Virginia Bluebells, transplanting

linnea56(z5 IL)April 4, 2007

Last spring while they were flowering I dug up some Virginia Bluebells from my parent's Wisconsin woods and transplanted them into a shady area of my suburban Chicago back yard. They were very difficult to transplant as it was hard to get the root out without it breaking. They wilted instantly (which is what they do if you try to cut any and put them in a vase anyway) but I planted them. Since they are ephemerals and die back to nothing after flowering I could not tell if they had survived.

Today I found 4 out of the dozen or so I planted had appeared! Each cluster of leaves is about the size of a fist, and 2 already have buds. Is there anything I can do to encourage them to spread?

I may go dig some more if I get the chance: the old place is up for sale. Is there any trick to digging and transplanting these, so I can improve my success?

I'm hoping to also get some of my Mom's purple or yellow trilliums and her Bleeding heart. If there is any trick to transplanting these, too, I'd appreciate the advice.

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They should just propagate by seed easily where you've put them. Mine do. I've never tried to move them, but I'd be inclined to wait until they are going dormant anyway. There should be less stress then.

There was a thread here earlier about transplanting bleeding heart. It's easy. Dig and move.

Others may know more than I about trilliums.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 6:42PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

I agree that letting them self seed is the easiest way. From three years ago I now have hundreds. I have also transplanted those that came up in the path. I like to get them small. When they get large the roots, as you have learned, can be troublesome. Trilliums can be transplanted in the spring or in the fall. I have done that both ways. I have been transplanting some from my large swath to scattered spots throughout my woods. It's always a good idea to do your transplanting on a cloudy day, evening or early morning.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 9:30PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I'm glad they will spread by seeding themselves. At my folks' house they have always just "been there", so I did not know if they were spreading by roots or seeds. I'm not there very often (another state) so if I don't see/get them while they are blooming, the next time I'm there they have just disappeared.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 9:58PM
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Trilliums are easy to transplant if you do not cut the rhizome. Most trilliums form an "L" from the stem to the rhizome, so you have to give them room when digging. I have never dug bluebells from the wild...only have the ones I bought...and they are doing well and spreading slowly on their own. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 10:14PM
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susanswoods(Z6 VA)

I have good success transplanting bluebells. I have some land on the Shenandoah River where they grow quite thickly but are being encroached on by garlic mustard. I've transplanted baskets-full to my yard and friends' yards. The only trick is timing. You want to dig them after they go dormant but before they disappear. If it's a place you visit frequently just check them and wait until the foliage is wilted and yellow. If you're not certain you will get there at that time, just put some stakes in clumps while they are blooming so that you can find them later. The root mass is fairly near the surface. Dig up whole clumps, CUT OFF THE FOLIAGE, and toss the roots in a bag or basket. It doesn't hurt if the rhizomes break. Replant them in a prepared area with the foliage end up. I would spread a bit of mulch over them. Don't expect the foliage to survive, it's done for this year. The first spring you'll have plants emerge and a few will flower. The second year they'll be off and running.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 1:42PM
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That's terrible about the garlic mustard, susanwoods. Does it drive the bluebells out entirely? Or do they coexist in some way? I've been trying to eradicate established garlic mustard, but I've never seen it encroaching on an area with nice plants like mertensia. I've always been curious about the actual interaction when garlic mustard moves in.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 9:20PM
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susanswoods(Z6 VA)

I'm not an expert but it looked to me like the mustard is going to slowly choke out the bluebells. The land there has been disturbed by people cutting access driveways to the river. That has allowed the mustard to move in. The bluebells are still there but the mustard grows taller and you don't see the sweep of beautiful blue flowers as you used to.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 10:45AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Garlic mustard wins because it shoots up earlier,and is taller that most of the natives... then shades everything out underneath of it. The mayapples and trilliums cannot outcompete the GM where I live...

So linnea, are you willing to share some of those virginia bluebell plugs that you dig up from your folks house?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 12:37PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

I don't know if I will get there to dig up any more before it is sold, sadly. And I think I killed more of them than I got to live. Makes me feel like a vandal.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 2:09PM
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I transplant them out of bloom, in bloom, and when they are just emerging. They reseed prolifickly. Trillums as said above are easy to move and move when they are in time. I have al,so moved them anytime. I am in the process of moving tons of Va. Bluebells...because of a new stone wall. anyone want some?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 6:55AM
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Linnea, I applaud your rescue of the Bluebells. Many years ago when we were in our first home, it was the sight of beautiful stands of bluebells that made me run out and buy a copy of A Field Guide to Wildflowers by Peterson and McKenny. Soon we will move into a new home, and I dream of having Bluebells once again.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 5:29PM
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Has anyone tried collecting seed from Virginia Bluebells? If so, how did you do it and what technique did you use to plant the seeds? My plants have not reseeded, maybe because they are on a slope. But I would love them too -- I really want a nice colony of Mertensia.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 8:44AM
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palmer(6b VA)

Didn't read this until I went looking for Virg. bluebell transplantation information today. I have numerous ones blooming on the riverbank that I bought a year ago. I'll wait until they are dormant and bring a bunch up the hill in a shady spot where I can weed and water them. If anyone wants a couple, let me know, I am near Front Royal, VA.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:03AM
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I have had them for over 10 years and they have never seeded. I just dig them up when dormant and share. The rhizomes are not picky about breaking.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 8:47PM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

What type of sunlight do they need for good growth?

