Why Have My Bluebells Turned White

The common bluebell, or simply known as the bluebell, is the ‘favorite flower’ of the United Kingdom, according to surveys conducted.

The vibrantly eye-catchy violet-blue color of the flowers makes the plant even more intimidating. These flowers add so much more to the garden display and thus these plants are commonly grown garden greens.

Bluebells, known as Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are perennial bulbous flowering plants. They usually bloom in May. The flowers of the plant are pendulous and have a very attractive bluish-purple color.

These plants are native to France and England but are also found all around the world now. They vary in height but generally reach up to a foot high. When planted in homes, they add an extra embellishment to your greens.

Although the common English Bluebell is of the familiar bluish-purple shade, some other species of the bluebells are also seen to be pinkish or even white.

An already planted cluster can also turn into pink or white. Such cases are rare, but not unknown. The major reason behind this occurrence is usually caused by rare mutations that happen between the plants.

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Change in color of the Bluebells

The native Bluebells are of the common bluish shade which is why such a name in the first place. Although a lot of times, these flowers are also found in a pinkish shade. The pink version of flowers is termed as the Rosea variety.

A lot of times, bluebells also occurs in white. These white versions completely lack the pigment in them which gives bluebells their original bluish-purple hue.

These are more recently observed varieties and have been observed for studies and cultivated as well.

The original bluebells, that is the English Bluebells are the native versions and grow without any interruptions from the Spanish or the white bluebells in specific wilds.

Away from other breeds, this natural and undisturbed species of the violet bluebells grow freely in more isolated and dense woodlands forming a beautiful carpet of blues all around.

Even with the alterations in the variety available, the authentic and uncommon bluish-purple color is the most precious. It also needs preservation and protection from the other existing varieties.

Why the change in color?

A lot of times, white and pink varieties of bluebells start growing naturally in fields of the English bluebells, similarly self-enthusiastic gardeners also often find white bluebells and pink bluebells among their originally bluish English bluebell plants.

This might be surprising and may make you question this sudden appearance of the unexpected colors in your home garden. What is even more surprising is this happens more in the planted varieties of bluebells at homes and self-managed gardens, whereas comparatively rarely out in the wild.

The very major reason for this unannounced arrival is quite interesting to find out about.  This rare happening is the result of a genetic mutation that happens between the already existing bluebells plants.

When growing in a large number, bluebell often cross-pollinates. With the Spanish bluebells in the proximity, the cross-pollination between the two varieties takes place.

The result of cross-pollination between two plants, in many occasions, produces a difference in the offspring plant. Crossbreeding creates a hybrid.

This is the reason that a white variety once sprang up and ever since has been growing, propagating and pollinating with the other plants and has multiplied over time.

This is still a rare occurrence. In the wild, the possibility of a white bluebell blooming in a population of native bluebells is almost 1 in a 10,000.

The possibility of this happening in your garden is comparatively higher. The reason for this being that cultivators and florists often grow the plants together and there is a higher chance that your plants come from such a source that makes hybrids.

Thus, even though your bluebells are the native English ones with the attractive bluish shade, they might at some point of time give rise to an offspring plant which produces white flowers.

The white variety of this plant produces a flower with no pigmentation like the original bluebell. The flower is white and is often even referred to as the albino bluebell.

This is also possible with the pink variety of bluebells as they have the same way of pollinating and might appear among a plantation of the English bluebells.

Due to this reason, the bluebells in your garden might seem to be turning either into pink or white.

Difference between English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells:

As the name suggests Spanish Bluebells are mostly seen around areas in Spain and Portugal. The Spanish bluebell is known as Hyacinthoides hispanica.

They are very similar to the native English Bluebells when it comes to appearance and is often confused to even be the same. But when it is looked at closely, the two varieties do disclose differences.

–         Spanish bluebell has a lighter shade as compared to the common Bluebells. The common bluebell is best known and identified for its bluish-purple color.

The Spanish ones have more of a tinted appearance, and not the deep coloration like the original bluebell species. There are often varieties of the Spanish one which are pink in hue.

–         They do not only differ in color but also growth and structure. Spanish bluebells flower all around the stem and, rather than on one side like the native English variety.

–         The Spanish bluebells bloom upright on the stem and face up towards the sun. On the other hand, the native English Bluebell droops down resembling a bell.

The flowers being on one end of the stems in the native type also makes the stem hang down slightly.

–         Bluebell is also sweetly scented. The non-native, Spanish variety although, either lack this scent or has a very faint one.

The common English bluebell is known for its soft and pleasant fragrance with which it fills the ambience around it.

–         Spanish Bluebell tends to be longer as well. The stem of the Spanish bluebell is taller in comparison to the English Bluebell.

–         The petals on a common bluebell curl outwards and in the opposite direction, towards the tip. The petals on a Spanish bluebell flower are much more open.

–         The leaves on a Spanish bluebell is longer and also fleshier in comparison to the English bluebells.

–         The pollen on the anthers of a native bluebell is creamy in color. The ones on a Spanish variety are usually bluish, and may later turn more into a cream shade as the flower opens up more.

What to do with when I have white bluebells?

White bluebell, as we have known by now, arises in the garden suddenly because of rare mutation and cross-pollination of the common bluebell and other varieties of bluebells.

