For Mothers Day I received a Campanula. What can you tell me about it? Is it…

I am sorry you did not find the previous reply helpful. We are unpaid volunteers trained by the University of Minnesota and answer a huge number of questions each week, in some cases during our work coffee breaks or after the kids go to bed. Often links to relevant web sites give more information than we can give in our replies. Julie Weisenhorn, who you are probably listening to on the radio, is an employee of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the former head of our Extension Master Gardener program. I will pass on your compliment to her.
There are over 300 types of campanulas. Some are only a couple of inches tall; others several feet. Most would be considered perennials in your area and can be planted outdoors. If you got a tag with your plant it will tell you what type it is and possibly some general care instructions.
Most campanulas like full sun, or at most shade in the afternoon. They cannot handle wet areas. Moist but well drained is the description usually given. That means they need to be watered enough that their soil does not feel dry, but they cannot sit in standing water.
One common type found in grocery stores, etc. this time of year prettily wrapped and marketed as a gift plant is called Get Mee. It is a branded variety (like Coke instead of cola) of Campanula portenschlagiana, commonly called Dalmatian Bellflower. It can handle a little more shade than most other campanulas, but still likes full sun.
Other common types of the shorter campanulas are the Campanula carpatica Clip series (Blue Clip, White Clip) and of the taller type, Campanula punctata and glomerata. All like sunny, well drained areas.
You can remove spent flowers or even cut your plant down by about 1/3 after flowering if you want. This may trigger a few more flowers.
Some campanulas spread fairly aggressively by seeds; others don’t reseed at all but slowly spread into wider plants. They can be split every couple of years if you want.
Like all other perennials, keep your campanula watered until the ground freezes. You could cover it with a couple inches of mulch after the ground has frozen, but make sure to take it off in the spring so it does not get too wet.
I hope this answers your questions.


Bellflower, (genus Campanula), any of around 420 annual, perennial, and biennial herbs that compose the genus Campanula (family Campanulaceae). Bellflowers have characteristically bell-shaped, usually blue flowers, and many are cultivated as garden ornamentals. They are native mainly to northern temperate regions, Mediterranean areas, and tropical mountains.

  • Bellflower (Campanula)W.H. Hodge
  • harebellHarebell (Campanula rotundifolia).D. Windrim

Tall bellflower, or American bellflower (Campanula americana, formerly Campanulastrum americanum), is found in the moist woodlands of North America and has flowering spikes that may reach 2 m (6 feet) high with saucer-shaped flowers bearing long curved styles. Tussock bellflower, or Carpathian harebell (C. carpatica), has lavender to white bowl-shaped, long-stalked flowers and forms clumps in eastern European meadows and woodlands. Fairy thimbles (C. cochleariifolia), named for its deep nodding blue to white bells, forms loosely open mats on alpine screes. Bethlehem stars (C. isophylla), a trailing Italian species often grown as a pot plant, bears sprays of star-shaped violet, blue, or white flowers. Canterbury bell (C. medium), a southern European biennial, has large pink, blue, or white spikes of cup-shaped flowers. Peach-leaved bellflower (C. persicifolia), found in Eurasian woodlands and meadows, produces slender-stemmed spikes, 30 to 90 cm (12 to 35 inches) tall, of long-stalked outward-facing bells. Rampion (C. rapunculus) is a Eurasian and North African biennial grown for its turniplike roots and leaves, which are eaten in salads for their biting flavour. It produces ascending clusters of long-stalked lilac bells and has basal, broadly oval leaves that form a rosette around the stalk. Rover, or creeping, bellflower (C. rapunculoides) is a European plant that has become naturalized in North America and is named for its spreading rhizomes. Throatwort, or bats-in-the-belfry (C. trachelium), a coarse, erect, hairy Eurasian plant also naturalized in North America, bears clusters of lilac-coloured funnel-shaped flowers. Other cultivated Campanula species from Europe include Adria bellflower (C. garganica, sometimes classified as a variety of C. elatines); clustered bellflower (C. glomerata); milky bellflower (C. lactiflora); great bellflower (C. latifolia); and C. zoysii. See also harebell.

tussock bellflowerClustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata).F.K. Anderson/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

(Bellflower) There are lots of types of Campanulas, all provide the border with a flowery, cottage feel. The other name for this variable bunch is Bellflower for the obvious reason as the flowers are bell-shaped. The flowers, which are always white or blue, do vary in shape and form, from deeply cupped to wide and narrow. These can be borne on tall, stiff stems or arching stems, and may face upwards, outwards or sideways. The flowers of C. glomerata even form tight, round balls.

