How to Plant & Grow Water Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis scorpioides)

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Water forget-me-not flowers
Water forget-me-not has delicate baby-blue flowers that bloom as early as spring and can last to fall if the conditions are right. Jörg Hempel, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Myosotis scorpioides is a charming perennial herb with a penchant for growing in damp or wet areas. This flowering species is commonly known as water forget-me-not, true forget-me-not, and scorpion grass. It is also synonymous with Myosotis palustris. A member of the large borage family (Boraginaceae) of around 2,000 species, this forget-me-not is native to the meadows of Europe and Siberia. It is now widely distributed throughout the globe and has become naturalized in much of North America.

Water forget-me-not is readily distinguished by its delicate inflorescences. As indicated by its species epithet, scorpioides, the cymes resemble the shape of a scorpion’s tail. Arising from the arching floral stalks are light pink buds that open into 5-petaled, baby blue flowers. Each of these has a distinctive yellow fornice that protrudes at the center and lines a tube of anthers. Flowers bloom as early as spring and can last into fall if permitted by ambient conditions.

Beneath a fleshy shoot with elongated, alternately arranged leaves, M. scorpioides produces creeping rhizomes. Individual plants can spread to a height and width of up to 12×12 inches (30×30 cm). This species’ rhizomatous mode of spreading can result in colonies.

Facts, Benefits & Uses of Water Forget-Me-Not

Insect on water forget-me-not flower
Water forget-me-not attracts several pollinators, such as dance flies and small butterflies. gdahlman / CC BY 2.0

Water forget-me-not is a great option for adding texture and color to the edges of water features. It can even be grown right along the margins of a pond as its basal parts can tolerate being submerged in up to 4 inches of water. It is perfect for water or rain gardens due to its preference for moist, meadow-like conditions.

As it does have the tendency to spread on its own and is relatively low-growing, it makes for an attractive, flowering ground cover. Once low thickets have formed, the densely packed shoots and leaves afford protection to many small animals, such as frogs, newts, snakes, and turtles. Thus, colonies of this species can serve as desirable corridors or marginal plants around wildlife ponds.

This relatively pest-free species is known for attracting several pollinators. A few insects, including dance flies (Empis spp.) and small butterflies, are able to feed on the plant’s nectar. Despite these benefits, caution should be taken when growing this plant outside of its native range as it can compete with and outgrow many native species.

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Water Forget-Me-Not Fact Sheet:
Herbaceous perennial
USDA 5 – 9
Full sunlight to partial shade
Sky blue
Mid-spring to late summer
12 inches (30 cm)
Up to 4 inches (10 cm) deep in water
pH 5.6 – 7

Water Forget-Me-Not Growth, Hardiness & Climate

Water forget-me-not plant in a pond
Water forget-me-not’s roots generally favor wet habitats but may struggle to survive in depths of more than 10cm. AnRo0002, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the wild, M. scorpioides grows along the banks of streams, ponds, ditches, rivers, fens, and bogs. Its roots generally favor wet habitats. When slightly submerged shoots are long enough, they can eventually turn into floating rafts. Despite being considered an “amphibious” plant species, it may struggle to persist in depths of more than 10 cm.

Hardy to USDA zones 5 – 9, water forget-me-not should be situated in areas that receive full to partial sunlight. It can be planted in aquatic gravel or consistently moist garden soil. The roots can tolerate slightly acidic clay-based to loamy substrates. The roots tend to be fibrous and shallow, so the substrate depth is not significant. In terms of temperature, this long-lived species is able to tolerate a range of -10 to 25˚C (14 – 77˚F). Average indoor temperatures and humidity levels are tolerated as well.

