Mertensia Species, Virginia Bluebells, Virginia Cowslip, Lungwort Oysterleaf

Mertensia virginica

Family: Boraginaceae
Genus: Mertensia (mer-TEN-see-uh) (Info)
Species: virginica (vir-JIN-ih-kuh) (Info)
View this plant in a garden



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade




Foliage Color:



18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


9-12 in. (22-30 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone



Bloom Color:


Dark Blue


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Auburn, Alabama

Cherokee, Alabama

Gadsden, Alabama

Sheffield, Alabama

Tuscumbia, Alabama

Big Delta, Alaska

Delta Junction, Alaska

Dot Lake, Alaska

Dot Lake Village, Alaska

Dry Creek, Alaska

Paxson, Alaska

San Diego, California

Bear, Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware

Cordele, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia

Cherry Valley, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

Chillicothe, Illinois

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Hinsdale, Illinois

Lebanon, Illinois

Libertyville, Illinois

Washington, Illinois

Anderson, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana

Flora, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Newburgh, Indiana

Solsberry, Indiana

Valparaiso, Indiana

Warren, Indiana

Ames, Iowa

Barbourville, Kentucky

Benton, Kentucky

Cadiz, Kentucky

Fort Thomas, Kentucky

Hebron, Kentucky

Symsonia, Kentucky

Hancock, Maine

Ellicott City, Maryland

Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Dracut, Massachusetts

Princeton, Massachusetts

Roslindale, Massachusetts

Wayland, Massachusetts

Chelsea, Michigan

Constantine, Michigan

Mason, Michigan

Royal Oak, Michigan

Williamston, Michigan

Minneapolis, Minnesota(3 reports)

Cole Camp, Missouri

Cross Timbers, Missouri

Piedmont, Missouri

Saint Louis, Missouri

Lincoln, Nebraska

Carson City, Nevada

North Walpole, New Hampshire

Salem, New Hampshire

Beverly, New Jersey

Chatham, New Jersey

Clarksburg, New Jersey

Manahawkin, New Jersey

Ringoes, New Jersey

Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Bolton Landing, New York

Fairport, New York

Geneseo, New York

Medina, New York

Painted Post, New York

Sag Harbor, New York

Yonkers, New York

Winston Salem, North Carolina

Bowling Green, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

Coshocton, Ohio

Dublin, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Haviland, Ohio

Lebanon, Ohio

Painesville, Ohio

Beaverton, Oregon(12 reports)

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Mercer, Pennsylvania

Middleburg, Pennsylvania

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

Schwenksville, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Conway, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina(2 reports)

Bolivar, Tennessee

Collierville, Tennessee

Harriman, Tennessee

Viola, Tennessee

Arlington, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia

Midlothian, Virginia

Springfield, Virginia

Vienna, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Bellevue, Washington

Bow, Washington

Edison, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Great Cacapon, West Virginia

Liberty, West Virginia

Brookfield, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin(2 reports)

New Berlin, Wisconsin

Porterfield, Wisconsin

Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 2, 2020, JennysGarden_TN from Collierville, TN wrote:

I planted some Virginia Blue Bells roots last year and they are blooming now in my zone 7b shade garden. The pretty blue and pink blooms are a welcoming sight in spring!


On May 10, 2016, Chillybean from (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have to give this one a neutral, not because I do not like it, but it is slow to establish in my mostly shade area. Nine were put in the ground in 2014 and only a handful have come back up. One did bloom this year, so maybe things are looking up. I wish it would stay green longer, but I let violets have free reign, so that takes up the slack.


On Jan 21, 2015, FlyPoison from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 7a) wrote:

Blue Bells are a 'must have' in any Eastern woodland garden. I have some clumps here that have been blooming for several years, others last 1-2 years. I usually add 1-2 new ones annually. They're more fond of rich wood dirt versus heavier clay here.


On Jun 1, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is one of the most distinguished of spring ephemerals. The bell-shaped flowers are often pink in bud and turn true sky-blue as they open (though on the occasional plant they remain pink). Flowers are produced in May here, and all top growth disappears as plants go dormant in June.

Native to moist deciduous woodlands of the central and eastern US, they love moist well-drained woodland conditions---sun in early spring, with increasing shade in May. Under suitable conditions they can self-sow. After a few years, the thick black roots can be divided as plants are going dormant.

