Bluebell woods near you

Seeing bluebells scattered along a grassy verge or carpeting a woodland floor has to be a highlight of any spring walk. These delicate blooms can be found across Western Europe, but about half of the world’s population is right here in the UK. Explore countryside in April or May and you can find them in their thousands – if you know where to look.

Bluebells take a long time to get established, so if you come across a thick swathe of them it’s often a sign that you’re walking through an ancient woodland. Our rangers and gardeners take great care of these special flowers – read on to discover some of their favourite facts and top tips for growing your own bluebells at home.

See bluebells blooming near you

Bluebells in a wood and a green leaved tree

Bluebells in the Midlands 

After the winter, bluebells are one of the key splashes of colour that help bring the woods and parkland back to life. Why not search for them at Dudmaston in Shropshire, or explore woodland trails at Longshaw in the Peak District?

A pathway through a bluebell wood

Did you know?

Bluebells are delicate and easily damaged, especially if they’re trodden on. Damage can prevent the leaves from photosynthesizing, causing the plant to die back. Bluebells take between five and seven years to get established, so minor damage can have long-lasting impact. Help to look after the bluebells by watching where you tread, and sticking to marked pathways.

Top tips from our gardeners

  1. Bluebell seeds can take four to five years to reach flowering size, so it’s better to buy bulbs. In spring you can get bluebells ‘in the green’ i.e. while they’re flowering, which many gardeners believe will have a better chance of getting established. Alternatively you can buy them as dry bulbs to plant in autumn.

  2. You can buy bluebell plants from garden centres – just use our handy guide below to make sure you’re buying English rather than Spanish or hybrids. It’s illegal to pick or dig up wild bluebells so make sure your new plants have been cultivated by a reputable source, and that they haven’t been imported from abroad.

  3. Bluebells are woodland plants, so they grow best in partial shade with moist but well-drained soil. Adding leaf mould, manure or compost to the soil will ensure they have plenty of nutrients. Try planting them in clumps under deciduous trees or shrubs to create a mini-woodland effect.

  4. Plant ‘in the green’ bluebells at the same depth they were previously grown – you can often see this where the leaf stalks change from white to green. If you’re using dry bulbs place them 10cm deep and 10cm apart, with the pointed tip facing upwards. Water well after planting.

  5. Bluebells take a while to get established, so don’t be surprised if you only get leaves next year. The plant will be putting most of its energy into producing roots rather than flowers. Leave the foliage to die back rather than cutting it off – the leaves use sunlight to make food which strengthens the plant for the following year.

Spot the difference

Hyacinthoides non-scripta bluebells are native to the UK, but they’re under threat from the non-native Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) which was introduced to Britain around the late 17th century. In the last thirty years the Spanish bluebell has escaped from gardens and begun to mix with native bluebells. It’s fairly easy to tell the difference between English and Spanish bluebells, but the hybrids can be trickier as they take characteristics from both.

Take a look at our top tips for identifying bluebells:

Godolphin bluebells 2

Caring for bluebells 

Over a quarter of the woodlands we care for are ancient and have been left to develop naturally over the years. This makes them an ideal spot for bluebells, but there’s still plenty of work that goes in to looking after these special flowers. Read on to discover more about our native bluebells, and how you can help look after them.