Our bluebell woods

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.

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. Discover the best places to see them near you. Plus, rangers and gardeners at these places take great care of these special flowers – read on to discover some of their top tips for growing your own bluebells at home.

Find a bluebell wood near you
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 many 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 several 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.

English and Spanish bluebells

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.

How to tell the difference between English and Spanish bluebells: