There are hundreds of species of blooming plants that use the common name Bellflower. They all belong to the same family, Campanulaceae, but not necessarily the same genus. In fact, there are several genera in that family that are full of plants called Bellflower. One of those, Campanula, includes 473 species of annuals, perennials, and biennials, from dwarfs to 6 feet tall, all using the same common name, Bellflower. Campanula is actually Latin for “little bell”, so you will understand why other names for these flowers are Spreading Bellflower, Tussock Bellflower, Carpatic Bluebell and Carpathian Harebell. Sensing a theme here? All of these “bell” names come from the fact that the flowers are shaped like bells. Some more than others, but all of them are generally bell-shaped.
The Carpathian Bellflower, or Campanula carpatica, is actually growing in my yard, so I’m kind of fond of that particular variety. This plant originated in the Carpathian Mountains in Central and Eastern Europe, and is one of the most popular Bellflowers to grow in gardens. Growing only about 12-18 inches tall, it forms a dense mound up to 36 inches across. It makes a good groundcover, and grows as a perennial in zones 3-9. In the warmer areas, it will be evergreen, while in my area, Michigan, it dies back to the ground in winter.
Carpathian Bellflowers are available with blue, white or violet flowers. The flowers on mine look blue in photos, but violet in reality. They start out as a kind of puffy bud, with deep grooves along the sides. After it opens, the flower vaguely resembles a bell. Later, it opens wider, and looks like a 5 pointed star. The leaves are pointed, with a serrated, or ruffled edge, shaped kind of like a feather. That was the explanation I found for the name Tussock Bellflower. Apparently, Tussock means a tuft of feathers, which must look like a tuft of these leaves.
Carpathian Bellflowers prefer full or part sun. They can be planted in containers, but they don’t like to be crowded too close together. Rich, well drained soil is the best, and regular watering is pretty important, especially if they are in full sun. Make sure not to overwater. Spent flowers should be removed to prolong flowering. Other than that, not much work is required to enjoy beautiful flowers from June until the first frost. One other benefit is that they attract hummingbirds, but not deer.
The Carpathian Bellflower can be divided in spring or fall to create more plants. You can also grow them from seed, planted directly outside. The seeds are very tiny, and should be planted in late spring, or early summer, to bloom next year. Seedheads can be allowed to dry on the plant, so that seeds can be collected. I’m told that this plant should be protected during the winter, but I did not know that, so I’ve never covered mine, and it seems to be doing quite well.
If you’re looking for an easy to grow, low maintenance plant for a sunny spot, Carpathian Bellflower would be a good choice. The flowers are unusual, and add a nice spot of color to a flower bed.