Campanula: The Versatile Bellflower

Campanula: The Versatile Bellflower

The delicate bells of campanula herald the summer and the pretty colours will make a wonderful addition to any part of your garden.

Campanula bellflower

Their small bells grace the edges of your borders or the rockery, dangling over little walls while the larger bells create an individual focus anywhere in the border. Being so easy to grow, they are unsurpassable additions to any garden. Tall campanulas even make suitable cut flowers, giving us another good reason for planting clouds of the lovely bellflowers in the garden.

Campanula bellflower: blue

The silky flowers mainly come in shade of blues, purples and mauves but there are also some beautiful pink and pure white varieties. These colours will go well with a whole range of other hardy perennials.

In the wild

The name, campanula, comes from the Latin word campa, meaning bell. They originally come from the Mediterranean countries and the Caucasus. But a few varieties, like C. rotundiflora or bluebell, can also be found growing in the wild in more northerly regions. Sadly, however, the numbers of these wild varieties are declining.

Perfect border plants

Campanulas are all sturdy plants that do not need much looking after which makes them the perfect border plants. They are most effective when they are planted in groups of 3 or 5. The taller types look fantastic in the middle or back of the border whereas the lower ones do well along the edges, beside walls or in a rock garden.

How to grow campanula

Bellflowers are not very demanding. They like a moist, half-shaded place, the soil should be well-drained, as bellflowers do not like wet feet, and you should avoid over-fertilizing it.

The only common problems associated with bellflowers are those caused by slugs and snails. These regard the plants as a real feast, so check your plants regularly.

Orange-coloured rust can also affect some of the border campanulas, this will appear on the underside of foliage. If this happens, the entire plant should be cut back to ground level and covered with clean compost. Fresh stems should then appear, generally rust-free.

Tall campanulas

The Canterbury bell or white bellflower (C. glomerata alba) is a very undemanding plant. It grows rapidly to about 50 - 60cm tall, and will thrive in full sun as well as in half-shade. The white flowers appear at the end of sturdy straight stalks and, if you top the new shoots in May, you can stretch the flowering period to the end of June. The white flowers go well with ferns, hostas and the extraordinary, pink flowering, Chinese Primula (Primula valii).

The bright blue flowering C. persicifolia has an extremely long flowering time, producing masses of flowers from June right through to August. These look good in combination with Astilbe, Echinacea purpurea, grasses, white Marguerites and Gypsophilia paniculata.

Low-growing campanulas

Low-growing campanulas

Campanula carpatica has a height of about 15 - 30cm, which makes it very suitable for rock gardens, along edges and on stonewalls. This campanula prefers a sunny spot and a dry, rather poor soil. The large blue or white, bell-shaped flowers appear in June and stay right through to September. It is beautiful in combination with Maiden Pink (Dianthus delt. Erecta), Rock Soap Wort (Saponaria ocym) or Yellow Stonecrop (Sedum acre).

Creeping bellflower (C. poscharskyana) is a fast growing ground cover plant, with long, rather floppy stalks that dangle elegantly over walls and pots. The star-shaped flowers grow in trusses from June to September. The plant grows no taller than some 20cm, which makes it very suitable for a natural garden. Grow it next to the trailing rose 'The Fairy' (in pink or white) for a very charming result.

The Bellflower (C. portenschlagiana) grows in large, dense clumps. It grows fast and can be planted as a ground cover or along edges of paths and borders. The stalks are short, some 10 - 20cm, and it produces lovely, star-shaped flowers from June to September. This Campanula gives colour to the shadiest corners of your garden.