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Forget-Me-Nots: Tips and Symbolism of These Pretty Blue Flowers

Learn how to grow these prolific blue bloomers, which are rich in symbolism and lore.

If ever there were an unforgettable flower, it’s the forget-me-not. Famous for their delicate blue flowers featuring yellow throats, when grown well, they’re prolific bloomers that will flower throughout most of the growing season. And in addition to adding a pretty shade of blue to your garden, they’re rich in lore and symbolism.

Unforgettable Names

The woodland forget-me-not, Myosotis sylvatica, is one of the more common types that you’ll find in gardens. The genus name comes from the ancient Greek word, mus and ous (or otos), which means “mouse” and “ear” respectively. This comes from the shape of the plant’s foliage, which features short, pointed leaves reminiscent of mouse ears.

Another type, Myosotis scorpiodes, is sometimes called “scorpion grass,” which seems like an unusual name for such a pretty little flower, but it comes from how the plant grows, with emerging clusters of flowers bent in the curl of a scorpion’s tail.

Forget-Me-Not Symbolism

Forget-me-nots symbolize true love and respect. When you give someone these tiny blooms, it represents a promise that you will always remember them and will keep them in your thoughts. They are also considered a symbol of fidelity and faithfulness.

The Alaska State Flower

forget-me-not Alaska state flower and tree
The Alpine forget-me-not is the Alaska state flower

The Myosotis alpestris, or the Alpine forget-me-not, is Alaska’s state flower—and it was named as such before Alaska became a state. The Alaskan Territory adopted the flower as its emblem in 1917, and people loved it so much that Alaska kept it when it officially became a state.

Other Forget-Me-Not symbols

Many places and organizations feature the forget-me-not as a poignant symbol:

  • In Newfoundland, it represents those who fell in World War I.
  • In Armenia, it’s a symbol for the Armenian Genocide Centennial.
  • It’s the symbol for International Missing Children’s Day.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society uses forget-me-nots as a symbol for memory loss and to raise awareness for the disease.

Forget-Me-Not Legends and Lore

The forget-me-not moniker has some of the most interesting legends behind it. One describes a German knight who was strolling with his lady along the banks of the Danube river. The lady saw pretty blue flowers—but they’d been pulled loose by the river’s flow and were about to disappear downstream. She wanted to save the flowers, so her chivalrous knight jumped into the water. He couldn’t fight the strong current, so he tossed the flowers onto the bank, and as he was carried out to sea, he called out, vergiss mein nicht, which is German for “forget me not.”

Another legend says that the German knight didn’t leap into the river after the flowers, but rather bent to pick some for his lady when the weight of his armor caused him to topple into the water—and then he called out “forget me not” as he was swept away. A separate German tale says the name was chosen when God was naming flowers. This one was the last, and the flower cried out, “Forget me not, O Lord,” to which God pronounced, “That shall be your name!”

Forget-Me-Not Flower Lore

The forget-me-not is also recognized by some as the birth flower for the month of September, along with the aster and morning glory.

Growing Tips and Care

forget-me-not blue flowers growing in a colander

Currently, there are 74 different species of forget-me-nots that can be found all over the world—and many of them are popular garden plants because they add a beautiful touch of color to your garden.

Most of these flowers range in shade from pale blue to bright blue, but a few feature white or pink blooms. Some even mix blue and pink blooms in the same cluster of flowers!

Forget-me-nots are usually biennials, and will take two years to complete their growing cycle of flowering, then producing seed the second year. They’ll die back in the winter and re-sprout in the spring. Once you have forget-me-nots in your garden, you won’t have to re-seed.

Varieties like the Myosotis scorpioides is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, and Myosotis alpestris is hardy in zones 3 through 9.

Beautiful garden path edged with bue flowers forget-me-not
Forget-me-nots’ striking blue flowers are perfect in garden borders and as bedding plants.

These little plants enjoy part shade, but they’ll tolerate full sun in many areas. During hot summers, however, they’ll do better with a bit of shade on sultry afternoons. This makes them ideal as bedding plants and along borders where taller plants can shade them slightly. Because they are a forest plant, they like rich, organic soil that’s moist but not soggy.

The best time to plant forget-me-not seeds is in the spring if you hope to see the pretty blue flowers the following season. Pick a good spot for them, and they will bloom between May and October each year thereafter.

One thing to consider when planting forget-me-nots is that they can take over a garden if not properly managed. While many gardeners allow forget-me-nots to sow themselves to keep the patch growing year after year, all that seed can mean that you’ll find yourself weeding forget-me-nots out of spots you didn’t want them.

Forget-me-nots are a classic, not to be overshadowed by big and showy blooms like roses. They might be small, but that makes them all the sweeter.

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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