This article was published originally on 4/14/2010
In the past few weeks a number of people have asked about the masses of blue flowers scattered all over the campus of ISU. I look forward to this question every year because it is one of the many signs that spring has arrived. Regardless of how many different plants are blooming on campus, it is the large sweeps of tiny blue flowers that seem to attract the most attention. Maybe this attention stems from the fact that the flowers are blue – a striking and relatively scarce color in the landscape, particularly in such quantity. However, blue is found in a variety of flowering bulbs as compared to other plants like trees and shrubs.
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) is the tiny blue flower scattered across campus. It naturalizes and spreads rapidly in open areas. The clusters of blue flowers hang from 4-6 inch tall stems. The narrow green foliage will remain for a month after the flowers have passed.
Other blue flowering bulbs include Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis). While hyacinths are available in a wide range of colors, the blue flowering cultivars are some of the most popular. Look for 'Blue Jacket', 'Blue Sapphire', 'Blue Ice', 'Blue Festival', or many other blue types in catalogs. Hyacinths are loved by gardeners not only for their beautiful 6-8 inch flowers, but their sweet fragrance as well.
Another popular blue flowering spring bulb is the Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum). Masses of light blue or dark blue (depending on species and cultivar) appear on 4 to 6 inch stems. The small globe shaped flowers resemble tiny grapes and the hyacinth flowers, hence the common name.
Some other blue flowering bulbs include Crocus (Crocus hybrids), Striped Squill (Puschkinia scilloides), and Glory-of-the-Snow (Chinodoxa luciliae) that typically bloom before Siberian Squill. Blue Globe Onion (Allium caeruleum) and Camass (Camassia leichtlinii) have light blue flowers that bloom a few weeks after Siberian Squill.
All of these bulbs are welcome additions to the home garden. To bring these eye-catching flowers to your landscape, remember to purchase and plant the bulbs this fall. By next spring everyone in your neighborhood will be asking you the question - "What is that lovely blue flower blooming in your yard?"
Expanse of Siberian Squill on the ISU campus. Photo by Cindy Haynes.