I had two plants bloom in the past but this year, they were heavily shaded, plus we had a very wet spring and no blooms appeared. The slugs made a good meal of the leaves and I never saw the beginnings of any blooms. I'm thinking I need to move them for better growing conditions but don't know how much sun they can tolerate. I live in central Arkansas.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 11:22AM
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I have a patch of them next to a gravel path, and they reseed into the gravel constantly. I move some of the seedlings each spring before they go dormant, and I can still find them; and never have had a problem getting them to live. They have a taproot that looks like a carrot. The big ones are hard to move, but the babies are never a problem. Just dig them up and put them where you want them, and forget them. They do like lots of light tho not direct sun, and don't need any special care. It is a good idea to mark where you've put them so you don't accidently dig them up or plant something on top of them, tho I did inadvertantly plant a hosta in the middle of one patch. Both plants are fine, and the bluebells came up anyway.

I'm sure they are putting lots of seed out for you, but it may not germinate due to good weeding or cultivating practices. The seed falls into the gravel path here and doesn't get dislodged before it germinates.

It does take 2 or 3 years for the babies grow up big enough to bloom, and they are easily mistaken for weeds until then.

It's kind of a myth that they need rich woodland soil and lots of moisture. They do like average woodland soil, and moisture in the spring when they are growing, but when they are dormant average rainfall is fine. They even survive a drought without a problem.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 10:07AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

My thanks, Sandy, for your most helpful post. I'm going to try and move mine to a brighter growing spot in my shade garden and I will take your advice and mark the new planting spot.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 12:09PM
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Oh, Shadyplace, I would love to beg for a few bluebells. I used to have tons of them up in Virginia but none in my garden now. I completely forgot to dig any up to bring south with me! I keep meaning to order seeds to start a new area and still need to do that.

If you have a few you might send, I'll gladly chat with you to find if I have anything you would like to have from my garden in exchange. I love natives but I have a large variety of plants in both shade and sun, mostly acid lovers or neutral, nothing that prefers alkaline soil much.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 11:28AM
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Speaking of, do any of you know of a good source to order Mertensia virginica seed? I am searching the web and none of my usual preferred seed sources carry it. The few I am turning up want /way/ too much for a seed packet. I can order grown plants at those prices.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 12:02PM
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Am I the only one just a bit alarmed at this removal of native wildflowers-many being destroyed in the process-from the place where they belong to another state entirely? Maybe it's just the fact I live in WI but I'm not real thrilled about this, having seen many beautiful plants destroyed by faulty moving projects.

If " the old place" is not only for sale but is to be converted to a parking lot or other destructive use, then please disregard my comments. But if this wooded property is to remain as is, I'm surprised to see so many in this particular forum cheering this person on as she takes these plants away from their proper home to decorate her yard.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:32AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

FWIW, my grandparents/parents place has been developed, and now has a McMansion on it that literally covers the entire width of the property. It could be multi unit building, itâÂÂs hard to tell from Google maps. Which is what my brother and I figured would happen when we sold it; but we couldnâÂÂt afford to keep it, as the taxes had climbed to the point where only a developer could afford them (think: half a yearâÂÂs income for a normal person).

Any peonies, raspberries, Virginia bluebells, trilliums, etc., IâÂÂm sure have been bulldozed under for a monoculture of grass. I never did get more than the few bluebells and a peony. It looks like there are still a few trees left, though: whatever was not in the way of the building and a massive paved parking area.

This post was edited by linnea56 on Mon, Apr 21, 14 at 20:14

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 8:10PM
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Understood, Linnea56. Please accept my apologies for my earlier rant. What you did was well within the bounds of good stewardship-to the extent you were able to do anything. The scenario you lay out here is one which, I'm afraid, is happening everywhere and all too often. No more McMansions needed!


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:45AM
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vmr423(Zone 8b, SC)

Hi Ornery_Pony-

I got some seeds from Prairie Moon earlier this spring- they're currently out-of-stock, but it may be just as good or better to plant these in the fall? You might call to see when they'll have more. The few other sources I found for native plant seeds were pretty darned pricy...

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: VA Bluebell seeds

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 2:27PM
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