The bellflower (Campanula) is a genus of around 500 different species of wild and cultivated plants worldwide that is popular in beds and borders, but also in rock gardens, planters and hanging baskets because of its attractive, mostly bell-shaped flowers, its robustness and ease of care will.
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The external appearance of the bellflower
Bellflowers are characterized by their five sepals that have grown together at the base and their five petals that have grown together to form the typical “bells”. Most bluebells bloom for two to three months from June to September. Most species grow as cushion-forming or ground-covering perennials. In addition, there is also – especially among the wild forms – many solitary or loosely growing plants. The color of the flowers often ranges from light to dark blue. Purple flowers are also widespread in different shades. There are also the white, yellow and red flowering species, which are often perceived as particularly attractive. Depending on the variety, the height is 20 to 80 cm. The bellflower is usually persistent, thus can be cultivated over several years. However, there are also some species that are only one or two years old.
Care tips for your bluebells – sowing
Sowing self-grown or purchased seeds is recommended in spring from mid-March or early April. It should be ensured that a sunny location, but not exposed to the blazing sun, is chosen for sowing. The danger of night frosts must also be excluded. Loosened, humus-rich soil is suitable as a substrate. Depending on the species, the seed must either only be slightly covered by the soil or about 3 to 5 cm deep into the ground. A special substrate is not required. Regular watering is essential in the first phase after sowing. The frequency and intensity of the water supply should be adapted to the extent of natural irrigation. Fertilizing the sowing is only advisable when there are already rooted plants.
The planting of completely rooted flowers should also take place in spring, but not before mid to late March. It is advisable to plant on well-drained, humus-rich soil. Here it is advisable to insert the plant with the roots into the soil in such a way that the roots are at least 2 to 3 cm deep in the soil. The soil above the roots should be pressed lightly. In the first time after planting, a regular supply of water must take place. Depending on the progress of growth, fertilization with commercially available liquid fertilizers may be advisable.
Depending on the species, the bellflower can be propagated by seeds or division. Propagation with cuttings is also possible for most species, but it sometimes proves to be not easy. If the seeds are to be used for propagation, the seeds must either be completely covered with soil (dark germs) or only remain lightly pressed on the soil (light germs), depending on the species. In the first phase, the seedlings need rather cool temperatures. It is often a good idea to put the seed pot in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator for a few weeks. Germination usually only starts when the seed in the pot has returned to a warmer environment. Depending on the species, it is advisable to use potting soil or cactus soil. When the seedlings are 3 to 5 cm high, they can do with a sunny spot without too much midday sun. The soil should be kept evenly moist. Avoid soaking the soil.
Repotting the bellflower is possible from spring to autumn without any problems. Depending on whether repotting is also associated with propagation by division (pricking), the plant as a whole or the part separated for propagation can be placed in a new planter. It must always be ensured that the watering and fertilizing behavior does not change abruptly in the new environment and that the temperature conditions also remain the same.
The bellflower usually does not make high demands on its care. It is usually sufficient to remove dried-up shoots and cut back extremely heavily grown areas. In the case of a tall bellflower, it may be necessary to fix or support it with a plant stick.
Particularly in the growing season from spring to autumn, regular watering should be ensured, although it should be moderate. In particular, the root area must not be constantly exposed to excess water because of otherwise developing rot.
Fertilizing is only advisable after the cultivation phase has ended. Depending on the type of bellflower, it is advisable to fertilize the adult plant during the growing season, using commercially available liquid fertilizers. During the flowering period, the use of special blooming fertilizers often creates a fuller bloom appearance and a longer blooming period. Otherwise, a mineral slow-release fertilizer suitable for flowering plants also delivers good results.
The bellflower is suitable – depending on the species – as a garden and border plant. Pay attention to a sunny to partially shaded location. Many species prefer loam-poor, loosened and humus-rich soil. If the bellflower is in a planter or hanging basket, care should be taken to ensure that the substrate is of the appropriate quality. The bellflower is often suitable for use in a rock garden or as an enclosure for garden objects made of artificial or natural stone. Here a type should be chosen that can withstand the heat radiation of the stone in summer. Some types of bluebells, such as the peach-leaved bellflower, also known as the forest bellflower, appreciate a more shady environment. Here it must be avoided
For biological reasons, the bellflower does not need to be cut back. It is enough to regularly remove dead plant parts and get rid of excess growth in cramped locations. Division of the plant is often the best choice here. If a perennial bellflower is to be pruned for optical reasons, this should be done either in early spring or in late autumn.
Bluebells planted in the garden overwinter in their place and – if it is a permanent species – sprout again in the new vegetation period without any external assistance. If the bellflower is in a planter, it can be placed or hung in a building without hesitation. It should be ensured that the wintering room is as dark as possible and not too humid. The room temperature should not exceed 10 degrees C.
Bellflowers are occasionally infected with leaf spot disease or the mosaic virus. Optimizing the watering and fertilizing behavior is often enough to bring about a short-term improvement. The often stubborn mosaic virus occasionally needs to be helped with pesticides on a biological basis. It is not uncommon for an infestation with gray mold, a fungal disease that can be combated with a suitable fungicide. Sometimes, however, it is enough to reduce the water content of the potting soil and lower the humidity in the area.
Some species of bellflower are exposed to mealybugs or mealybugs, which can be recognized by their dense, white web. The red spider can also be easily identified by its web and the light yellow to white spots it causes on the leaves. Thrips (fringed wings) are also sometimes a problem if they attach themselves to mostly young leaves on both sides. Continuous spraying of the plant with water helps against all of these pests. Otherwise a specific control with insecticides on a biological basis is advisable.
The toxicity of the bellflower
There is a lively discussion about the question of whether bluebells are poisonous. Every point of view is represented from “toxic” to “presumably non-toxic”. As long as there is no scientific proof, children, small animals and cats should come into contact with the plant milk as a precaution. the leaves and seeds are avoided.
The types of the bellflower
Of the approximately 500 existing types of bellflower, around 30 are cultivated particularly frequently in Central Europe. The following species, for example, are particularly visually attractive and well suited for cultivation in the garden:
- The Mary Bellflower (Campanula medium) – It grows as a bushy perennial and can reach a height of 60 to 90 cm. Its large, bell-shaped flowers on relatively long stems, which should be supported if necessary, are striking. The flowers are often in pastel shades such as light blue, pink, and light purple. Deep blue and white flowers are also common.
- The cluster bellflower (Campanula glomerata) – It grows in a cushion-like manner close to short stems. In the months of May and June it usually develops dark purple, bell-shaped flowers. The foliage is lanceolate, dull and usually finely haired. She loves a sunny location and loose, humus soil.
- The peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) – It develops numerous bright blue to purple flowers in June and July. Since these are relatively tall, they are particularly suitable as border plants.
- The upholstered bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) – It grows preferentially in shady places as a pillow-like perennial. This makes it particularly suitable as a ground cover in the garden, but also as a border for walls, joints and slabs. In June and July it gets small, densely growing flowers with a color spectrum ranging from light to dark purple.
- The star bellflower (Campanula isophylla) – This is an easy-care flowering plant with thin, drooping shoots. which can be up to 35 cm long. In June and July it forms mostly light blue, star-like flowers in a distinct bell shape on its small, heart-shaped leaves. There is also a white flowering variant (Campanula alba).
In addition to these widespread species, bellflowers exist in numerous other, mostly easy to cultivate and multiply variants with different inflorescences and colors. The following types are particularly interesting:
- Alpine bluebells (light blue flowers);
- Beard bluebells (light blue flowers);
- Bristly bellflowers (light to medium blue flowers;
- Broad-leaved bluebells (intense blue flowers);
- Single-flowered bluebells (medium to dark blue flowers);
- Jerusalem bluebells (medium blue flowers);
- Korean bluebells (white to light blue flowers);
- Nettle-leaved bluebells (light blue flowers);
- Oviedo bluebells (medium blue flowers);
- Rapunzel bluebells (light to medium blue flowers);
- Sarmatian bluebells (light blue flowers);
- Sulfur bluebells (yellow flowers);
- Siberian bluebells (dark blue to purple flowers);
- Dwarf bluebells (medium blue flowers;
The bellflower is an easy-to-cultivate, easy-care perennial plant that grows very well in beds, borders, rock gardens or planters in almost all locations. The attractive flowers in all shades of blue and purple, but also in white, yellow, pink and red make them an eye-catcher in every green area.