These plants are most conveniently and economically obtained as dormant roots for fall planting from mail order sellers of fall bulbs. I plant them 18" apart. These should be marked wi... read more


On Jun 17, 2013, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

My neighbor has a huge expanse of Virginia Bluebells in his woods and it's such a beautiful sight to behold. I bought a half dozen and planted them. They came back the next year but I know I have some time to wait until they fill in properly.


On Jan 10, 2012, yaga from świdnica,
Poland wrote:

I live in Poland. I found my first plant in forest. Actually ripped one out by accident and it ended with close to no roots. I planted it nonteless. I stayed "flat" for few days bot then it started to grow as if nothing happened. Now I have several large bunches, but in shade and sunny places, that grow nice and fast and bloom twice a year, through spring blooming is more abundant. After blooming leaves make nice background to some higher plants or undercover to bushes. Sometimes some of the leaves stay on during the winter, under the snow. I can only reccomend this plant. Is extremaly easy in taking care of - in the garden it takes care of itself - totally "fool proof" ^&^


On Apr 19, 2011, delbertyoung56m from Medina, NY wrote:

I put in just one plant last year after it bloomed, and it survived the Winter and bloomed this Spring. Hoping it will naturalize a bit. I saw river valley full of them at Allerton Park in Monticello, Illlinois.


On May 14, 2010, shadydame from North Walpole, NH (Zone 5a) wrote:

I purchased about 5 of these plants via mail-order last spring. They did not survive, as something ate all the leaves. (I later found out that these were slugs.) I figured that the plants were goners, but they came back like gangbusters this spring! They are doing well, and I am attempting slug control this year.


On Apr 19, 2010, Buttoneer from Carlisle, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I dug one of these up last year & they died down in the pot so fast, I thought I lost it, so I left it in the pot and it came up all by itself and was spreading in the pot. It is blooming now but the flowers are tiny. When it dies down, I'll plant the dirt in the pot and hopefully next year, the flowers will be normal size. Just love this flower. Shame it dies to the ground, but that's nature.


On Apr 12, 2010, omasuziq from Greensboro, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I haven't grown this plant myself, but from the pictures it reminds me of pulmonaria (lungwort), although the leaves don't look as mottled. I notice it is also referred to as mertensia pulmonoiodes (spelling?) so maybe there is some distant relationship. Pulmonaria's foliage is longer lasting, however.


On Apr 12, 2010, waplummer from Painted Post, NY wrote:

I have seen huge expanses of Virginia bluebells in the wild and I am attempting to duplicate that in my garden on a bank. It self sows for me and I transplant small seedlings to fill in. A mature plant has such a large taproot that I hesitate to try to divide a clump. As for going dormant, the bank is 6-12 feet from the path and there are ferns, Solomon Seals and Bugbane, Twinleaf so they are "out of sight, out of mind" (not really) the rest of the year.


On Jul 10, 2009, littlelamb from Virginia Beach, VA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I planted these plants about 4-5 years ago without any clue on what they would do. They are absolutely gorgeous when they are in bloom. They bloom about March/April so I do not need to do any maintenence to them since our Spring rains do the watering for me and they die back when they are done. The flower buds start off pink but then the flower blooms into the bright blue color and the leaves are just as pretty. Make sure you plant another plants around them that come up later so it will fill in the area when they go dormant (such as hostas).


On May 10, 2009, JulieBW from Geneseo, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

The Genesee Valley Conservancy has sponsored a bluebell walk for the past few years. It is a two mile each way hike on private land to a spot along the Genesee River where these plants have naturalized and spread as far as you can see. Spectacular! I also have had them in my garden, but keep accidentally digging them up after they go dormant...


On Jul 10, 2008, hymenocallis from Auburn, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I bought Mertensia on e-bay several years ago and when they came to me there were 2 big rhizomes that I couldn't tell up from down. So I just planted them. Here in SC Alabama they bloom in March and since I got them they have not spread but they make about 4-6 sprays of flowers per plant which is spectacular to most folks who see them.


On Apr 26, 2008, Annepaola from Manahawkin, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have been trying to establish this plant by purchased root pieces, seeds, and purchased plants and I also received some plants as gifts. Finally this spring I have a fairly respectable group of flower stalks, and I am hoping to retrieve some seeds to further enhance my group of bluebells. We grow them in half sun/shade near a birdbath and I try to water them often.

