This is a genus of perennials from wet meadows, woodlands, and coasts in Europe, Asia, North America, and Greenland. The 50 or so species are grown mostly for their dangling tubular or bell-shaped blue flowers. Some species go dormant in summer. A carpet of Virginia bluebells ( M. virginica ) is one of the most welcome sights of spring in North American woods. Grow taller Mertensia species in a border or woodland, and the smaller ones in a rock garden.
Noteworthy CharacteristicsPendent blue flowers.
CareMost species need light, dappled shade in moist, well-drained, woodsy soil. Some species need soils of different fertility, exposure, or drainage.
PropagationStart seeds in a cold frame in fall, or divide clumps carefully in spring as new growth begins. Be sure seedlings and transplants have some shade and moist soil.
ProblemsSlugs and snails may eat new growth, and powdery mildew, rust, and leaf smut commonly occur.