Full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Late spring to early fall in colors such as blue, white, red and pink
Mature Height x Spread
6 inches to 6 feet x 6 inches to 3 feet
attracts beneficials, deer resistant
This diverse group of perennial flowers range from creepers to tall garden flowers. The one thing they all have in common is their bell or saucer-shaped flowers. Bellflowers are a classic cottage garden plant filling in among other colorful perennials providing a fairy-like appearance with their nodding blooms. The blooms last for weeks in the garden providing color throughout the middle of the summer. Creeping varieties can be grown in front of flower borders or in rock gardens. Some varieties have more tube-shaped flowers offering another variation. Butterflies and bees love the flowers and the plants. The flower sprays make nice additions to arrangements as a cut flower as well.
Where, When and How to Plant
Bellflowers are hardy throughout our region. The tiny seeds can be sown directly in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed. You can also purchase transplants and plant in spring to early fall on well-drained, fertile soil. Most bellflowers grow best in full sun, but they also will flower in part sun, especially in warmer parts of our region. Plant transplants or thin seedlings to be spaced 1 to 2 feet apart.
Keep young plants well watered. Once established, the plants are drought tolerant. Add a top dressing of compost in spring for fertilizer and mulch with bark mulch to keep the soil cool and moist.
Regional Advice and Care
Bellflowers are low maintenance plants in our region. They will spread and some varieties will need to be divided in spring every 2 to 3 years to keep them blooming strong and prevent their spread. Deadhead spent flowers of tall varieties to extend the bloom time. Cutting back the tall flower stems by 1/3rd after blooming sometimes will stimulate new growth and reblooming later in summer and early fall. Watch for aphids on leaves and slugs or snails eating the foliage. Spray insecticidal soap to control aphids and use iron phosphate bait, beer traps or erect a copper barrier on raised beds to control slugs and snails. Cut back and clean up foliage in fall to prevent disease from overwintering near the plants.
Companion Planting and Design
Bellflowers look great in a cottage garden planted with Siberian iris, columbine, roses, and lady’s mantle. Creeping varieties can grow over rock walls or in rock gardens with iberis and sedums.
The peach-leafed bellflowers come in colors such as white, pink or blue, cup-shaped flowers in 2 to 3 foot tall plants. The chimney bellflowers grow up to 6 feet tall in blue or white colors. They make excellent cut flowers. The Serbian bellflower grows less than 6 inches tall and spreads with unusual, star-shaped flowers. Canterberry bells are an old fashioned selection with white or blue flowers on 3-foot tall flower stalks.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.