The Trouble With Scilla

Scilla seem to be trouble. They spread exuberantly—in the case of Scilla bifolia, only slightly less quickly than measles. I am waiting anxiously to see what Scilla, if any, appear this spring.

Alpine squill, Scilla bifolia, is about 3 inches tall when it blooms. How can such a pretty, teeny-tiny plant be so virulently fecund? The planting bed under the witch hazel has had only a few stray seedlings, but the lawn had a zillion before I went after them with a trowel in April 2022. They are a little unpredictable—some underground portions are short, some are long, and some curve around obstructions.

Scilla bifolia adjusts to all sorts of possibilities underground, including tree roots and my relatively long, slender trowel. Everything below the green portion of each plant was below ground until I unearthed it. Photographed on April 10, 2022.

This plant is problematic in a lawn. A dandelion digger misses a lot of bulbs, even if you are able to snap everything above the bulb off. A long trowel gets more bulbs, but it leaves the lawn looking bedraggled until it rains.

Then there is Siberian squill. It was brought in a few years ago by one of our numerous squirrels and spread into a pretty blue swath under the hemlock.

Scilla siberica is the most beautiful blue, but there are a disturbing number of seedlings towards the right edge of this photograph. Photographed on April 8, 2022.

After my experience with its tiny little cousin, I decided I better read up on it, since I seemed to have a lot of seedlings this spring.

Scilla siberica seedlings with seed coats, circled, still attached. Photographed on April 10, 2022.

Scilla siberica has discreet seedpods, each of which contain several seeds, according to Cowling Arboretum, at Carleton College in Minnesota.

It was worth the time to dig this patch up before it got out of hand. If you look carefully, you will see several young plants were nestled in with the full-sized plant.

Each adult Scilla siberica seems to come with offspring. Photographed on April 10, 2022.

Ugh. If I turn my back on this problematic patch, I will have a blue yard! I like blue, but not at the expense of everything else.

We will see what next spring brings. We started spring in 2022 “abnormally dry,” and had a lot of rain alternating with short but somewhat deadly dry spells. The pawpaw stump sprout expired last August, probably due to lack of rain, but this winter has been rather wet.