With their colorful flowers, bellflowers (Campanula) are invaluable in the summer garden. How planting and care succeed.
- Top articles
- Appearance and growth
- Location and soil
- Care tips
- Hibernation or winter protection
- Important species and varieties
- Diseases and pests
- Frequently asked questions
- Other articles
With their beautiful white flowers or flowers colored in all imaginable shades of blue and purple, bellflowers (Campanula) are invaluable for the summer garden. The genus Campanulaceae belongs to the family of bellflowers and includes over 300 species. Most of them are deciduous perennials, but some are evergreens. Few species are cultivated as annuals or biennials. They occur naturally in the most diverse habitats in the northern hemisphere. Many originate from the Mediterranean, Balkan Peninsula, and Caucasus, but a few also come from East Asia, North America, Iran, and the Himalayas.
As diverse as the location requirements of the various species, so is their occurrence in nature. Because bellflowers grow in meadows and mountain mats or in the high mountains. Also in the garden the correct kind finds itself for nearly each location: from the habitat bed over wood edge, free surface up to rock steppe, stone plants, stone joints and wall crowns – the spectrum is large.
A familiar image from nature: the meadow bellflower (Campanula patula)
Appearance and growth
The various species of bellflower also differ significantly in terms of size and their growth habit. While the smallest species such as the dwarf bellflower (Campanula cochleariifolia) or the Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpatica) grow compactly, form low cushions and can sometimes be only ten centimeters high, large species such as the umbellifer (Campanula lactiflora) reach heights of up to two meters and have an elegant, upright growth.
Bellflowers are easily recognizable by their bell-, tube- or star-shaped flowers, which open between June and September, depending on the type and variety. The bellflowers also owe their name to them, because Campanula means "little bell" in Latin. A large part of all bellflowers blooms purple or blue. The color spectrum ranges from pale sky blue to deep purple. There are also numerous white flowering varieties, for example the dwarf bellflower ‘Bavaria White’ or the tufted bellflower ‘Alba’. But not only the flower color and shape are variable. The arrangement of the individual flowers also varies from species to species. Sometimes they stand in panicles, sometimes in clusters, but often singly. The leaves are undivided, but can be heart-shaped or toothed.
Location and soil
Most bellflowers have one thing in common: they prefer a sunny to semi-shady location, thrive in any nutritious, well-drained soil and are somewhat sensitive to moisture.
The low, cushion-forming species prefer a well-drained soil. To create an optimal location, sand can be added to the soil before planting. Otherwise, bellflowers can be planted from spring to fall.
Bellflowers prefer nutrient-rich, well-drained soil
After flowering or – in the case of species that are to go wild by self-seeding – in spring, bellflowers are cut off about a hand’s width above the ground. Most species and varieties are divided in the spring or fall. This should be done about every 6 to 10 years, when the plants begin to go bald. The two species used as houseplants grow very quickly and therefore require regular water and fertilizer. The soil in the pot should always be moist. Between April and August, fertilize once a week.
Wintering or winter protection
Species that are used as houseplants can go out on the balcony in summer, but should be moved back indoors at the beginning of September. Here they are first cut and then in the winter months only little watered and not fertilized. Temperatures in the winter quarters should preferably not exceed ten degrees Celsius.
The small bellflowers are also popular as houseplants
Bellflowers can be used in many ways in the garden according to their site requirements. The low, cushion- and mat-forming species bring color to stone joints, wall crowns and rockeries. They go well with, for example, low yarrow (Achillea), thyme (Thymus) or baby’s breath (Gypsophila). In sunny, mixed herbaceous borders, taller species such as peach-leaved bellflower or tufted bellflower cut a good figure alongside taller yarrow, evening primrose (Oenothera), summer daisy (Leucanthemum) or candelabra speedwell (Veronicastrum). Because of their romantic flower form, they are also popular companions for roses. For shady beds, daisy (Astilbe), foxglove (Digitalis) or honeysuckle (Aruncus) are suitable partners. For species-rich meadows the meadow bellflower (Campanula patula) is a valuable plant.
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Some species of bellflower are even used as houseplants. Most popular are two species originating from Italy, but they are somewhat sensitive to frost: the fragile bellflower (Campanula fragilis) and the star bellflower (Campanula isophylla). Both form their flowers on longer shoots, which hang beautifully over the edge of the pot. They are already offered from March. In summer, these species can also be planted in balcony boxes, provided they are overwintered indoors. The hardy Dalmatian bellflower is also often offered as an indoor or balcony plant.
Important species and varieties
In the case of the cluster bellflower (Campanula glomerata), the flowers are arranged in clusters along the stem
The large genus of bellflowers – based on their uses in the garden – is often divided into several groups. The first group includes the medium-sized to large species that are suitable for wild shrub plantings and beds, such as the tangle bellflower (Campanula glomerata), the nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium), the wood bellflower (Campanula latifolia var. (Campanula macrantha), the Lady’s bellflower (Campanula medium) or the peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia). Especially of the latter, there are numerous varieties on the market, some of which may have single and some double flowers. Many of the tall species are also well suited as cut flowers. With its 20 to 50 centimeter high stems, the round-leaved bellflower (Campanula rotundifolia) is medium-sized and thrives both in wildflower meadows and in semi-natural rock gardens. The flowers of the field bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) are very popular with wild bees, the leaf rosettes and fleshy roots of the Rapunzel bellflower (Campanula rapunculus) are edible.
The second group includes low-growing species that prefer dry, lean sites and are therefore well suited for rock gardens, dry stone walls and troughs. These include, for example, the dwarf bellflower, the Carpathian bellflower, the Dalmatian bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana), the hanging cushion bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) and the star cushion bellflower (Campanula garganica). For lovers, this genus has numerous other species that do not fit into either of the other two groups, for example the biennial Campanula thyrsoides or the numerous varieties of Campanula punctata hybrids such as ‘Beetroot’ or ‘Sarastro’.