When it comes to gardening, there always seems to be something new to learn. Even experienced gardeners may not know what to do with bluebells after they have flowered. Although bluebells are not particularly high maintenance, learning what to do with bluebell bulbs after flowering will ensure that they return to brighten up your garden year after year.
What are Bluebell Bulbs?
Bluebell bulbs are the subterranean storehouses of energy for the enchanting bluebell flowers, which, come spring, carpet woodlands, meadows, and gardens with a sea of delicate blue hues. These bulbs belong to the genus Hyacinthoides and are nature’s way of ensuring the survival and resurgence of bluebell plants year after year.
What to do with Bluebells after Flowering?
After gracing gardens with their delicate blossoms, they focus on rejuvenating and preparing for the next season. This preparation is crucial for their perennial return.
Step 1 – Deadheading
- Once the bluebell’s blooms begin to wilt and lose their vibrancy, it’s time to step in. Gently snip off the spent flower head.
- By deadheading, you’re ensuring the bluebell conserves its energy, fortifying the bulb for the seasons ahead.
Step 2 – Leave the Foliage Alone
- While the blooms might have faded, the green foliage remains vital. As you deadhead, ensure the leaves remain undisturbed.
- These green blades are the bluebell’s solar panels. Through photosynthesis, they harness sunlight, converting it into essential nutrients. These nutrients fortify the bulb, ensuring a robust return the following spring.
Step 3 – Embrace Dormancy
- As weeks pass, the foliage will naturally yellow and wither. This signals the bluebell’s transition into dormancy, a rest phase where the bulb lies in wait for the next spring.
- During this phase, the bluebell requires minimal attention. Refrain from watering or tending to the area. However, as spring approaches, a light application of fertiliser can invigorate the dormant bulbs, prepping them for the blooming season.
How to Lift and Divide Bluebell Bulbs?
Every 3 to 4 years, bluebell bulbs will self-propagate into clusters that can be separated to form new bulbs.
Steps 1 & 2
Steps 1 & 2 are the same as above. You will want to ensure that you remove the stem and deadhead the flower but continue letting the foliage continue to grow and absorb sunlight, therefore, refuelling the bulb’s energy stores.
Step 3 – Lift Your Bulbs
Once the foliage has all but died back, you can lift your bulbs. Dig an area around the bulbs being careful not to scratch or scar them as this open wound can leave your bulb susceptible to disease and rot.
Step 3 – Clean Your Bulbs
Once your bulbs have been lifted, they will require a clean. It is best to do this with a soft brush. Gently shake off any excess soil and then using a soft brush, give the bulb a gentle clean.
Step 4 – Divide Your Bulbs
Once you have lifted your bulbs and brushed them off, you will see where the new bulbs have formed, and you will be able to just gently break these apart with your fingers.
Important: It is best to replant all of your bulbs old and new immediately in the places you wish them to grow next year – unless you want to store them for winter and replant them in the spring.
How to Store Bluebell Bulbs?
There might be various reasons to store bluebell bulbs, from garden redesigns to seasonal adjustments. Regardless of the reason, the key is to ensure the bulbs remain viable during their dormancy.
1 – Choose the Right Container
Cardboard boxes are ideal for storing bulbs. They are breathable, preventing moisture accumulation, which can be detrimental to the bulbs. Plastic containers, on the other hand, can trap moisture, leading to rot.
2 – Preparation
Before storing, ensure the bulbs are clean and free from soil. Gently brush off any clinging dirt. This reduces the risk of mould or fungal infections during storage.
3 – Layering
Begin by lining the bottom of the cardboard box with newspaper. This provides a cushion and absorbs any residual moisture. Place the bulbs on this layer, ensuring they are spaced out and not touching. This prevents potential rot spread between bulbs. Once the first layer of bulbs is laid out, cover them with another layer of newspaper. Continue this layering process until all bulbs are stored. Finish with a final layer of newspaper on top.
4 – Choose the Right Storage Spot
The storage location is crucial. Opt for a cool, dark place like a basement, garage, or garden shed. The ideal temperature range is between 2°C to 10°C.
Note: Ensure the chosen spot is not damp, as excessive moisture can lead to bulb rot. A well-ventilated area is preferable.
5 – Check Regularly
Periodically, inspect the bulbs to ensure they remain dry and free from mould or rot. If any bulbs appear compromised, remove them immediately to protect the others.
6 – Planting
When the next planting season approaches, retrieve your bulbs from storage. Healthy bulbs will feel firm to the touch. Discard any that appear soft or show signs of decay.
Bluebells are extremely low maintenance and do not really take much in the way of looking after them. As long as you let the leaves continue to grow after the flower has gone, they will still be able to store enough energy to flower the next spring. Many people will just mow over the leaves once the flower has gone but this is not a good idea as you will end up with stunted bluebells the next spring and that is if they even grow at all. If you need to lift and store your bluebell bulbs, it is not too difficult either providing you follow the steps that we have laid out for you, you will have beautiful bluebells year after year.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Replant stored bulbs in early spring once the ground has thawed!”
“Do not forget to leave the foliage in the ground until it dies back on its own. The bulb needs the foliage for photosynthesis!”
“Over time, bluebell clusters will expand. Lift and separate bulbs every 3 years and plant a few elsewhere to establish new clusters!”
“If storing bulbs for winter, check on them every 4 weeks to ensure that none of them have rot and gone mushy, if any have, throw them away immediately!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How many years do bluebell bulbs last?
Bluebell bulbs do not really like to be out of the ground but those that are in storage and cared for properly will last around 12 months before they require planting.
Do you have to dig up bluebell bulbs every year?
No, bluebells do not need to be lifted every year. Bluebells will do fine being in the ground through the winter although it is a good idea to lift bulbs every 3 or 4 years to separate the bulb clusters.
Can bluebell bulbs be left in pots?
Yes, bluebell bulbs can be left in pots as long as they are planted deep enough and are protected from heavy frost.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.