How To Tell English Bluebells From Spanish

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells. Specifically how they differ and how to tell the difference between the two.

So today, I’d like to comprehensively break down these flowers and to, hopefully, help you finally tell them apart.

How To Identify English Bluebells 

To spot English Bluebells, look for their slender stems and narrow, tube-like flowers that hang to one side. These flowers are a striking blue-purple color and have a fruity scent. 

What They Look Like

The slender stems of English Bluebells grow to be around 30-50cm tall, and their narrow, tube-like flowers can be around 2-3cm long.

They hang delicately to one side and are a vivid blue-purple color. 

The flowers are arranged in a spike-like formation that curves slightly at the top, giving them a unique and charming appearance.

What They Smell Like

In addition to their lovely appearance, English Bluebells also have a sweet, almost fruity fragrance. 

The scent is most potent on sunny days, making it a delightful experience to walk through a field of blooming bluebells. 

In fact, the scent of English Bluebells is so beloved that it’s been used to create perfumes and candles.

Where To Find Them

English Bluebells thrive in damp, shady areas like woodlands and hedgerows. 

They prefer well-draining, humus-rich soil and can tolerate acidic conditions. They can also grow in full sun but may require extra care to avoid drying out. 

How To Identify Spanish Bluebells 

Spanish Bluebells have broad leaves and larger, bell-shaped flowers that stand upright. Their colors can vary from blue and pink to white and have a mild fragrance.

What They Look Like

One of the most distinctive features of Spanish Bluebells is their large, bell-shaped flowers.

These flowers can be up to 3cm in length and are arranged in a spike-like formation on the stem.

The flowers can come in shades of blue, pink, and white and have a delicate, pleasant fragrance.

The leaves of Spanish Bluebells are also a key identifying feature, as they can reach up to 50cm in length. 

The leaves are typically a vibrant green color and are arranged in a rosette pattern at the base of the stem.

Where To Find Them

Spanish Bluebells are native to Spain and Portugal, but they have also been widely cultivated in other countries.

They typically bloom from late May to June, and they prefer well-draining, moist soil in partially shaded areas. 

They can tolerate full sun but may require extra watering to prevent drying out.

What Are The Differences Between English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells

The most apparent difference between English and Spanish Bluebells is their flower shape and position. Leaf size, fragrance, and growing locations differ too.

Flower Shape & Position

One of the most apparent differences between the two species is the shape and position of their flowers. 

English Bluebells have narrow, tubular flowers hanging delicately to one side, while Spanish Bluebells have bell-shaped flowers positioned more upright on the stem. 

Flower Colors

The color of their flowers can also differ, with English Bluebells being a vivid blue-purple and Spanish Bluebells coming in shades of blue, pink, and white.

Leaf Differences

The leaves of the two species are also quite different. 

English Bluebells have slim, straight leaves that are typically a dark green color, while Spanish Bluebells have broader, arching leaves that are typically a lighter green color. 

The size and shape of the leaves are key identifying features, as are the number of leaves on each stem. 

English Bluebells typically have two leaves per stem, while Spanish Bluebells have between four and six leaves per stem.


Another notable difference between the two species is their fragrance. English Bluebells have a strong, fruity scent most noticeable on warm, sunny days. 

On the other hand, Spanish Bluebells have a milder, more delicate fragrance that is still pleasant but not as potent.

Growing Locations

Regarding habitat, English Bluebells prefer damp, shady areas such as woodlands and hedgerows, while Spanish Bluebells are more adaptable and can grow in full sun or partial shade.

Spanish Bluebells are also more resistant to browsing by deer and rabbits than English Bluebells, making them a better choice for gardens and landscapes in areas with high wildlife populations.

Genetic Differences

It’s worth noting that while the two species may look similar, they are quite distinct genetically. 

English Bluebells are a native species, while Spanish Bluebells have been introduced to many countries and are often considered invasive. 

When planting bluebells, it’s important to ensure that you’re not inadvertently planting hybridized plants, as this can lead to a loss of genetic diversity and threaten the wild populations of both species.

Are There Any Similarities Between English and Spanish Bluebells?

Despite their differences, both English and Spanish bluebells belong to the Hyacinthaceae family and are bulbous perennials. They thrive in shady areas and attract bees and butterflies, making them excellent choices for pollinator-friendly gardens.


On closer inspection, English and Spanish bluebells are actually quite different!

By identifying their flower, leaf shape, and position, you’ll be able to do much more easily spot the difference going forward. 

Other bluebell guides you may want to read: