Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy

From late spring to early summer, clouds of knee-high, misty-blue forget-me-not blooms are a feature of traditional cottage gardens. The charming flowers are tiny but profuse, with evergreen leaves and pale white or yellow eyes. While old-fashioned, the classic beauty of the forget-me-not has ensured that it never goes out of style.

Although not a standalone cut flower, myosotis sylvatica forms a hazy-blue carpet that offers a backdrop to bold-colored spring bulbs like tulips or daffodils. Some varieties come in white or even pink, but the hardy M. sylvatica is the ideal garden species for low-maintenance, perennial masses of blue blooms.

Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy

Woodland forget-me-nots are part of the family Boraginaceae, native to Europe. Myosotis is Greek for “mouse ear” and is a reference to the plant’s soft, hairy leaves. The buds emerge pink before opening to five blue petals surrounding a star-like burst of white and yellow.

Forget-me-nots in Ancient Lore

The origin story of the common name of the forget-me-not comes from a German legend. A clump of blue flowers floating on the surface of the Danube River caught the eye of a knight as he strolled by with his lady. So enraptured by their beauty that he forgot the weight of his armor, he reached into the water to gather them and fell into the water. As he was carried away by the current, he called out to his love, “Forget me not!”

Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy
The Symbolism and History of Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots carry an ancient association with true love and constancy, which will come as no surprise to the gardener who sees them return every spring on their own. On the 29th of February — each leap year — it is traditional to give these plants to friends or to people embarking on a journey. The enduring association carried by myosotis blooms is that of fidelity, remembrance, and respect.

Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy

Forget-me-nots have deep roots in their native Europe, beginning in 1398, when Henry IV chose the forget-me-not as his emblem while in exile. He retained them as his royal emblem after his return, cementing their associations with loyalty. In early 1900s Germany, Freemasons shared the flowers with each other as a reminder to remember the poor they served. After the rise of the Nazis, Freemasons substituted the flower for the traditional square and compass imagery in order to identify one another secretly, without being detected by the Nazis. The symbol is still used by German Freemasons today.

In Newfoundland, Canada, the hardy, resilient little bloom came to represent the endurance, strength, and toughness of the Newfoundland troops. Forget-me-nots are still worn by some old-timers on Memorial Day in memory of the Newfoundlanders who died in WWI, especially those lost in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy
Popular Myosotis sylvatica Cultivars
Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy

Though most commonly known for their pale color blue, Myosotis sylvatica varieties come in several shades of pink, white, and varying depths of blue. The most popular are the following:

Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy
Can I Grow Forget-me-nots Successfully?
Forget-Me-Not: True Love, Constancy

Luckily, forget-me-nots are among the easiest ornamental flowers to cultivate. They grow freely in almost any type of soil and benefit from light shade. You can sow seeds in spring, but most gardeners find that an autumn sowing results in a more impressive display. Once forget-me-nots are established, further propagation is as simple as pulling up plants after their blooms are spent and laying them down in a shady place. The seeds will drop, germinating hundreds of new plants. Thin them to 6” apart or transplant them to areas you want carpeted in blue each year.

Size: 6”–1’ (15cm–30cm) tall 9”–2’ (22cm–60cm) spread

Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8

Light Duration: Full sun/Part shade

Soil: Moist, well-drained soil of any PH

Blooming Time: Mid to late spring, early to mid summer