Since cultivators grow this hybrid variety of white bluebell too for commercial and breeding might lead to a greater chance of you having this spring up in your garden.

If you do not like the sudden whites in your previously bluish-purple lot of bluebells you can uproot them to get rid of that variation completely.

Make sure you dig deep enough and uproot the deepest roots and do not leave behind any bulbs as the bulbs help in the propagation of the bluebells.

These plants spread very easily and often even grow like weeds. Due to this reason, it may be slightly tough to get rid of the white variety of the bluebell as it can grow back without any difficulties.

Care and conservation of the Bluebells

The growth native English Bluebell with its authentic purple coloration has been facing interruptions by the various varieties of hybrid bluebells.

The Spanish bluebells which are often mistaken for the English Bluebells are one such type which brings in disturbance for the easy growth.

How many ever varieties come up, the very authentic one must be protected and saved. The common English bluebell is now hard to find alone.

Fields of bluebells carpeting the ground are hardly found nowadays. They have become more and more limited to the dense woodlands.

The hybrid hispanica spreads a lot faster than the common bluebell and thus leads to the decline of separate common bluebell gardens and fields.

There have been laws made to ensure the sufficient and undisturbed growth of the common bluebells. At various places in the United Kingdom, uprooting or cutting bluebells has been declared to be legally punishable.

Bluebell plants are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 19881, to ensure that digging up bluebells in the countryside is kept on check. Landowners are not permitted to uproot the plants and use them for commercial purposes.

It helps the plant grow naturally without human exploitation. Many organizations even take up the tasks of propagating the common bluebell to keep it from totally mixing away into the hybrid world and save it from endangerment.

Growing a Bluebell plant in your garden:

Bluebells can provide your garden with the extra color and beauty that it needs. Although the plant often grows up like weeds, these bulbous and pendulous flowers also make a really good garden flower that blooms in spring.

The planting and maintenance of this flower is no big effort but despite that, it guarantees to bloom with even the most ordinary care.

Bluebell grows so easily that they spread really well and even become self-dependent enough to seed. That is the main reason why fields fill up with bluebells carpeting the landscape in a pleasant purple color.

To add the same soothing feel to your home gardens, follow these quick and simple methods:

–         Bluebell plants usually grow better in a shady region. They can be planted under the shade of other plants in the garden, or any other area with less vigorous sunlight.

–         Bluebell is propagated through bulbs. The bulbs must be planted deep enough under the soil. A 3 – 4-inch depth proves good enough.

–         Bluebell plants grow in almost any soil type including – clay, loamy, chalky or sandy. The soil must be enriched with humus nutrients while planting the bluebell to ensure better growth. The pH level of the soil must be neutral to help the newer plants grow better.

–         They do not require too much watering either. Once the bulbs have grown out, the plant can pretty much be left alone for growth. It is although necessary to ensure that the soil does not dry out during summers.

–         Bluebells can be provided with general organic fertilizers to ensure nutrient-rich food to facilitate foliage as well as flowering.

–         Pruning off the yellowed foliage is also helpful for the maintenance of the plant.

–         The bulbs and post-flowered spikes can be regularly removed to make sure that they would not give rise to a newer plant and spread the plantation unnecessarily.

–         They hardly require application of pesticides because the chance of pest infestation on this plant is very low.

These plants flower in the months of spring and the foliage sets to grow since summertime. They generally grow up to 30cms high and can spread up to a foot too in a plantation.

It takes about 3 to 4 months for the plant to grow to its ultimate height. It is advised to plant bluebells during fall time or even in the early summers to ensure growth by the time of the spring season.

Bluebells plants that grow in houses and gardens also last until the next flowering season. After the end of the flowering season, the foliage of the plant can be left to grow and strengthen until the next spring.

Uses of Bluebells:  

These purple flowering plants are also very beneficial as well. These are used to make diuretics and styptics. The bulb of the bluebell is often used as medicine to cure leucorrhea. The liquids from this plant are to make glue and it has amazingly strong properties.

CAUTION: The bluebell, however, is poisonous to men and animals and its sap can be harsh on the skin as well.

This precious little flower has historical and symbolical importance as well. A field of Bluebells is considered to be filled with the blessings of fairies. The flowers of a bluebell are said to represent gratitude and humility.

This plant variety needs attention and preservation so that it can grow freely without any hybrid or other version interruptions. Care and measures must be ensured to conserve, maintain and spread this intimidating bell-shaped bluish-purple flower.


1 thought on “Why Have My Bluebells Turned White”

  1. Constance,
    We have one white bluebell plant among many blue plants. Every spring it is white and the rest are blue. We imagine that at some time past the white one was subject to the uncommon 1:1000 mutation in the pigment gene.
    However on the www I see sometimes a lot of blue plants unexpectedly have white flowers. This cannot be mutations and must result from cross pollination. If the plants are genetically BB for blue and the white WW then white must be dominant and each blue which becomes white is BW. Is this correct? I am not a botanist but know about Mendel and the sweet peas. If this is true then there will be some blue flowers which will reappear in the next generation depending on what pollinates what!
    BW x BW will produce 3 white for each 1 blue! Am I on the right track?


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