Northern Shade Gardening

Delightful Puschkinia scilloides libanotica

Sunday, May 17, 2009 Category: Bulbs

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) in bloom

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) in bloom

Puschkinia scilloides libanotica (striped squills) are one of the earliest bulbs to appear in the spring, and make a lovely show with their pretty blooms. There are masses of florets facing outwards from the stem. I’ve been very impressed with how well these showy bulbs have flourished in the shade and handled the cold.

I have one group of striped squills close to the north side of my house, partly under  a bay window, squeezed between some small yews, and large spruce and pine. These evergreens create year round shade for the Puschkinia, unlike the bulbs in the backyard under deciduous trees. The little blue bulbs might get a half hour of  sun at the most, but are still growing and blooming well. I’m very impressed by how these spring bulbs have performed with such a low light exposure, and that the blooms have not shrunk after three years. In the shadows, the pale blue colour is very conspicuous. Their lovely flowers show up well against the dark green of the yew.

The Puschkinia bulbs have coped with the flurries we’ve had over the past week just fine. They continue to shine, blooming through the below freezing temperatures, and shrugging off the white flakes. The striped squills are handling the May weather better than me. The flowers might look delicate, but they are definitely not wimps. Planting some early, hardy bulbs greatly lengthens the number of weeks that the garden is in bloom, when the growing season is so short.

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) closeup

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) closeup

Here is a closeup of one flower stalk, showing the six petals of each floret. Each petal is white, with a blue stripe down the middle, visible on the front and back of the petals. This gives an overall light blue colour when seen from a distance. Since they face outwards all around the stem, they look good when viewed from any direction, even from above. In my garden, the Puschkinia bulbs are about 25 cm (10 in) tall, and the blooms about 10 cm (4 in) high. The flowers last for about three weeks.

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) buds closeup

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) buds closeup

This closeup of the buds shows the tightly folded petals with blue stripes. You can see how they are positioned in all directions around the central stalk.

I’ve seen these sold as Puschkinia libanotica too. I also grow some Puschkinia scilloides ‘Alba’, which are the white version. If you look very closely at the Alba blooms though, you can see a very faint blue line in the centre of each petal. They are lovely in their own way, but the regular blue striped bulbs are more endearing. This post from last year shows photos of both types of Puschkinia growing in my garden.

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) group

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica (striped squills) group

Here is part of the Puschkinia group in front of a yew. You can see how the pine tree helps mulch this garden bed, by dropping needles on top of the soil. I sometimes scuff my shoe across the sidewalk as I walk by, pushing more fallen pine needles into the bed. They make a great natural and free mulch.

I love the little spring bulbs, which bloom one after another in my garden. The Puschkinia (striped squills) bloom a little after the Galanthus (snowdrop) bulbs start to flower. They bloom just before the Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Scilla (squills), to which they are related. Then come the Muscari (grape hyacinths) and Crocus. The parade of little bulbs starts early in the garden, extending the bloom cycle. Here is a post showing the pretty blue Chionodoxa and Scilla bulbs flowering last year.

Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica really make a splash in the early spring garden. They are very hardy in a zone 3 garden, and they don’t mind the shade. The bulb’s early blooming time is a real benefit to a short growing season. These easy going spring bulbs are one of my favourites. Here is another article about these pretty striped squill bulbs.

29 Responses to “Delightful Puschkinia scilloides libanotica” »

  1. Joanne :
    May 17, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Such delightful pale blue flowers.

  2. Helen at Toronto Gardens :
    May 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Puschkinia also perform well for us in Toronto (Zone 6 or USDA Zone 5) in sandy, dry shade under Norway maples, along with their cousins Chionodoxa. Great little bulbs that aren’t well known and deserve to be planted more often.

  3. Northern Shade :
    May 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Joanne, I really like these early spring bulb. They are near my front door, so they make me smile each time I go in and out of the house.

  4. Northern Shade :
    May 17, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Helen, you have to like a bulb that tolerates poor conditions, and keeps such a pretty bloom. I grow some Chionodoxa next to them too, but their blooms seem more delayed this year, behind the Scilla.

  5. The Garden Ms. S :
    May 17, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    These fresh little flowers are simply sweet. You have convinced me that bulbs are essential to an extended growing season. (Of course, this year feels like we are skipping Spring altogether!)

    I havent’t tried growing bulbs before so I am really looking forward to it. I do worry about the squirrels,however, as at our last house tulips popped up in the oddest places and we realized the squirrels must have taken them from other gardens and buried them in ours :)

  6. Northern Shade :
    May 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    The Garden Ms. S, I love the early spring bulbs that give the garden colour, before most perennials are revved up. They really do get you feeling like you are gardening, when most shrubs and trees are still twigs. The little bulbs are easy to tuck in between plants, and then as they die down, the surrounding perennials cover up.

    I haven’t had any problems with squirrels digging up my bulbs, but they do store some peanuts in my yard, that they get from a neighbour. Though I haven’t had any peanut plants yet.

  7. Dave :
    May 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Northern Shade,

    Striped Squill (Puschkinia scilloides) are a delight and tolerate the prolonged wintery weather far better than I do (although mine looked a bit peaked last week). One of my neighbours has planted them out under her burr oak and the result is a beautiful lawn of soft blue and white every Spring. Alas, I have only a few patches, but they put on a better show than almost anything else until June. The exception is Tulipa tarda. Last Spring was their first and they were ‘interesting’. This Spring they are spectacular on a sunny day (or I should say that the ones planted in protected sunny spots are spectacular – no sign of the others).

    I put in some Siberian Squill (Scilla sibirica ‘Spring Beauty’) last Fall, and while the intense blue is pretty, the sparse and down-facing flowers aren’t nearly as cheery as the Striped Squill. I do like Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa whatever-the-species-maybe) and will put in as many more of them and of the Striped Squill as I can find a place for this Fall. Both seem to tolerate the intermediate shade on offer quite well and both seem to be naturalizing.

    Re squirrels and bulbs, if you live in the East, then grey squirrels are a pest, but I don’t think the Alberta red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is any real threat as a bulb predator. I do water and then mulch my bulbs just in case (and give the chattering squirrels nasty looks as I plant), but I think the red squirrel relies mainly on spruce seeds and the like. They seem to spend most of their autumnal time collecting middens of spruce cones (as I can attest from having lugged bushel baskets full of them out of the attic) or raiding each others collections of cones. Most of the planted peanuts seem to be the work of the magpies and bluejays – and none of mine have sprouted either!

  8. Northern Shade :
    May 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Dave, I do like the way you don’t need to put a mirror underneath to see the the Puschkinia flowers. The group I put in last fall in the backyard have somewhat smaller blooms, but should fill in next year. The groups in front are spreading nicely, and are definitely showy. My Scilla sibirica ‘Spring Beauty’ are still only showing buds, and the Chionodoxa only sprouted a little while ago. They are behind compared to previous years. There is slender, new bulb foliage popping up midway between the Scilla and Muscari, so one of them is spreading well.

  9. Shady Gardener :
    May 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Northern Shade, Don’t you just love these little fellows? The striped flower buds make me smile! What a cute sight. :-) I really don’t have any. But I’m beginning to believe that I don’t have to have Everything! There is such a thing as being able to enjoy other peoples’ flowers!! ;-)

  10. Northern Shade :
    May 17, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Shady Gardener, the little striped buds are irresistible, and the way that the stripe is exactly centered on each petal. You can come and look at them whenever you like, but are you sure you don’t want them outside your door too? :)

  11. Marnie :
    May 18, 2009 at 7:30 am

    That’s one I haven’t tried growing. Love that wonderful shade of blue. I’m making more room now for bulbs to add this fall.
    Marnie

  12. Northern Shade :
    May 18, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Marnie, I was looking outside for more space for bubs too, especially where there are late perennials that I can plant around. I have some late ferns that I might tuck some Pusckinia around. They would be fading back while those slow poke ferns are just unfurling their fronds. It’s funny, we just had more white stuff today, and I’m already thinking of what bulbs I’ll plant next fall. Northern, it’s Spring first, and then Fall, oh, and there’s that warm season in between too.

