What are the species of bluebells?
While many gardeners welcome the native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in their gardens, it can become a nuisance. The larger Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) is also pretty, but can become a problem too, not just because of its spreading habit, but also due to its ability to hybridise with the native English form. The hybrid forms could potentially oust the natives and we advise against growing Spanish bluebells in rural gardens.
English, Spanish and hybrid bluebells provide an early source of nectar for butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Although beneficial to pollinators and considered attractive by many gardeners, in some instances gardeners may wish to remove or restrict the spread of bluebells. This page looks at options for gardeners when bluebells are becoming a problem.
The difference between English and Spanish bluebells
Flowers of native bluebells are narrowly bell-shaped, with straight-sided petals, deeply curled back at the tips. The majority of flowers droop from one side of the stem. The anthers are creamy-white and the leaves narrow, usually between 0.7-1.5cm wide (about ¼-¾in), although occasionally up to 2cm (¾in).
Spanish bluebell and hybrid
The bell-shaped flowers of Spanish bluebells and the hybrids between this and the English (known as H. × massartiana) open more widely than on English bluebells, with the petal tips just flaring outwards or curling back only slightly. Some flowers may droop from one side, but most are arranged all around the stem and held more erect. The anthers of Spanish and hybrid bluebells are usually pale to dark blue, and the leaves are wider, up to 3-3.5cm (about 1¼in) across.