How to Plant Water Forget-Me-Not

Water forget-me-not in soil
Water forget-me-not can be planted using seeds or divisions. If using seeds, they should be sown onto a well-draining seed compost. Jac. Janssen / CC BY 2.0

M. scorpioides can be planted using its seeds or divisions. Seeds should be sown onto the surface of a well-draining seed compost. Once you have spread them out, press on them lightly to allow them to become enveloped by just the uppermost layer of soil. Keep the germination setup in an area where temperature can be kept at 20 – 21˚C (68 – 70˚F). Given proper conditions, the seeds should germinate in as little as 4 days to one month.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, individually prick them out of the germination tray and transplant them into another container. If you intend to plant them next to one another, make sure that each seedling is spaced around 10 inches (25 cm) away from the next one. Once they are large enough to withstand outdoor elements, you can outplant them as soon as the final frosts have passed.

Propagation via division is best done in spring. Note that this species will self-seed and eventually produce clonal rhizomes when left on its own. Divisions are usually only collected if intended for use in other locations or for facilitating quick and ordered spread. Carefully divide the rhizomes, making sure that each section has a few developed roots. When planting them in a new location, space them around 12 inches (30 cm) apart.

How to Care for Water Forget-Me-Not

Bird cherry-oat aphids on a plant
You should regularly check your plant’s leaves and shoots for aphids, such as Rhopalosiphum padi (pictured). Adam Sisson, Iowa State University,, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re after a low-maintenance plant that happens to be quite forgiving of suboptimal soil conditions and inadequate sunlight, this may be the perfect one for you. Simply ensure that M. scorpioides roots have access to moisture, especially during summer.

Fertilizer can be provided once or twice during the plant’s growth periods (spring or fall). This could encourage more profuse flowering rates. Occasionally pruning the shoots once they have grown unkempt or after the first flowering period can increase your chances of getting a second wave of blooms.

Though this species is fairly pest-resistant, regularly monitor the shoots and leaves for aphids. Two species, Rhopalosiphum padi and Myzus persicae tend to victimize members of the forget-me-not-family. Manually remove these as soon as they are sighted.

How to Winter Water Forget-Me-Not

Myosotis scorpioides stems tend to go black or fully die back during winter, particularly if they are grown above water level. Shoots that are submerged are more likely to remain intact through winter in the absence of harsh frosts. Those situated along the pond’s edge can be extensively cut down towards the end of fall. As soon as temperatures begin to warm the following year, you can expect new growths to appear.

If you would like your water forget-me-not shoots to remain green all year round, you can also grow them in small pots that can be relocated to a greenhouse, cold frame, or indoors during winter. Make sure to keep the plant in an area that receives ample sunlight. These can be brought back outdoors in spring.

Is Water Forget-Me-Not Invasive or Toxic?

As water forget-me-not can spread on its own to create dense colonies of ground cover, it may, unfortunately, compete with slower-growing plants outside of its native range. It has become naturalized in several parts of the US, where it may sometimes be found in extensive monocultures due to its self-seeding capacity and rhizomatous spread. In some states, such as Wisconsin, it is a threat to a few native and endangered plants (e.g. Mimulus alatus and Eleocharis intermedia).

Although there are reports of this species having the potential to become ecologically invasive elsewhere, it is generally of low concern compared to other invasive species. M. scorpioides is not considered a poisonous plant, although it does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which may be mildly toxic when consumed in large doses.

Is Water Forget-Me-Not Edible? Do Animals Eat it?

Some ornamental forget-me-nots, such as M. sylvatica, are known for having edible flowers that are frequently used to decorate confections. Unlike the former, M. scorpioides is not generally regarded as an edible species despite its “non-toxic” profile. Consumption of small amounts of the plant should generally not reap harm. For cautionary purposes, however, you should only consume flowers of forget-me-not species that have been proven safe to eat.

Grazers and pests (slugs and snails) may feed on water forget-me-not. Colonies are usually able to withstand grazing, as long as their underground runners remain intact.

Where to Buy Water Forget-Me-Not & Seeds? (UK & US)

Myosotis scorpioides can be purchased as seeds and potted plants from aquascaping stores, plant nurseries, and garden centers in its native range. Keep an eye out for the ‘Alba’ (cultivar with white flowers), ‘Mermaid’, and ‘Semperflorens’ varieties as these make stunning ornamentals. If located elsewhere, you may have more luck acquiring this plant from online portals. Do make sure this species is not included in your locality’s list of restricted plants before making a purchase.

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