  13. Jackie (Ellie Mae's Cottage) :
    May 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

    What beautiful shades of blue! I definitely have to put in more early spring bulbs for next year. -Jackie

  14. Northern Shade :
    May 18, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Jackie, after a long winter, the sight of the earliest bulbs is a real boost. Little flowers like these might get lost in the peak of summer, but they are a focal point in spring.

  15. Gail :
    May 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Hello Northern Shade~~ I love this little flower…It’s a cutie pie and the colors are perfect for your garden! They almost get lost in our Middle South Zone 7 Gardens…by the time they bloom we have plenty of other greenery, but in a zone 3 garden…excellent! I am hoping the frosts disappear from your garden soon! gail

  16. Northern Shade :
    May 18, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Gail, right now, the Puschkinia bulbs and Helleborus have the most impact in the garden. A few Chionodoxa bulbs are just opening, and I have a few Galanthus, but they haven’t filled in enough to really stand out. The Pulmonaria and Brunnera are just showing the first few blue flowers. Those two perennials will probably become more prominent in a week or so, but until then, these little Puschkinia bulbs pack the biggest punch.

  17. Sweet Bay :
    May 18, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen Puschkinia before. It’s lovely.

  18. Gartenzauber :
    May 18, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    hallo, es ist schon erstaunlich, das einige Pflanzen so wenig Sonne brauchen.
    Schoene Aufnahmen…
    Bei euch ist es ja noch ganz schoen kalt.
    Vielen Dank fuer deinen Besuch.

    LG Gartenzauber

  19. Northern Shade :
    May 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Sweet Bay, the blooms are endearing, and their hardiness is appreciated right now. You have to love the earliest bulbs that don’t mind the frost.

  20. Northern Shade :
    May 18, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Gartenzauber, yes, I’ve been quite happy with how well they have done in the low light conditions. I thought that these might start to fade out, or grow smaller blooms, but they seem to be as showy as ever so far.

  21. Adrian Thysee :
    May 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I must try these. I saw them in Dave’s garden, and they are quite outstanding at this time of year. Looks like they will be a good support for our Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris)

  22. Northern Shade :
    May 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Adrian, The Puschkinia make a bigger splash than most of my other early bulbs right now. Although the latest snow did bend some of the ones that had been flowering for a while. The shorter ones fared better.

  23. Kathleen :
    May 21, 2009 at 8:17 am

    These do look like wonderful little bulbs. Sounds like they would perform WAY better than hyacinths (which they remind me of) and I like but never have good luck with… The photo of the Puschkinia buds, showing the striping, is particularly striking. I think I would enjoy it budding out just as much as in bloom. I will have to look for some this fall to add to my garden. I appreciate the hardy early bloomers as well.

  24. Northern Shade :
    May 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Kathleen, they do look a bit like a more informal, softer hyacinth. They are distantly related. The buds are good looking, and if it turns very cold when they’ve reached that stage, they stop, and then resume opening when it warms up. I don’t fuss with them at all.

  25. ChrisND :
    May 23, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Those little striped buds look so nice! You have to love any little bulb that extends the season and tolerates such shade and cold. It is fun to have a parade of blooms before most things really start growing. I am slowly learning the progression of blooms and finding things to add and make the garden seasons longer.

  26. Northern Shade :
    May 23, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Chris ND, for a little bulb these do stand out. They’ve been blooming for about 3 weeks now. The group that gets some morning sun stayed upright after the snow, a bit better than the group in the most shade.

  27. Un Giardino In Diretta :
    February 21, 2014 at 3:52 am

    thanks for sharing your experience, now Puschkinia scilloides libanotica are also in my garden, in Italy! :)

  28. Northern Shade :
    February 21, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Un Giardino In Diretta, they are a delightful flower, and so hardy. Enjoy the spring display.

  29. Plant happiness: Bring on the blues | Rhymes with Linnaeus :
    April 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    […] Puschkinia scilloides – These tiny white flowers, striped in true blue, reliably pop up in my garden every spring. Bonus: squirrels hate them. […]

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