Canterbury Bells Plant: How To Grow Canterbury Bells

Canterbury bells plant (Campanula medium) is a popular biennial (perennial in some areas) garden plant reaching about two feet (60 cm.) or slightly more. Campanula Canterbury bells can be easily grown and cared for much like their bellflower counterparts. Growing Canterbury bells in your garden can add grace and elegance.

How to Grow Canterbury Bells

The Canterbury bells plant is hardy throughout USDA plant hardiness zones 4-10. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and appreciates moist, well-draining soil and reasonably cool temperatures. Therefore, if you live in a relatively hot climate, provide plenty of afternoon shade.

Like most bellflower plants, Canterbury bells are easily propagated by seeds. These should be started in late spring or early summer, thinning as needed once seedlings become large

enough. You need only minimal covering with soil. Simply sprinkle seeds in the garden bed and allow nature to do the rest (of course, you will need to keep the area watered).

Mature plants will self-seed readily, but just in case, you may want to keep some newly started plants in another nursery bed or pots for transplanting later, usually in spring.

Caring for Campanula Canterbury Bells

During the first year, you should expect only a low-growing clump or rosette of green leaves. These can be overwintered beneath a thick layer of mulch. Look out for slugs or snails, as they enjoy munching on the foliage.

By the second year, Canterbury bells flowers will form, usually in summer, atop tall, upright stems. In fact, they may even require staking to keep them upright. Alternatively, you can plant them near shrubby plants for additional support.

Canterbury bells also make excellent cut flowers. The large, showy flowers appear as dangling bells (hence the name), which eventually open up into cup-shaped blooms. Flower color can range from white to pink, blue, or purple.

Deadheading can sometimes encourage re-blooming as well as maintain appearances. It’s also a good way to save seeds for new additions. It’s always a good idea, however, to leave some flowers intact to self-seed as well. This way you double your chances of growing Canterbury bells year after year.

Canterbury Bells Seed – Campanula Medium Blue Flower Seeds

Flower Specifications

Season: Biennial

USDA Zones: 3 – 9

Height: 32 inches

Bloom Season: Spring and summer

Bloom Color: Blue

Environment: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Well-drained, pH 6.6 – 7.8

Planting Directions

Temperature: 70F

Average Germ Time: 14 – 21 days

Light Required: Yes

Depth: Do not cover

Sowing Rate: 3 – 4 seeds per plant

Moisture: Keep moist until germination

Plant Spacing: 10 inches

Care & Maintenance: Bellflower

Canterbury Bells (Campanula Medium Blue) – Start these old-fashioned favorites from Canterbury Bells seed and enjoy the familiar bell-shaped flowers, held upright in long, loose clusters. Campanula Canterbury Bells are wonderful for garden color in late spring and early summer. They also make great cut flowers, so bring the beauty of your garden inside! Canterbury Bells establish easily from flower seed and are best for the sunny areas of your garden. The Canterbury Bells are some of the most striking plants around and can add rich color and beauty to any garden. Plant them in a cluster of all blue or mix them in with other flowers for a show of color.

Sow Canterbury Bells flower seeds indoors 6 – 10 weeks before your region’s last frost date. Press the Campanula seeds into the soil, but do not cover them. The flower seed germinates in 14 – 21 days. Transplant the seedlings outdoors in rich, well-drained soil that has plenty of compost or sphagnum peat moss worked in. Canterbury Bells need a site in full sun to light shade. Canterbury Bells care includes fertilizing every other month during the growing season for best height and heaviest bloom. These taller Campanula plants may need support to keep flowers upright. Cut Canterbury Bells back after flowering.

Canterbury Bells

The name for Canterbury bells comes from campanula meaning “little bells,” an accurate term, since the flowers are bell-shaped. Although biennials, they can be grown to bloom the first year by sowing seeds indoors early.

Description of Canterbury bells: Plants grow 21/2 feet to 4 feet tall, with roughly the top two-thirds covered with pink, rose, lavender, blue, or white flowers. The plant shape is pyramidal and leaves are long and narrow.

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Growing Canterbury bells: Canterbury bells need rich, moist, well-drained soil and full sun. Although partial shade is tolerated, stems may grow weak under these conditions. Planting a group together will help plants support each other without staking, although in windy locations stakes may be needed. Plant 8 to 12 inches apart.

Propagating Canterbury bells: By seed. To grow for first year bloom, sow seeds 10 weeks prior to the last frost. Do not cover the seeds, since they require light to germinate. Germination time is 6 to 12 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow as a biennial, sow seeds outdoors in July or August. The small plants will bloom late the next spring.

Uses for Canterbury bells: Canterbury bells are ideal for the informal, cottage garden look, where they can be intermixed with a variety of other plants. They’re also useful for planting at the center of island beds, where they’re viewed from all sides.

Related species of Centerbury bells: Campanula isophylla, a tender perennial, is a species with a many-branched trailing habit, smothered in powder-blue or white flowers. Stella is available both in blue and white. Campanula ramosissima grows 6 inches to 1 foot high. Its most prevalent form has violet-blue flowers, but also appears in pink, rose, and lavender.

Related varieties of Canterbury bells: Campanula medium calyconthema, called “cup and saucer,” has double bells, one inside the other. The Champion series of white, pink, and blue, blooms freely without a cold treatment.

Scientific name of Canterbury Bells: Campanula medium

Plant of the Week: Canterbury Bells

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Canterbury Bells
Latin: Campanula medium

Bellflowers are an intriguing group of garden flowers that mostly bloom following the spring bulbs but before the summer perennials such as daylilies. Of the 300 or so species scattered across the northern hemisphere, the showiest is Canterbury Bells, Campanula medium.

Canterbury Bells is a biennial. During its first year of life, it grows as a dinner plate size rosette of leaves with little to distinguish it from a common weed. The leaves are evergreen in Arkansas’ climate.

But in the spring of its second year, the rosette begins to elongate and masses of bell-shaped flowers are produced in an open panicle. Plants usually branch from the base of the rosette with the central stem reaching 3 feet high while surrounded with side branches only 1-2 feet tall.

The blooms are in shades of blue, purple, pink or white with the 2-inch long flower tube the diameter of a fat hot dog. In the typical form, the calyx is not showy, but in the selection known as the Cup-and-Saucer Bellflower, it is considerably enlarged and colored the same shade of the flower. This form has the general appearance of a long-trumpet daffodil but in blue.

Canterbury Bells are native to the mountains of southern Europe and have been grown in gardens since at least the beginning of the 19th century. The Victorians especially seemed to appreciate their gaudy beauty and were willing to put up with their demanding ways to grow them successfully.

They are more popular in northern climes but can be grown in our southern gardens if planting schedules are adjusted to our conditions.

The current crop of Canterbury Bells in bloom in my garden is from seed planted in the fall of 2000. My plan was to grow the plants in the greenhouse in pots until the coldest part of winter was past and then move them outside to the cold frame where they would have a couple months of chilling before being moved to the garden. My theory was that this vernalization period would satisfy their needs and reduce the length of time needed to get the plants to bloom.

It didn’t work. When the plants were planted in the garden in May 2001, they simply set there and thumbed their nose at my futile effort to trick them into early bloom. When the plants bloomed this year, they were worth the wait, but I decided a new production strategy was called for if these are to be grown again.

I’ve never seen bedding plants of this species available, so you’ll have to grow your own plants. The easiest way is to plant seeds out of doors in May or June and grow the plants vegetatively that first year in some out-of-the-way corner of the garden. The plants could be grown in the soil in a sunny, well-drained corner of the vegetable garden or they could be produced in gallon nursery containers.

Foxgloves can be grown the same way and having several different species to tend will increase the odds of having something be successful.

In the fall at pansy planting time, the Canterbury Bells plants should be moved to the flower bed where they will bloom the following spring. Plants can be grown in full sun or light shade. They do best in a moderately fertile soil with a near-neutral pH. Staking may be required when the plants begin producing their bloom display.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – May 31, 2002

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

Canterbury Bells are not a plant I see every day in home gardens in my area. All the more reason to grow them, right? I wish I had thought of that, but in all honesty I can’t take credit. A clump of Canterbury Bells just magically appeared in my garden last year, and I really don’t know where it came from. I noticed a strange clump of something in early spring as I did some cleanup in one of my garden beds. I knew it wasn’t a weed, but had no idea what it was, so I just left it alone until finally it sent up flower stalks and started blooming. Lucky me! A picture of that very plant is to the right, and what a nice plant it is with it’s noticeably bell-shaped, spectacularly royal purple flowers.

Canterbury bells can come in white and pink in addition to the purple pictured above, but I personally really like the purple. The picture doesn’t do it justice. My plant grew to nearly 4 feet tall and was absolutely covered with these purple bell-shaped blooms. As you can see from the picture, this is a plant that will require staking, especially if you want to use the stalks for cut flowers. I wasn’t ready for that this time around since I didn’t even know what it was until it bloomed, and as you can see, the plant leaned heavily toward the right even after staking, especially after rain. I’m going to get bigger stakes next season and put them in place early.

Canterbury bells are usually considered to be biennials – they grow a clump the first year and then flower and die in the second year. Not so in my case. My plant not only made it through the winter but the clump is twice as big as it was last year in my zone 7 garden. See picture taken in mid February, 2012. Admittedly we had a very warm winter that year, but I’m feeling kind of confident that this plant will be around for a few years to come, which would make it a tender biennial or perennial in my neck of the woods. Obviously, since it just magically appeared in my garden one day, my Canterbury Bell has had no special treatment as far as soil or watering, but it did happen to take up residence in a reasonably well-kept bed with pretty average soil but that gets regular mulching, weeding, watering, and fertilizing all year round. I have heard that Canterbury Bells will grow spindly and weak if they are pampered too much so my advice is just leave them alone other than the basics. As far as sun, mine get about half a day of sun, mostly in the morning and the result has been good. This is definitely not a shade plant, but as with a lot of other plants, the further south you are, the more shade it will tolerate.

I haven’t noticed any self-seeding so far despite the fact that after the flowers were spent I cut the stems off with seeds intact and buried them in the garden bed but it’s early yet and hope springs eternal. If I don’t have any volunteers, you can bet I will hunt down a packet of seeds and try my hand that way. This is a plant I will make an effort to keep producing from now on. In many ways, Canterbury Bells remind me of Foxglove and do seem to have the same growing requirements. In fact, my Canterbury Bells made their debut in the middle of the only bed I grow Foxgloves in. Therefore, if you have ever grown Foxglove, you know what to do with Canterbury Bells.

If you are not lucky enough to have a Canterbury Bell plant dropped like manna from heaven into your Foxglove garden, you will probably have to start them from seed. I don’t think I have ever seen Canterbury Bell plants at any garden store, even the specialty ones. I do a lot of seeding every year, and always do mine in flats with potting soil. The reason for this is that I have a lot of stuff out there in the garden and a lot of weeds too, and I am notorious for pulling good seedlings out along with bad weeds. As a result, I start everything in flats and then transplant when they are recognizable so I’m not constantly working against myself. Canterbury Bell seeds need light to germinate, so whether you direct seed or seed in flats, just press the seed in (don’t cover with soil), and keep the soil moist until you see those little sprouts coming to life. I usually wait at least until I see the first true leaves before planting in the garden. Give the seedlings plenty of sun once they are up so they don’t get spindly. As always, once they are on their way in the garden, mulch, mulch, mulch. Do remember though, that unless you do all this in the fall, you will only see a clump of foliage the first season and no blooms until the year after that, which is a long wait. But planting in the fall has drawbacks too. You might lose the plant altogether during a harsh spell in winter. So it’s a crapshoot, but just remember, you are in for a real treat when Canterbury Bells finally do grace you with blooms, and you will fool your friends into thinking you actually have some idea of what you are doing – always great fun.

So that’s it, folks. This one is on my highly recommended list and is at the easy end of the gardening skill scale even from seed. So find a pack of Canterbury Bell seeds as soon as you can and then go plant ’em!

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Bellflowers: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

There is enough diversity in the bellflower or Campanula clan to ring just about any gardener’s chimes. With bell-shaped, tubular or star-shaped flowers in shades of blue, white, pink and red, they have growth habits that range from low and creeping to tall and upright. Most of the garden-worthy choices are perennials, although there are some annuals and a biennial in the genus. And all are beautiful, even the few that are such vigorous spreaders and seeders that you may need to think twice about including them in your garden.

About bellflowers
Bellflowers are hardy plants, with most types growing in Zones 4 to 8, even to zone 3 with reliable snow cover to provide insulation, but they’ll sulk in the heat of the Deep South or Southwest. Peak bloom is in early to midsummer for most, but with deadheading you may get sporadic bloom throughout the summer and a second flush of flowers in fall. Bellflowers look lovely in many garden settings; their showy flowers and informal habit are the perfect fit in a cottage garden.

Special features of bellflowers
Bellflowers fall into two categories, tall, upright growers that are good choices for a border or for cutting, and low growers that work well for edging or in rock gardens.
One of the most popular uprights is Peach Leaved Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia). Tall, 15 to 30 inch spikes of 1-1.5 inch, broadly bell-shaped flowers in shades of blue, pink, white and purple rise in early summer from basal clumps of leaves. Clustered bellflower (C. glomerata) produces upwards facing heads of blossoms in purple or white in early summer on sturdy 18 inch stems. Milky bellflower (C. lactiflora), 3 to 5 feet tall, and great bellflower (C. latifolia), 4 to 5 feet tall, also both have upward-facing flowers.
Other upright growers are distinguished by their large, nodding blossoms. Spotted bellflower (C. punctata) gets about 2 feet tall and bears pink, speckled, dangling flowers from midsummer to fall. ‘Cherry Bells’ is a popular cultivar. The hybrid ‘Sarastro’ has large, deep-purple, nodding bells on a 2.5 to 3 foot tall plant.
The low spreading bellflowers look nice trailing over the tops and between the stones of a dry rock wall. In early summer, Serbian Bellflower (C. poscharskyana) spreads a wave of blue, 1-1″, star-shaped flowers. Adriatic bellflower (C. garganica) and Dalmatian bellflower (C. portenschlagiana) are similar. For edging along a path, the low growing Carpathian harebell (C. carpatica) is perfect. The cultivar ‘Blue Clips’ bears bright blue bells on 8-12″ high plants over most of the summer. Even more floriferous is the sterile hybrid ‘Samantha’, which is covered in violet-blue, bowl-shaped blossoms above a 6″ high clump of leaves.
The biennial Canterbury bells (C. medium) is an old fashioned favorite, growing 12 to 30 inches tall and sporting boxy, bell-shaped flowers in shades of lilac, blue, pink and white. Start these plants from seed in midsummer for bloom the following year.

Choosing a site to grow bellflowers
Most bellflowers do best if planted in full sun, but will also thrive in light shade. Plant in moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. Some are spreaders, especially clustered bellflower and Serbian bellflower, so plant these where they’ll have some room to roam. But steer clear of the aggressive Korean bellflower (C. rapunculoides) which spreads so readily, it can become invasive.

Planting Instructions
Container plants can be set out any time during the growing season. Space most plants about a foot apart; the tall milky bellflower should have 24 inch spacing. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

Ongoing Care
Apply a complete organic fertilizer and a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Deadhead flowers to neaten plants and prevent self-sowing. On taller types, remove faded flowers individually, then cut back the flowering stalks to the base when all bloom is finished. With low growers, wait until the first flush of bloom is past, then shear back plants by half. Peachleaf bellflower can self-sow to the point of weediness if not deadheaded. Most bellflowers benefit from division every 3 to 5 years to keep them growing vigorously.

Campanula, Bellflower

The botanical name for this perennial, campanula, is from the Latin word for bell and refers to the shape of the flowers. Bellflowers vary in size, shape, and plant form but are usually various shades of blue, lavender, and white. They bloom from late spring into early summer.

How to grow: Bellflowers need a good moist (but well-drained) soil with plenty of organic matter mixed in. In the North, plants will tolerate full sun as long as the soil is not dry, but elsewhere a spot in semishade is preferred, with more shade needed farther south. Frequent division and transplanting keep up the vitality of your plants.

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Propagation: By division or by seed.

Uses: Plants are beautiful in the border, useful in the rock garden, and fine for the shade or wild garden.

Related species: Campanula carpatica blooms at a height of ten inches with solitary blue flowers. It is effective as an edging or tumbling over a small rock cliff. Campanula glomerata, or the clustered bellflower, usually bears a dozen blossoms in tight clusters at the top of a 14-inch stem. Campanula persicifolia, or peach bells, bears white or blue flowers on stems up to three feet high and prefers moist soil. It is an excellent cut flower.

Scientific name: Campanula species

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Correa ‘Ivory Bells’ (White Australian Fuchsia) – This evergreen shrub grows to 4 to 5 feet tall with equal spread and has oval 1 inch long gray-green densely-hairy leaves on coppery-colored stems and ivory-white bell-shaped flowers with flared petals that hang downwards from branches from late fall well into early spring. Best in cool sun or part shade with occasional to little summer irrigation. It is hardy to around 20 degrees F and tolerant of seaside conditions. This attractive and durable landscape plant brightens the garden in winter and is attractive to nectar eating birds, including hummingbirds. We find it particularly useful for growing under our native live oaks or used as a low screen or accent plant. Though a hybrid of two Australian species, Correa alba and Correa backhousiana, this plant has its origins in the San Francisco bay area. This plant was the result of the hybridizing work in the 1940’s of legendary bay area plantsman Victor Reiter Jr. (1903-1986). Mr. Reiter, one of the founders of the California Horticultural Society, has many plants named in his honor and the Arbutus ‘Marina’ tree in Victor and Carla Reiter’s Stanyan Ave yard was the specimen that the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation took its cuttings from when they introduced this tree in 1984. The name for the genus honors Jose Francisco Correia de Serra (1750–1823), a Portuguese abbot and naturalist. This is without a doubt the toughest of the Australian Fuchsia that we grow and we have offered this plant continuously since 1986. There is a nice article about this plant by Patrice Hanlon on the Heather Farms website titled A Not-So-fussy Winter Bloomer. We have continuously grown this great Australian Fuchsia since 1986. Our plants from the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Correa ‘Ivory Bells’.

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