Leaf Shapes

The leaves, which are almost always mid-green, can be carried up the stems or spring from the crown of the plant forming rosettes as the plant grows.

Plant Shapes

In shape the plant can be stiffly upright, billowing and blousy, spreading or mounding. This makes them useful for all styles and areas of the garden. Some, such as C. punctata, will spread vigorously especially in a moist soil. Others, such as C. persicifolia, only move slowly.

Flowering times and heights

Campanulas have a habit of flowering at the most important time of the year, just when we love our gardens most, when the weather gets warm. Most flower between June and August, but a few, such as C. ‘Iridescent Bells’, will bloom until September. Of the many types, C. lactiflora is the tallest, reaching up to 120cm in a good, moisture retentive soil. Next there are the mid-range growers such as C. trachelium, and finally there are the shorties, such as G. glomerata, which are ideal for the front of the border.

Where Campanulas come from

Campanulas can be found throughout UK and Europe. These are plants of open meadows and woodlands, where they grow along the dappled edges.

Where to grow Campanulas

Any well-drained, but not too dry soil, in sun or part shade.

How to care for Campanulas

Easy – just cut the flower stems back after they have finished blooming. With C. lactiflora types I tend to cut back to the axel that has bloomed, allow the buds further down the stem to open.

Fertiliser: no

Staking: if your garden is windy you might need to stake taller varieties

Dividing: when they gets too big.

Diseases: no

Campanulas look good with

All perennials!

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Softly speckled pink bells on Korean bellflower (Campanula takesimana). Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

Bellflowers are so familiar that there is a tendency to think we know this enduring garden denizen. Campanulas have wormed their way into our gardening hearts and made themselves at home here on the West Coast—but where did they come from? The answer to this question may surprise you.

The recurved pink bells of the unusual Azores bellflower (Azornina vidalii syn. Campanula vidalii). Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

The genus Campanula contains an astonishing 500 species, making it one of the most diverse genera in mass production. Although the common name, bellflower, suggests tubular flowers, the size and shape of the blooms—as well as those species whose flowers in no way resemble a bell—gives some idea of the diversity of the genus. Those with a passing familiarity of campanulas know that many species hail from Europe—which is true, but too simplistic. They are found in high alpine meadows as well as in lowlands, and many are found in Turkey, Croatia, and the Caucasus; there are even species from Greece and the Azores. And that’s not counting those endemic to Western Asia, Japan, Korea, and the Arctic. This is one well-travelled genus.

Western Europe is home to many of the taller, sun-loving species. Including a group I call the three P’s. The following species may be planted in stands or used in mixed perennial beds where they provide a vertical accent.

The vertical stems of peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) are covered in bell-shaped flowers that bloom for most of the summer. Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

Peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia), a perennial from the Alps and other European mountains, sports two- to three-inch, open, bell-shaped, purple flowers that flare out in clusters from three-foot-tall vertical stems above a basal clump of slender, shiny, deep-green leaves. Plants can easily fill out a two-foot-wide area and bloom over a long period in summer. The variety ‘Telham Beauty’ offers otherworldly milky-blue flowers.

Planted in the garden, Spanish bellflower (Campanula primulifolia) establishes quickly and blooms from late spring to mid summer. Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals.

Spanish bellflower (Campanula primulifolia) is one of my favorite sun lovers and also a perennial. A single four-inch start from the nursery quickly produces a bevy of three-foot flowering stems smothered in two-inch, star-shaped, lavender flowers from late spring to mid-summer, much to the delight of hummers and bees. Chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) is one of the tallest perennial campanulas, easily reaching five to six feet with flowers that are similar to those of C. primulifolia, though the stems are more willowy.

Clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata) is another sun-lover that earns its common name with terminal, tightly clustered, deep-violet bells. This vigorous, two-foot-high perennial species’ blooms make an excellent cut flower, and removing spent flowering stems encourages reblooming. Scottish harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) is a lower growing perennial species with spindly stems and small, pale-violet, bell-shaped flowers that wave their nodding heads in the breeze. This species prefers to be on the dry side.

