The Bellflower is botanically known as Campanula which merely means bell-like in Latin. The flowers are predictably bell shaped, hence the name, but others can be cup shaped, star shaped, round or even flat depending on variety. This is a wide ranging group of plants including annuals, biennials and perennials. Some creep along the ground barely 3 inches high while others may reach 6 feet tall. Colors range only at one end of the rainbow, mostly the blues, purples, violets, lavenders but there have been some white and pink cultivars developed.
The Campanula requires rich but well-draining soil. It prefers cooler climates but can do quite well in warmer places if placed in some shade. It will tolerate full sun only in the coolest areas. Regular feeding and watering will encourage blooming. The tall, upright growers make lovely cut flower arrangements.
The most common garden Campanula is Canterbury Bell, also called Cup and Saucer for the deep cup shape of the flower. This is a very showy plant either biennial or annual which grows 2 ½- 4 feet high. Stems are erect, sturdy, hairy and leafy. Leaves are medium green, lance shaped, 6-10 inches long at the base with those formed along the stems only 3-5 inches with wavy margins. Flowers are 1-2 inches across and can be either single or double form. These plants bloom in the late spring to early summer in all the blue hues mentioned before plus pretty pinks and some clear whites.
Star of Bethlehem or the Italian bellflower is a tender perennial which means it will withstand only moderately cool temperatures. In other, cooler regions it can be grown as an annual if started early indoors during the late winter months. This is a pretty trailing profuse blooming variety with stems 2 feet long and 1 inch, star shaped flowers in pale blue; excellent for hanging baskets but also good in rock gardens, as a ground cover, trailing over garden walls or window boxes. The most popular cultivar is “Alba” with larger white flowers. The “Mayi” cultivar has large lavender blue flowers. These plants are good candidates for bringing indoors and wintering over. It’s easily grown by cuttings and will bloom quicker from them than they would from seeds.
There are many other Campanulas though not so easily found unless you look through a good mail order catalogue specializing in different, unusual and hard to come by seeds. Try Seymore Select Seeds. It’s a great source for the garden connoisseur as I am and hopefully you are too. So, if you have a semi-shady spot in a flower bed full of good, rich soil, you may want to look up the Campanula. It may just ring your bell.