How to Grow and Care for Harebells

Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) plant


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The humble, delicate harebell tolerates sandy, poor soil conditions that would cause many other flower varieties to wither. In fact, the harebell is tougher than it looks and often thrives despite inhospitable growing conditions.

This perennial has small, rounded leaves and clusters of slender stems, each holding multiple blue flowers with a distinct downward bell-shape. These one-inch long flowers end in five points or petals. Their rounded, basal leaves wither early in the season, leaving the slender stems with their slimmer foliage and famous bell-shaped flowers.

Though dainty in appearance, these flowers grow in a wide range of less than favorable conditions including rocky mountain slopes, the edges of beaches, and open meadows. Their attractive bell-shaped flowers also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  

Botanical Name Campanula rotundifolia
Common Name Harebells, Bluebells, Witches’ Thimble
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 3 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Well-draining, sandy, poor
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer to fall
Flower Color Blue
Hardiness Zones 3 to 6, USA
Native Area Eurasia and North America
Toxicity Non-toxic

How to Grow Harebells

Caring for these cheery flowers is easy and does not require much work. Only the occasional deadheading may be needed to help encourage more blooming. Because they thrive in poor, well-draining soil conditions, the harebell does not require large amounts of water or fertilizer. Place them in a sunny area, perhaps in a rock garden, and water deeply and infrequently only when needed. 

The harebell spreads through rhizomes under the soil and is also self-seeding. When given an environment to its liking, these plants can spread and create a beautiful display of blue flowers. They are deer-resistant and do not face many common pests or diseases.  

Light

The harebell does best when in full sun to partial shade. When choosing where to plant your harebell, keep in mind its natural habitats and try your best to mimic these. Remember that the harebell thrives in places such as meadows, rocky mountain slopes, open woodlands, or on the edge of beaches.

Soil

Well-draining soil is crucially important for the harebell. Consistently moist soil can lead to root rot. Unlike many colorful perennials, the hardball thrives in dry, poor, sandy soil. They make wonderful additions to rock gardens.  

Water

These wildflowers like deep, infrequent waters that come from natural rainfall. Newly established plants appreciate more frequent watering. Once they are established, however, the harebell prefers dry conditions, meaning you should only need to water them in times of drought. If you must water, be sure not to drown them or shower them too quickly.  

Temperature and Humidity

Though delicate in looks, the harebell is winter hardy and prefers cool or moderate summers. This means that they do well in northern climates. However, extreme heat is harsh on these cold-hardy plants. Harebell plants also don't do well in areas with very hot, humid summers.  

Fertilizer

Because these flowers thrive in sandy, poor soil, they don't need a large amount of fertilizer to grow strong and healthy. However, adding some fertilizer or compost to the soil in the spring will give these little flowers a nutrient boost and encourage growth.  

Propagating Harebells

Propagating harebells is best done basal cuttings, or cuttings made at the base of the shoot.

Wait until the spring when the first shoots of your harebell are coming up. Using a sharp knife, cut a shoot at the point where it emerges from its root system. Sometimes these cuttings will come with roots attached. This is good and will help your cutting to become strong and grow quickly. Trim away the bottom leaves, then plant your cutting in a damp growing medium. Compost is a good choice to give your cuttings the nutrients they will need. Keep moist to help the harebell take root and grow into a healthy harebell plant.

How to Grow Harebells from Seed

There are two ways you grow harebells from seed: outside sowing and inside sowing. 

Outside sowing

In the late fall, select the area where you would like your harebells to grow. Scatter your harebell seeds on top of the soil. Do not cover over the seeds with dirt. These seeds require light to germinate. Then, wait until spring. Your seeds will naturally begin to sprout when it is warm enough to do so. 

Inside sowing 

Before planting your seeds, you will need to put them through cold stratification. This will mimic winter conditions and tell the seed that it is time to start growing. To do this, place your seed in a plastic bag with damp sand. Place them in the refrigerator for four weeks. Once the four weeks have passed, remove the seeds from the plastic bag and scatter them on top of a moist growing medium. Do not cover the seeds. They require light to germinate. Place your seeds in bright light or under grow lights. Once your sprouts are around 2 in. tall and the threat of frost is gone, you can place them in your garden.