Just when you think you have a handle on what campanulas are all about, along comes Azorina vidalii, formerly known as Campanula vidalii. Hailing from the Azores Islands, this unusual bellflower features pretty-in-pink, flared, two-inch bells. The leaves are a distinctive waxy, bright green on plants that grow to 18 inches tall and wide. A biennial, the flowers often don’t appear until year two, but the sea of nodding bells is worth the wait!

Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’ is a low-growing perennial and an ideal choice for cascading over a low 
wall or from a hanging basket. Photo: Earl Nickel

Two species from southern Europe are familiar to many gardeners and perhaps the most difficult to pronounce! Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) is a low-growing, spreading, perennial species with bluish-purple, star-shaped, inch-wide flowers that float above a sea of vivid green foliage. Varieties such as ‘Blue Waterfall’ are ideal selections for rock gardens. Spreading varieties cascade beautifully over a low wall or the edge of a container. The very similar looking Dalmatian bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) blooms from late spring through early autumn, producing abundant clusters of upward-facing, iridescent violet flowers. This perennial is an excellent choice for a hanging basket or container composition. The popular purple or white forms of ‘Birch’s Hybrid’ are a bit more upright, while ‘Muralis’ is a popular ground cover and is readily available in nurseries; both feature heart-shaped, irregularly toothed, inch-wide leaves.

Icy lavender-blue flowers crowd the stems of Campanula incurva on 2-year-old plants. Monocarpic, the plant dies after 
blooming. Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

In contrast, two other species from this region couldn’t be more different from the above groundcovers. From Greece, the biennial Campanula incurva features large, icy-lavender, bell-shaped flowers on two-year-old plants. Though the plant is monocarpic and dies after blooming, the rosy buds and exquisite flowers are worth it. Milky bellflower (Campanula lactiflora), a perennial species from Turkey, reaches a bushy five feet tall. In mid-summer, the plants are smothered in inch-and-a-half, lightly scented, periwinkle flowers.

Spotted bellflower (Campanula punctata) from Asia produces multiple flowering spires from plants with a spreading habit. Photo: Earl Nickel

Two outstanding perennial Campanula species hail from Asia, led by the exuberant Campanula punctata. Better known as spotted bellflower due to its speckling, this hardy species is gradually becoming better known in the West. In summer, low rosettes of heart-shaped, green foliage produce multiple flowering stems that sport pink, burgundy, or white nodding bellflowers. A spreading habit makes this plant an excellent choice for a medium-height groundcover.

Campanula takesimana from Korea looks similar but has taller, three-foot stems with pale-lilac flowers and dark-purple spotting on the exterior. To my eyes, the speckling on these Asian species makes the flowers look as if they’ve been dusted with pink confectioner’s sugar!

Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) is an old fashioned cottage garden favorite that flowers from seed in one year. Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

Apart from the common Canterbury bells (Campanula medium), an annual or short-lived perennial in mild climates that has naturalized in both Europe and the United States, there are two minor and difficult-to-find perennial species native to North America. Campanula divaricata, known as Appalachian bellflower and found mostly in that region, produces small bluish-purple bellflowers in late summer. Out West, swamp bellflower (Campanula californica) grows along the coastline between Marin and Mendocino counties. Endemic to marshes and wet forest floors, this rhizomatous perennial produces upward-facing, tulip-shaped flowers that are a lovely pale lilac.

Milky bellflower (Campanula lactiflora) is a statuesque perennial growing to nearly five feet tall. Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

There is one Arctic cousin in this genus. Campanula uniflora has a typical alpine habit, growing just three to five inches tall with scrubby foliage and producing pink or purple bell-shaped flowers during the relatively short Artic summer. For fans of the film The Golden Compass, this plant is found in the Svalbard region, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Clustered bellflower (Campanula glomerata) Photo: courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

Growing Bellflowers

Bellflowers need a good, moist, but well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter mixed in. In cool gardens, plants will tolerate full sun as long as the soil is not dry; in warmer regions, plants prefer partial shade with more shade needed farther south.

Bellflowers produce purple, blue, white, or occasionally pink flowers held in small panicles, each with a five-lobed corolla. Situated below them is the calyx, composed of five leaf-like sepals. Certain species have an additional leafy growth, called an appendage, between each sepal. The presence (or absence) of this appendage is often used to delineate one species from another where the appearance is nearly identical. The fruit is a capsule containing a multitude of tiny seeds, allowing mother plants to self-sow. Leaves are primarily alternate and can vary in size on individual plants. Frequent division and transplanting maintain plant vitality.

Given the diversity of this genus, readers should consult their local nursery for advice about specific growing conditions and selecting plants that will do well in their garden.

Add English flavor to the garden with bellflowers

Canterbury Bells are not hardy for our area as they are a zone 5 plant, but I have seen people grow them in a good year to produce amazing flowers. They are part of a much larger group of plants called Campanulas. There are many selections in this group that are quite showy and will grow in our area to gives us some of that same beauty.

Better known as bellflowers, their cool hues are a welcome sight in any garden. They prefer full sun to part shade in a well-drained soil that has rich organic matter. But with many plants, they can grow in many soil types with good results. Depending on the selection, they can grow from 4 inches to 3 feet in height. Many are clump-forming and will spread, but some are much slower to divide.

Most species leaves are large at the bottom, usually developing a rosette and then extending a flower stem from that point with smaller leaves as it graduates toward the top of the stem. Other selections are more mound-forming with all of the leaves about the same in size. As they reach their final heights, each stem will produce numerous flowers.

The bell-shaped flowers have five points to each flower. Some points are sharp, like a star, and others are rounder like the outer edge of lace. Some will be upright, some will bloom perpendicular to the stem, whereas others will hang from the stems in a very delicate nature. Most do not smell, but if your nose is trained, you will pick up on a very light scent during the mornings and evenings when flowers smell their best.

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One of the most common bellflowers in many gardens is the cluster forming ‘Glomera’ variety. Common names would be the cultivars of ‘Freya’ and ‘Superba’. These selections will get about 2 feet tall and form a nice solid clump. As the flower stems form, they bloom from the top down with flower clusters around the main stem at each leaf node. Usually these bloom in rich colors of purple and blue. Division is easy with a quick scoop from the base that grabs two to three young shoots. They adapt well to almost any garden soil and will bloom the following year for many years to come.

A delicate bellflower selection would be that of the Scottish bells or Bluebells of Scotland. These plants reach about a foot in height and send out many flower buds on individual stems that are very fine to the sight. Dainty little bells of lavender and purple hang from these stems and sway in the gentle breeze. If the dead flowers are consistently removed, these will bloom throughout the entire growing season.

‘Blue Clips’ and ‘White Clips’ bloom in their perspective colors. They reach about 1 foot tall also and form a mound. Their tops are covered in many star-shaped bells of white and blue that look up toward the sun.

The ‘Peach Leaf’ types of bellflowers have lance-shaped leaves resembling leaves on a peach tree, which form a rosette at the base and send up tall flower stalks from the centers about three feet tall. Flower shades of white and light blue are common in this variety.

The ‘Spotted Bellflower’ develops heart-shaped leaves and forms flowers in the shades of white to dusky pink. These plants only reach 1 foot in height and can be invasive in the garden, so beware. ‘Cherry Bells’ is the most common of this selection, but is also the invasive one. For one that is not invasive, try ‘Pink Chimes’.

If you are looking for a variety that is low growing with nice 1-inch star blooms, try the Serbian bellflower ‘Blue Waterfall’. This one is great for borders, rock gardens, or near a retaining wall to drape down the side. They develop a rich blue flower that blooms toward the sky.

Many people mistake the ‘Balloon flower’ to be part of this group of plants with its balloon-shaped flower buds that open to a beautiful blue bell. It was once part of this group but has since been moved to a different family of plants called Platycodon. Even though it is no longer part of this family of plants, it should not be avoided, as it will provide years and years of consistent blooms on sturdy little 15-inch plants.

Try a variety of bellflowers in your garden and see what you think of the results. They will definitely add some nostalgia to an English-themed garden, but will accent any style garden in a magnificent way. It is never too late to grab a division from a neighbor who is willing to share, as it is where I received one of my finest specimens in the garden!

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