Bellflowers are a diverse group of plants that come in many sizes and varieties. From diminutive alpine species to upright woodland varieties perfect for cut flowers, there are a number of plants to choose from. However, they all have their signature bell-shape blossoms in common. These cheery little bells grace plants for long periods of time, generally starting in late spring and continuing through summer. No matter what type of garden setting you have, you are bound to find a bellflower that fits your needs.
Bellflowers are such easy to grow plants that they are great plants for a cottage garden. The blossoms are generally composed of five petals fused at the base, creating the trademark bell shape. Depending on the variety, sometimes these bells face upward on little mats of foliage, or they may dangle in the breeze, suspended in pendulous clusters. No matter how they are held, the display of blooms will always be abundant. Bellflowers are among the most popular blue flowers, a tricky color to find in most plants. Although blue is the most common color, you can also find bellflowers in purple, white, and pink, depending on the variety.
Bellflower Care Must-Knows
Because this is such a diverse group of plants, it is always best to research and read labels on specific varieties before choosing one for your garden. Bellflowers are native to so many different geographic areas that what works for one variety may not be ideal for another. With that in mind, there are some basics that can be fairly generalized for the care of bellflowers.
When looking for a place to plant your bellflowers, know that most species prefer well-drained soils. There are a few exceptions that can handle moist soils, and in some cases constant moisture. Many smaller alpine species prefer the opposite and like to grow in sharply drained soil, and some can even grow in rock walls, trough gardens, and other less-than-ideal places. See more plants for trough gardens.
Most bellflowers will perform best in full sun. A few woodland species grow well in part shade and full shade, but for the best flower display, grow plants in full sun. This also helps prevent taller varieties from flopping and needing stakes.
Many of the campanula species spread not only by seed, but also underground rhizomes. In many cases, these plants can be extremely vigorous growers and have the potential to become invasive. There are some species already that are classified as such, and caution should be taken before planting them. Check with local agencies, and research specific varieties if you do have any concerns. Once established, these plants can prove to be very difficult to eradicate.
More Varieties of Bellflower
'Birch Hybrid' Campanula
Campanula 'Birch Hybrid' is a groundcover that bears 1-inch-long fluted lavender-blue flowers from late spring through late summer if deadheaded. It makes a great rock garden plant. Zones 4-7
Blue Canterbury Bells
Campanula medium 'Caerulea' is an old-fashioned cottage-garden biennial that sends up towering spikes of clear blue flowers. Zones 5-8
Campanula raddeana grows 1 foot tall and produces 1-inch-diameter bell-shape flowers midsummer. Zones 5-8
Campanula glomerata sports tight clusters of purple blooms on 2-foot-tall stalks in early summer. It quickly spreads to form a large mat. Zones 3-8
Campanula portenschlagiana is a tidy little groundcover or rock-garden plant that grows 4-8 inches tall and 2 feet wide. Violet-blue blooms adorn the plant in late spring to early summer. Zones 4-7
'Elizabeth' Hybrid Bellflower
Campanula 'Elizabeth', sometimes called Korean bellflower (Campanula takesimana), is an upright clump-former that grows 2 feet tall. It produces drooping pale pink flowers in summer. Zones 5-8
Campanula persicifolia grows a foot tall and wide with fine foliage. In early summer it sends up wiry stems with violet, blue-violet, pink, or white flowers. Zones 3-8
'Pearl Light Blue' Carpathian Bellflower
Campanula carpatica 'Pearl Light Blue' has 2-inch-wide, cup-shape flowers that are light blue with a white center. It reblooms all summer if deadheaded regularly. Zones 4-7
'Pink Octopus' Campanula
Campanula 'Pink Octopus' has unique flowers that look like a creature from the depths of the sea or outer space. Flowers with straplike pink petals rise a foot above the foliage on plants that spread to 18 inches wide. Zones 5-8
Campanula 'Sarastro' is completely covered in long, bell-shape, deep purple flowers on 18-inch-tall stems in early summer. It reblooms throughout the summer if faded flowers stalks are removed. It spreads to form a large clump. Zones 4-8
Campanula poscharskyana grows 4-8 inches tall and produces flaring lilac-blue flowers in late spring and early summer. It's perfect for growing in walls or between flagstones. Zones 4-7
White Canterbury Bells
Campanula medium 'Alba' is a biennial that produces dramatic 3-foot-tall white flower spires. Zones 5-8
White Peach-Leaf Bellflower
Campanula persicifolia 'Alba' bears pure-white flowers in summer. It grows 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-8
Plant Bellflower With:
The tall spires of a stand of foxglove, rising up in the garden in early summer, is a sight to behold. Most are biennials, that is they need two years to bloom and then die in the fall. But if you can get a stand going, they'll reseed so prolifically it will seem they're perennials. To be successful, foxgloves must have rich, moist, well-drained soil and light shade, especially in the afternoon. (They'll do fine in full sun in the northern third of the country.) These tall plants also need to be out of any wind. Plants may rebloom if deadheaded after the first flush of bloom.
Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively, especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.
Also known as red valerian for its rosy pink flowers, Jupiter's beard is one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden, provided you remove spent flower heads. Deadheading not only prolongs bloom, but also prevents self seeding. In some regions, Jupiter's beard has escaped from gardens and become a non-native wildflower.