I fell in love with them upon making their acquaintance at the Brandywine Museum along the Brandywine river. (Del or PA).
They were swaths of blue along with what I believe to be marsh marigolds.

If the individual who finds them invasive and votes negative would contact me I will drive to their garden and dig up as many as s/he will allow, and my car will hold. Thanks. My husband got so... read more


On May 2, 2007, gretznarf from New Berlin, WI wrote:

Yes this plant has pretty blue flowers and a sweet fragrance and blooms fairly early in the season giving needed color to my very shady yard, it is also VERY invasive. Because it goes dormant in June, it leaves large ugly barren patches in my woods. I would prefer plants in my woods that stay green all summer or at least not prevent other plants from growing in the area. I moved into this house about 3 years ago and inherited these flowers. Since I have lived here their colonies have more than doubled in size and have spread to much of my lawn. I wouldn't mind these flowers if they would stay in one place and not take over the yard.


On Mar 5, 2007, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

There are two clumps that have been blooming profusely, unattended, for a long time, on opposite sides of a tree trunk in our local deer-ridden park system - have not seen it growing anywhere else there.

However, Virginia bluebells have made large colonies at Lilypons in Frederick, Maryland in a part of their open woods, and the flowers are a sight to behold - not to mention the egrets, great and green herons, a possible cormorant, etc. that love the aquatic environment.


On Nov 18, 2006, Marilynbeth from Hebron, KY wrote:

One of my favorite plants and favorite Spring flowers! I let them go to seed and get free volunteers! I also buy new roots and plant new plants most every year. I love it!

Very beautiful and very beautiful blue!


On Apr 8, 2006, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

These bloom in early April here in West KY and are quite beautiful along the creekbanks and woods. They have a delicate fragrance, but when you come upon a large group of them, it's refreshing and quite nice.

The common name Lungwort refers to the belief that the plant had medicinal properties that helped with respiratory ailments.


On Apr 7, 2006, howards from Beaverton, OR wrote:

Virginia bluebells even have a wonderful, delicate fragrance.


On Mar 13, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

The Virginia Bluebell may need staking, as mine tend to droop down into the annual beds and leaves seedlings, instead of more seedlings in the wood area. Will thrive with south slope spring sun in part shade, but also planted in woodland shade. The soil it grows in is sandy and neutral (tend toward alkaline). A few references has a variegated form of this species but it is unstable and very hard to find. Try planting Virginia Bluebell with woodland phlox and native Jacobs Ladder, P. repens. Both species bloom a bit latter than Virginia Bluebell but has similar shades of lavender to pinks and make nice company plants!
Additional Information May 2008: They will go straight dormant and they are for some reason not consider native to Minnesota even thought they will thrive there. They ... read more


On Jan 15, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

Blooms April-May in my garden. I look forward to the Virginia Bluebells coming up every spring; it is nice to see such lush growth so early. The first year I had it, I just knew I had killed it when it died back for the summer! Naturalizes quickly.


On May 21, 2005, sanity101 from Dublin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Very slow to establish, but large and impressive once settled. Similar habit to bleeding hearts: explodes and flowers early spring, then falls into a dead wilted heap by mid-June. Mine grows to roughly a 3' sphere. Doesn't really need watering, as spring is wet enough, and nothing will revive it after it goes dormant for summer anyway. I find bleeding heart flowers more showy and desirable for something that's not going to be around long, but these are very pretty by their own right.
(plants referenced grown in full shade under deciduous trees in clay/loam soil).


On Mar 28, 2004, KDePetrillo from North Scituate, RI (Zone 6a) wrote:

Very easy to grow; plants spread naturally when happy. Very little care required: I have never watered or fertilized my plants in the 15 years I've had them. The plant gets rather ragged while going dormant, but the flowers are lovely. (Zone 5/6)


On Apr 2, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Virginia bluebells emerge in late winter, and very quickly bloom. As the seed ripens, the plant goes dormant. A late-emerging perennial or spreading annual will hide the bare spaces very well.

The rhizomes become very large and woody with age. Best to transplant young ones; the old ones usually fail to thrive.

Volunteers sprout where they are happy, leading to ever-enlarging colonies in woodlands.


On Aug 31, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

This beautiful native is a relative of Myosotis (forget-me-not). Flowers are usually pink to lavender, but some open to blue. The plant will die back in hot weather, so plan on filling in with a summer annual to provide continuous color.