Growing Dalmatian Bellflowers

These pretty flowers are easy to grow

Campanula portenschlagiana (image) is one of several plants called bellflowers. It is floriferous.
David Beaulieu

Botanists know Dalmatian bellflowers as Campanula portenschlagiana. The first part of the common name refers to the area of Europe to which the plants are indigenous: Dalmatia is an old name for Croatia. The second part of the name derives from the shape of the flowers of some species of Campanula (for example, C. medium, commonly known as Canterbury bells).

Botanical Classification

Dalmatian bellflowers are perennials. Typically listed as herbaceous plants, they essentially function as evergreens staying green all winter. The old leaves begin to brown in spring, just as the new leaves are coming along to replace them. As soon as this new growth appears, it's best to remove any browning leaves, to keep the plant tidy.

Attributes of Dalmatian Bellflowers

These perennials attain a height of only about 6 inches if allowed to spread out over the ground with a width that can be up to three times that. Leaves are small and toothed.

Flowers are tubular, numerous, and bluish-purple in color. This long-blooming perennial starts blooming in early June, and it continues to produce flowers through September.

Growing Zones and Sun and Soil Preferences

This plant is suited to growing zones 4 through 7 and should be planted in full sun to partial shade. Select a site that drains well. Provide plants with adequate water during dry spells, as this is a perennial that enjoys moderately moist soil.

Other Types of Bellflowers

Don't confuse Dalmatian bellflowers with other plants that have "bell" in their names; for example, Virginia bluebells and Spanish bluebells. Continuing the bell theme, Campanula portenschlagiana is also sometimes called "wall harebell."

A related plant, Campanula rapunculus, features in the fairy tale of Rapunzel, the girl banished to a tower by a witch protecting her rampion plants. According to Botanical.com, "The name Rampion is derived from its Latin specific name, Rapunculus, a diminutive of rapa (a turnip)." The name of the unfortunate child, Rapunzel, derives from the same term.

The root of rampion was cooked and eaten as one would a turnip or radish; the above-ground vegetation was eaten in salads.

Caring for Dalmatian Bellflowers

Propagation and/or rejuvenation is an easy matter of dividing the plants (in fall or in early spring). Among the pests that can damage Dalmatian bellflowers are slugs, so be sure to read my control tips in my review of a book on how to kill slugs. If blooming tapers as the summer progresses, sheer your plants to induce additional flowering.

Uses in Landscaping

With its weak stems and ability to spread via rhizomes, the most natural use of this perennial is as a ground cover, where it can be used in rock gardens, as an edging plant, or atop stone walls. Or install the plants along the rim of a container garden and let them cascade down over the sides.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to treat them as a ground cover and want them to attain a greater height, you will have to provide support (a peony ring would work well here).

Need more ideas? Browse the photos in the following gallery: