Bloomin’ Bellflower

It is once again Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time, and I have nothing blooming in the garden.  Well I am sure something is growing under all the snow, but I won’t see it for a couple more weeks.  So I thought I would post about a flower I really love.  OK before we start let me say this is a love-hate kind of post.  I love these flowers, really I do, but …oh well you will see as you read on.  A flower by any other name…ahhh they look so innocent and lovely…beautiful bell shaped flowers perfect for a cottage garden.  And they are innocent as long as you are growing the native variety of campanula. I am not a purest with natives at this point, but I try to make sure I am a good steward of the land.  I am like many everyday gardeners who sometimes didn’t know any better, but as I learn I try to pass on information from which you will have to make your own decisions.

Native or non-native, they are all part of the Bellflower family (Campanulaceae), happy in zones 3-8 and they come from many parts of the world.

First, let’s go through the native varieties which I do not have right now in my garden.  Therefore, many of the photos are from other websites.

photo courtesy of


Campanula rotundifolia or Harebell is a native of the northeast and midwest US.  This delicate plant loves the sun and will grow in dry to moist soil.  It can be found in the wild in rocky soil.  Experts say it is easy to grow, and we gardeners can grow this in our gardens if aggressive plants do not interfere with it.  So I will be scouting this one out, and finding a nice spot in my garden to nurture it.

photo courtesy of


Then there is Campanula americana, American Bellflower or Tall Bellflower. It is also a native that I discovered, and I hope to seed it in the meadow because it is taller growing up to 6 feet.  It also has beautiful blue bell-shaped flowers that spread open when in full bloom.  It is more tolerant of shade but prefers a richer soil.  I know just the spot for it in the meadow near and under the tree.  I am ordering the seed as we speak.

Now the non-natives are not entirely horrible as long as you are aware of the risks going in.  I feel it is always better to have natives if you can first, then owning some non-natives usually isn’t that bad.  Of course this depends on the non-native plant.  And to be a good steward of the land, you really need to make sure you do not plant these non-natives in meadows or in woods or along the edge of woods because then they will invade the native habitat, and could become a problem for native plants.

photo courtesy of

One of the more popular campanulas that are sold in nurseries, big box stores and online is Campanula carpatica. It is used in edgings and is a wonderful little plant if you have it in a container or  a walled-in bed.  But I made the mistake of planting as an edging along my brick walk.  And even though it is growing in hot, dry sun (it prefers some shade and moist conditions), the plant has spread all over the bed out front, into the lawn and into the brick walk.  I am having a fun time pulling it out constantly to keep it at bay.  So live and learn with this little beauty.  I would consider it extremely invasive and one to be careful of.

photo courtesy of

Then there is Campanula rapunculoides or creeping bellflower which can be very aggressive or invasive depending on your definition…try getting rid of it once established…problem is it looks like Ladybells (Adenophora liliifolia) another aggressive plant given the right conditions.  This plant should be avoided in many areas of the US.

While many of these non-native bellflowers can be unruly and aggressive, I will introduce you to a few non-native hybrids I do own that I love.  They enjoy part sun to full sun and are especially happy in normal to moist soil.  Remember these are a ground cover type of plant and will spread nicely in your garden if that is what you want.


Campanula punctata ‘Pantaloons’  and Campanula ‘Pink Octopus’ both grow in zones 5-9, and get about a foot high and 2 feet wide.  The big draw for hummers is the fragrance.  The flowers of both of these are so unusual.  I love how they look in drifts, and they draw me in so much so I have to own them.  I have ‘Pink Octopus’ planted along the patio and it has softened the edges beautifully.  Then I have both planted in certain areas within my backyard fenced gardens.  They are great ground covers for my cottage gardens filling in areas beautifully.

There’s a wonderful meme, Blooming Friday, hosted by Katrina at Roses and Stuff you should check out.  This Friday’s theme is called Feeling Blue.  I’d say these lovely flowers will perk you up with their blue colors.

Special Note:With any of the non-native campanulas, do not discard any parts of these plants into a meadow or wooded area.  They will easily take root and grow aggressively taking over areas where native plants are trying to grow. (I felt this needed repeating)

In the Language of Flowers:Campanula or Bellflower means constancy or gratitude.  These little flowers certainly do stay a long time, and they make sure they move all over your garden if you are not careful so they are assured of the constant status in your garden.

In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will
love only what we understand; and we will understand
only what we have been taught.
–  Baba Dioum



  1. Donna says:

    There is another meme at Roses and Stuff with the theme ‘Feeling Blue’. Your post should list there too. I have native Campanula that was given to me and it is growing in the worse conditions beside the drive. It blooms a very long time and if cut back, blooms again late in summer too. I really love this plant and so do the bees.

    • Donna says:

      thx Donna…would love to see your native ones…I have edited the post and entered it at Katrina’s meme..thx for the heads up…

    • Donna says:

      I am learning so much about the natives now and I just love collecting them as well…there are so many great non-native ones that I love having but I now know how to handle them with care

  2. Garden Sense says:

    I love Campanula and have grown several varieties – I’ve not had a problem with it being invasive. What zone do you garden in? Unfortunately, rabbits seem to love it, too!

    • Donna says:

      I garden in zone 5…mine just love to move ..I have not had rabbits eating any of mine…in my neck of the woods these plants are invasive and we have to be careful…the ones that are ground covers literally can cover entire plots of a garden…

  3. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens says:

    We have the native campanula growing wild at my family’s house in Maine. It is very restrained. For non-natives I love ‘Sarastro’. You did an excellent job of explaining the dangers of planting invasive non-native plants. There are so many wonderful native plants and non-invasive exotics, why do people even need to consider invasive natives?

    • Donna says:

      Thank you Carolyn..I am glad you liked the post and my explanations…it is such a great compliment coming from someone of your expertise…if you ever get any native campanula plants in stock to sell let me know…I would love them…especially thye short variety…and yes why would you need to grow invasives…sometimes it is out of ignorance….I am loving learning more and more each day about natives!!

  4. Christine says:

    I have a white one growing in a pot. Its in a sunny position and flowered beautifully when I first got it a few months back but as we are now heading into Autumn here its no longer flowering … I’ll see what it does next Spring. I hope its as lovely then again.

  5. Valerie says:

    Harebell even though it is a beautiful flower can be aggressive in my garden. I love the blue colour of the campanula blue chip. V

    • Donna says:

      Valerie you are right….many times natives can be aggressive as they colonize as they are meant to do…we of course are not always wanting a colony of a flower to take over our garden…

  6. Jenni says:

    I’m so happy to have come across your blog today while visiting Tootsie! You created a fun and informative post today and I really enjoyed the ‘language of flower’ piece. Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. debsgarden says:

    I have one of the ‘big box’ varieties. It hasn’t been invasive at all, but it is too tall and floppy in my garden. I would love to find the pretty Pantaloons and Pink Octopus!

  8. Karen says:

    So glad I found your post on Fertilizer Friday. I never knew there was so much variation in campanula. Thank you for the information so I don’t stumble headlong into buying plants that will later become thugs. I have no need to battle unwanted plants in this garden of mine!

  9. Stacy says:

    I always think of harebells as a mountain plant – we used to see them when we went picnicking in the Colo. Rockies when I was a kid. Nice to know that they’re so widespread (in a good way)!

    I didn’t know so many campanulas were invasive. :/ I’m not a purist where natives are concerned, either, but I’m leaning more and more that way the more I learn!

    • Donna says:

      Stacy I bet those Harebells were gorgeous…it is hard not lean toward natives as you learn and if you like wildlife at all you can’t help but lean…wait till you see my Wed rant about natives…then let me know what you think

  10. catmint says:

    hi db, i really enjoyed and learned a lot from this post. i have one campanula. a ground cover. it’s not a problem here – i appreciate you reminding us to take care where we dispose of weeds – i wonder when they go to landfill whether they will wait and emerge some time in the future. but what else can you do? cheers, catmint

    • Donna says:

      Catmint, I am so glad you liked it and learned a lot…that is a good question…not sure but I will bet some are taking hold in landfills…as I read and research I will keep this question in mind…

  11. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Your comment about Campanula carpatica made me smile, albeit wryly. I planted a couple in a raised bed about 15 years ago, when I was a very new gardener. By the end of that year I was pulling it out in armfuls and it still kept coming back. It only left when the raised bed did… Excellent reminder not to dump non native plants in the wild. I have a beautiful campanula that we bought for a container, tallish and shade tolerant. I saved seed, and judging by the germination rate it would probably be invasive. I am hoping to spread it around one shady corner – should be OK as it will be surrounded by concrete and even wind-blown the seed wouldn’t make it to the countryside. You have made me want to find out exactly what it is though, before I make a terrible mistake…

    • Donna says:

      I so love discussing this topic and so glad you liked the post and it has made you think…I have a post coming on Wed that is a bit of what they call a rant (albeit professional and I think respectful) about planting invasives and why we must consider what we are doing…some new so-called studies are saying it isn’t so bad to plant these…I think we learn our biggest lessons by our mistakes…

  12. Tootsie says:

    I just put some seeds for bell flower in the greenhouse! I hope they do well…yours are wonderful!
    thanks for linking in. sorry it took so long to get there…I have been runnin!

    • Donna says:

      Agreed, the snow serves a wonderful purpose of insulation for the garden against the cold…just wish it wasn’t snowing for so long

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