Taxonomy and Botany of Siberian Squill
Plant taxonomy classifies Siberian squill as Scilla siberica. This is a case where the scientific name is better-known than the common name, even though the latter will be employed in the entries below.
Siberian squill is a spring bulb plant. Rather surprisingly, this perennial belongs to the asparagus family.
Characteristics of this Bulb
The other spring-flowering bulb that they most resemble is glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa). In fact, as the Missouri Botanical Garden notes, "Some experts have merged Chionodoxa into the genus Scilla under the belief that the differences are not significant enough to warrant separate genus status."
Their stems bear blooms while still on the short side. In a flag-raising ceremony conducted by Mother Nature herself, as the stem pushes up to its mature height (about 8 inches), the bloom is hoisted aloft. Siberian squill bulb plants bear tiny, nodding, blue, star-like flowers.
Sun and Soil Requirements, Native Origin, Planting Zones
Siberian squill tolerates dry conditions in summer, although it does require moisture during the growing season. But the latter is rarely a limiting factor in many regions, where spring (the growing season for this bulb plant) is quite wet. A friable soil is preferred.
Siberian squill needs some sun, but this is another requirement easily met. Since the plant does, after all, bloom in spring, it will not be shaded even if planted under deciduous trees. By the time such areas become shaded, the bulb will have already flowered.
As its common name suggests, this spring-flowering bulb is native to Russia.
It grows best in planting zones 3-8 in North America.
Plant Care Advice
Being a bulb plant, care for Siberian squill will be a bit different from that for other perennial flowers in your garden. For starters, you will want to plant the bulbs in fall to give them time to establish themselves, so that they can bloom in spring. This is a small plant, so the bulbs must be planted closely together (2-3 inches apart) for a showy spring display. The idea is to have a blanket of the tiny blue flowers to cover an area, replacing winter's blanket of snow. Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow, so that your bulbs have a chance to store nutrients for next year. This bulb plant is deer-resistant.
Uses in Landscaping
While many plants perform poorly if planted under trees, Siberian squill can be a problem-solver for such spots: It will grow well under deciduous trees, due to its early emergence from the earth in springtime. Because it is a small plant, it can also be effective in rock gardens.
Invasive Status, Toxicity, Origin of the Name
Siberian squill will naturalize under favorable growing conditions, making it suitable for woodland gardens. In fact, according to the University of Wisconsin Extension, Siberian squill naturalizes so well that it may become invasive in some regions.
This is a poisonous plant, so it may not be a good idea to grow it where small children will be playing. As something to be feared, in that sense, it is appropriate that the genus name is related to the Scylla in Greek mythology. Scylla is a maritime monster famously referenced in Homer's Odyssey as residing adjacent to another grave danger for sailors, Charybdis. To be trapped "between Scylla and Charybdis" has become an idiom in English, roughly equivalent to being caught "between a rock and a hard place."