bloom time depends on the weather, but it is generally in early spring, March to April. Siberian squill is very cold hardy and can bloom through frost and even some snow. If your lawn isn't already home to this sweet spring plant, you can seed bulbs in the fall for bloom the following spring. The plant will grow relatively quickly, reaching maturity within the first few weeks of spring.
|Botanical Name||Scilla siberica|
|Common Name||Siberian squill, sapphire star, wood squill|
|Mature Size||3-8 in. tall, 3-6 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Average, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||2-8 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, dogs, and cats|
Siberian Squill Care
Scilla is a large genus with about 90 species, a part of the Hyacinthaceae family that includes some cold-hardy varieties as well as tropical plants. Though Siberian squill is not native to Siberia, the plant probably got its common name because it is so cold hardy, thriving as far north as USDA hardiness zone two.
This early bloomer relies on a period of cold to grow and can be planted just about anywhere in your lawn or garden, requiring just very little maintenance or care in order to grow. If you live in a cold environment and want to look out the window in early spring and see a bit of life, then Siberian squill is the perfect flower for you.
Pests don't seem to bother with Siberian squill. If you are having trouble growing them or getting them to naturalize, it is probably a moisture problem. They prefer consistent moisture when first planted and while they are growing, but they don't really like sitting in the wet or damp soil, especially during the summer months when they go dormant.
Although Siberian squill grows best in full sun or partial shade, you can plant them just about anywhere, even under trees, since they will complete their bloom period well before the trees have leafed out. Additionally, the sun won't be hot enough to scorch the leaves or petals early on in the season, so you don't really need to worry about them getting too much direct light.
Siberian squill is not very particular about its soil, except that it must be well-draining in order to prevent root and bulb rot. If you want to give your soil and the bulbs a boost of nutrients, work some organic matter into your blend before planting in the fall.
They do need regular water when first planted in mid-to-late fall, about a month before the first expected frost. Beyond that though, they don't need any watering and are drought-tolerant once their bulbs are established.
Temperature and Humidity
As their name and native area suggest, Siberian squill flowers are incredibly cold hardy, and have been known to grow as far north as the Arctic circle. Because of this, the plant has no special temperature or humidity needs, beyond that of a cold environment to initially grow and take root.
Though Siberian squill does well on its own and will easily naturalize in your landscape, you can help guarantee healthy blooms by fertilizing the plants in late winter or early spring using fertilizer specially formulated for bulbs.
Is Siberian Squill Toxic?
Beneath all that beauty lies a fairly toxic plant, so you should be careful when selecting where—and whether—to plant your Siberian squill. The issue lies in the plant's cardiac glycosides, which are present in all parts of the plant and make it highly toxic to both humans and animals like dogs and cats if eaten. If you notice any of the below symptoms following ingestion of the plant, contact emergency services immediately.
Symptoms of Poisoning
- Pain in the mouth
- Irritation in or around the mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach cramping
- Lowered heart rate
- Skin irritation
How to Grow Siberian Squill From Seed
Siberian Squill bulbs aren't large, so you'll want to plant quite a few to have any impact. The bulbs have a rounded bottom and the top comes to a point, which should be planted facing up. Even if planted improperly, the bulbs will quickly right themselves.
Plant the bulbs about 3 to 5 inches deep—you can space them close together, planting about 15 bulbs per square foot or one bulb every 3 inches. Siberian squill bulbs are often sold in bulk packages of 100 or more, and it's generally easier to dig a wide hole and plant several bulbs at the same time rather than poking many individual holes.
Siberian squill plants won't be around past the cool, early months of spring, so little maintenance is required. Don't mow the foliage down until about six weeks after the flowers bloom, as the plants need time to create and store energy, before going dormant.
If you would like to transplant your squill, you can either move a clump of bulbs or save the seed. Fall is ideal for transplanting bulbs, but it's easier to find them while they are still in bloom. If you move them then, be sure to keep them well watered until they get established. You can also transplant any bulbs you forced in containers. After they have completed blooming, plant the bulbs in the garden 3 to 5 inches deep and keep them watered until the foliage disappears.
To save seeds, allow the pods to dry on the plants and then collect them and scatter them where you want—they will grow themselves.