fresh flower


True blue spring bulb flower is a treat worth seeking out for your shop.

by Steven W. Brown, AIFD

Squill, Bluebell
Photo courtesy of of Flower Council of Holland

1 true blue. Scilla, pronounced “SKILL-ah” and commonly known as squill, bluebell, wood hyacinth or jacinth (depending on the species), is a seasonal favorite known for its fragrance and brilliant blue flowers—although some species also grow in pink, lavender, purple and white.

2 a good-looking group. Usually no taller than 20 inches, and often shorter, Scillas have either tiny star-shaped or bell-shaped blooms, depending on the species. Some inflorescences (bloom clusters) resemble hyacinths (S. campanulata, S. hispanica); some resemble Scabiosas (S. peruviana); some resemble Alliums (S. verna); and others resemble snowdrops or Chionodoxas (S. siberica).

3 family feud. The genus Scilla, whose flowers have been in cultivation since 1796, encompasses nearly 100 species. Scillas are members of the Hyacinthaceae family although many references classify them in the Liliaceae family. Relatives include hyacinths, Muscaris (grape hyacinths) and Ornithogalums (stars-of-Bethlehem).

4 transcontinental faves. Scillas are native to Africa, Europe and Asia.

5 get ’em while you can. Scillas’ natural bloom period outdoors is only two to three weeks, but from domestic cut flower growers, they can be found from January through May. Collectively, from various global markets, Scillas are available as cut flowers from November through June.

6 buying tips. Purchase Scillas when the lower one-third of their blossoms are open. Look for puffy buds that show color up to the tip. The flower spikes should be turgid and fairly straight. The flowers will be the most fragrant when they are fresh, so be sure to smell them, too.

Do not purchase Scillas if there is any sign of browning, yellowing or rot on the flowers, stems or foliage. The blossoms will deteriorate rapidly if they have been damaged or exposed to ethylene gas, so check with suppliers to make sure they have been treated with an anti-ethylene agent.

7 a tender touch. Process Scillas immediately upon arrival in your shop. Remove any bindings, and recut the stems. Dip or place the stems immediately into a hydrating solution, then place them into containers filled with cool, properly prepared bulb-flower-food solution. Place the flowers into a floral refrigerator at 36 F to 38 F, and let them hydrate for at least two hours before designing with or selling them. Keep Scillas in separate containers while they’re hydrating because their sap can be harmful to other flowers.

8 straighten up. Scillas can be stored in their sleeves or wrapping to encourage straight stems while hydrating; however, any wrappings must be removed after a few hours to allow for air circulation among the blooms and stems.

9 limited life. With proper care at all levels from grower to consumer, cut Scillas will last four to six days. Misting the flowers frequently also is beneficial.

10 design stars. One of the few natural blue flowers, Scillas are excellent choices for bridal bouquets where “something blue” is requested. Individual florets easily can be wired and taped or glued into bouquets, corsages and hair pieces. Scillas also make excellent companions to other spring-blooming bulb flowers in floral arrangements.

thanks to:
David Repetto, of Repetto Nurseries, Half Moon Bay, Calif.;
Wisconsin State University,;
Love to Know Gardener,;
Illinois Wildflowers,

Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 28 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

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