By Matt Gibson
One of the first spring bulbs to come to flower, the Siberian squill is a short, tough, cold hardy flower that spreads out and produces wide swaths of brilliant blue early in the spring. Native to Siberia, as well as other parts of Russia and Eurasia, the Siberian squill naturalizes easily, and has spread all around the gardens of the United States in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 8. The Siberian Squill is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) and one of the most popular flowering plants among the more than 100 species in the genus Scilla, which are native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.
As short and dainty as they seem to be based on first glance, these bright blue four to eight inch tall flower spreads do not ever need to be carried indoors even on the coldest of winters. In fact, in order to get them to bloom when you are growing them indoors, you have to chill them to activate their reproductive systems.
The tiny bulbs grow quickly and multiply, and the siberian squill also self-seeds, and can even be somewhat invasive, if you weren’t looking for a ground cover or a flower that will spread out wherever it sees fit, one of several reasons why the squill is a great naturalizer and adapts well to new environments (as long as they are well suited to its preferences). Siberian quill are also a cinch to grow once the plants are established and the right environment has been achieved to fit its few needs. Plant Siberian squill in the garden beds as a filler, border, or anywhere you need a ground cover, or plant in a container with other flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, and they will emerge in spring with different heights and colors.
The thin, blade-shaped leaves stick out from the base of the plant and arch forward like the flower stems, but without obstructing them. The leaves either arch forward and down where the blooms rise just above the tips of the foliage, or they arch high, but just to the left, right or front of the flowerheads and stems, that always seem to outstretch the leaves by just a bit to give you a clear view of their deep indigo hue.
When closed, the blooms look like polished kyanite bells. They are a subtle dark blue flowers, but still brilliantly colored and kind of droopy in form. When the blooms are fully open, they are star shaped, with each petal resembling a light periwinkle, to a medium-dark (with almost neon texture) lapis lazuli in shade. The open, star-shaped blooms are the most eye-catching, but the closed, bell-like flowerheads have a relaxing effect to them, both in the way that they sit atop their stems, and the difference in shade of blue that the underside of the petals flaunt.
Varieties of Siberian Squill
There are only a handful of varieties of siberian squill that have been named by horticulturists. This is probably because there are only a few varieties that have been brought over to the United States and Europe from Russia. There are surely many other varieties that grow in the wild in Russia as well, but we are not privy to their names, nor are their seeds available to gardeners around the world. The handful of varieties that have been naturalized and brought to the states and been given a western name are as follows:
Scilla sibirica taurica – has bright blue flowers, and is the most popular variety of siberian squill in gardens today.
Spring Beauty – this variety also has bright blue flowers, but the flowerheads are bigger than the scilla sibirica taurica, they bloom for a longer period, and the stems are sturdier, so as to better support the larger flowers that the Beauty produces. They are also very popular, especially in the UK.
There is some misinformation about Siberian squill, “Spring Beauty,” petals being considered edible. While there may be some truth to it, I could find no website or source that would back up the claim, other than one site, that didn’t seem to have a correct picture of spring beauty variety, as it was shown in pink, not bright blue, so we cannot recommend using the spring beauty petals
Alba – The alba variety is very similar to the scilla sibirica taurica, except that the flowerheads are pure white in color.
Growing Conditions for Siberian Squill
Grow in an open location with full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. A well-drained soil, container, or bed is essential to avoid root and bulb rot. You will also notice a lackluster flower producing performance if you don’t amend the soil with some decaying organic matter prior to planting (if the soil needs the boost, that is). The best way to integrate organic matter into the soil is to work in a two inch layer of compost just under the soil in the garden bed or container.
Though their underwhelming blooming period is a little disappointing, it has its advantages too. Siberian squill is a perfect choice for planting underneath deciduous trees, as the impressive flower completes its short bloom cycle before deciduous trees have a chance to let all their leaves develop, which would block the blooms much needed light source. Siberian squill is also a great choice to help thicken up the lawn, as again, the short bloom cycle will be complete most likely before you ever feel the need to mow.
How to Plant Siberian Squill
Place Siberian squill pointed end up during the fall in holes that are dug out to be five inches deep and are spaced two to four inches apart. Though you can expect the blooms to pop up well before the rest of your spring flowers even form buds, you can’t expect the Siberian squill blossom to stick around and decorate your garden throughout the entirety of the spring. Squill blooms usually are at their best during the winter and will only last for an entirety of two to three weeks in the early spring before retiring from bud making until the next cool season comes around.
Care of Siberian Squill
When planted in a good location, there is very little care needed for Siberian squill to thrive. You will need to fertilize the plants when the leaves emerge in the late winter or spring. For best results, use a granular fertilizer or a bulb fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen.
Aside from meeting fertilization needs and being sure not to overwater the Siberian squill, your duties are rather limited. The only other thing that you need to keep an eye on is when your blooms start to fade away. You will want to deadhead spent blooms to encourage more growth and more colorful displays from your groundcover.
Beneficial Insects, Garden Pests and Common Diseases of Siberian Squill
Siberian squill flower blossoms, despite their small height, pack quite a powerful fragrance, which does a fine job of attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects to the garden. Fortunately, though there are some rumors about the flower being edible, no deer, rabbits, voles, chipmunks, or other wildlife has seemed drawn to it.
Siberian squill needs consistent moisture right after they are first planted, and while they are getting established, however they don’t like to sit in waterlogged, overly wet, or damp soil, especially during the summer months, when they go dormant. In over-saturated soils, root rot can be an issue. Crown rot, because of the same reasons, is also an occasional issue when there is waterlogged, or poorly-draining soil.
Videos About Siberian Squill
Want to see what siberian squill looks like in full bloom? Take a close-up look at this bluish-purple flower cluster of siberian squill in full bloom.
Though there are not many educational videos about Siberian squill floating around on YouTube, there are some must see videos that are just too pretty or interesting to miss. This short film captures honey bees gathering pollen from Siberian Squill.