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Squill, care and planting this cute forest hyacinth

Squill - scilla

Like hyacinth and camas, it’s very easy to grow squill bulbs.

Summary of key Squill facts

Common name – forest hyacinth
Family – Scilloideae
Type – spring bulb

Height – 8 to 16″ (20 to 40 cm)
Soil – ordinary

Exposure: full, part sun     –     Outdoor blooming: end of spring, early summer

This bulb produces nice blooms in spring, and decorates gardens or terraces with beautiful white or blue flowers.

Planting squills

Most squills bloom in spring, providing beautiful fragrant bells in the early days of the season.

Group the bulbs in clusters, with only little space between flowers, instead of spreading them throughout the garden.

Planting squill in the ground

  • Planting squillIt is best to plant your squills in fall, 4 inches (10 cm) deep, and they will bloom in spring.
  • Squills are much more appealing if you create clustered spots of color.
    For that, you should plant bulbs in groups, spacing them 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
    The more, the merrier!
  • Squills like sun but must be protected from scorching. Favor part sun instead.
  • Check our advice on planting bulbs in the ground.
  • Here are also our tips to plant plant bulbs in clay and waterlogged soil.

Caring for squill

Squills that are planted in fall will bloom in spring. This is the normal, natural blooming cycle.

  • Squill careCut floral scapes off when they are wilted, but keep the leaves untouched.
  • When blooming is over, cut leaves back only when they have already turned yellow, and only then. The span of time between blooming and wilting leaves is when the bulb is stocking up on nutrients for the next blooming cycle.

All there is to know about squills

There are many different squill varieties, which each have different flowers and blooming seasons.

Varieties of forest hyacinthMost common is Scilla campanulata, which is the one that also has the broadest range of hues, from white to blue and including pink, too.

Another common one is the two-leafed squill, shown in the main article picture at the top. It blooms in spring and particularly loves growing on cool forest floors.

Spring squills, with scientific name Tractema verna, are a species that is mostly found along the Atlantic coast, or in the Pyrenees mountain range in low altitude. The Pyrenees is also where Lily-hyacinth squills Tractema lilio-hyacinthus are found, so named because they look like lilies.

Giant squillFinally, giant squills, more commonly called Portuguese squills, bloom from spring till the beginning of summer. This flower’s latin name is Scilla peruviana, which means “Peruvian squill” – but the only connection it has to Peru is that “Peruviana” was the name of the boat that brought it over from the other side of the Mediterranean! Its blossoms can reach up to 16 inches (40 cm) across, and sometimes even more.

Among the fall-blooming squills, there is the one called Prospero autumnale.

Smart tip about squills

Squills bloom year after year without any care at all. Plant them in different exposures, as your garden permits, to stage blooming for as long as possible.

Our tip: forget about care, just sit back and savor the blooming every year!

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 4.0: Kim & Forest Starr
CC BY-SA 2.0: xulescu_g
Pixabay: Katarzyna Dziemidowicz, Annette Meyer, Jürgen
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  • j2b wrote on 21 May 2023 at 15 h 23 min

    I have Siberian squill throughout my lawn. I love the early burst of colour.
    But I had one Puschkinia scilloides (Lebanese squill) that came up from under a rock wall the last few years, but never spread.
    This year I was waiting for the seeds to dry, but had to remove the plant early due to wall renovation. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it out intact and the stalk separated from the bulb.
    The leaves were still green. The seed pods were large, but also still green. What is the best way to store/plant the bulb? Will the seeds still be viable when dried off the plant?
    So disappointed because it has a beautiful little flower spear.

    • Gaspard wrote on 1 June 2023 at 3 h 37 min

      It’s hard to say. Normally seeds really need to ripen on the plant, so they might not sprout. That being said, if you give them a good sprouting environment, that might counter the lack of maturity. Only trying out will tell!

      For the bulb, best is to store it in a dry, dark place, for instance in a pot with sand set in a cool cellar. Keep it there during all of summer and transplant it to the ground in fall when temperatures have dropped to around the same temperature as your cellar. Hopefully it still has enough nutrients in it to grow a new set of leaves next year, but it’s always hard to know for sure.

  • Fran Holm wrote on 7 May 2023 at 3 h 23 min

    My scillia Peruviana are done blooming, the leaves are now long and droopy. How do I take care of them now? Do I keep on watering them? I live in Phoenix Arizona and pretty soon it will be over 100 degres.

    • Gaspard wrote on 12 May 2023 at 12 h 44 min

      Hi Fran, no, at this stage you should leave them to fend off on their own. They’re early bloomers, and the nutrient-gathering phase that follows is also short. Other flowers are like this, too: crocus, snowdrop… each of these already starts “hibernating” to avoid the worst of summer. Maybe we should call it “summerating”? 🤔

      Only cut leaves off, if you must, when they’ve turned yellow and/or dried out.

  • Beth Sutherland wrote on 28 March 2020 at 22 h 35 min

    I planted some squill years ago. Since then, they have spread far and wide, but not closely together. Do I just have to plant more bulbs next fall to get that dense look? Or is there some other way ?

    • Gaspard wrote on 29 March 2020 at 12 h 58 min

      Hello Beth, planting more bulbs is of course one way to go, but it isn’t the only one. There are two-three things you can try first:
      – remember to deadhead the flowers. Once they wilt, remove the flower stalk but don’t touch the leaves. This will channel the plant’s energy into splitting out new bulbs instead of making seeds (seeds won’t sprout as often).
      – add a 2-inch (5 cm) layer of rich compost. Place it carefully by hand to keep the leaves above the layer. This will nourish the bulbs in the long term. We’ve done this with tulips and each bulb became an extra 4 or 5 bulbs in the following year.
      – in the same vein, try preparing a batch of fermented weed tea. This is very helpful to help bulbs stock up on nutrients as well. Apply only during the phase when leaves aren’t yet starting to turn yellow.

      Lastly, as with many low-lying forest flowers, you should know that squills didn’t develop to “hog the resources”. This means it’s rare to see a truly dense patch of squills in the wild. This type of plant aims to spread far and not so dense. It tries to catch as much sunlight as it can without disturbing its sister-flowers. This explains the natural distance between plants in a forest setting where shade and sun dot the ground and shift as days and seasons go by. You’d find some large patches in a clearing after a tree is felled, but then it’s often quickly overrun by ferns and the like.