Hello, we planted some Virginia Bluebells 3 years ago in our shady native plants front garden. We bought them at a nursery. They were fairly tall and already in bloom. They came up last year, but barely grew more than 6 inches and no flowers. Same thing this year. It is a particularly shady spot where they are, so I’m wondering if they need more sun. Is it too late to move them now? The trouble with moving them is, once they disappear, we have no trace of where they are. Thanks for your help.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
Sorry to hear that your Virginia bluebells are not flowering. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is a lovely spring ephemeral with blue, bell-shaped flowers above bright green foliage. Flowering lasts for approximately three weeks in the spring and is an important early nectar source for the bumble bees.
Bluebells prefer dappled sun or partial shade, so a wooded area of your yard is perfect. The soil should drain well but stay reliably moist with a lot of rich, organic material. They do best when moisture is abundant, and will decline if the soil is too dry. Were your bluebells receiving enough water?
Virginia bluebells develop a long taproot which makes it difficult but not impossible to transplant. If you have to transplant them the best time to do this would be once they have gone dormant, in the fall or very early in the spring before they have begun to flower. Before you decide to transplant these perennials make sure that a lack of water was not the reason that they did not preform. If you do decide to move your plants make sure to mark the existing location so you know where they are located before they disappear for the season.
You might be interested in this article from the University of Wisconsin Master Gardener Program.