Ladybells, also known as false campanula, are a true star of the cottage-style garden. With their delicate bell-shaped pendulous flowers and pleasing periwinkle blue color, they epitomize the charm and simplicity of this type of garden setting.
These perennials have delicate but showy and lightly fragranced blooms that appear in late spring, offering vertical interest that makes them useful for design purposes. Campanula, i.e. bellflowers, make up a large family and their appearances vary, but there are several that have tall stalks covered in blooms like ladybells (whose scientific name is Adenophora bulleyana), hence the confusion and common name of false campanula.
These flowers are also very similar in appearance to the creeping bellflower or Campanula rapunculoides, which, while very pretty, is also an invasive weed that can be hard to eradicate and seems able to grow almost anywhere. Its flowers are slightly smaller and a slightly darker purple than Adenophora bulleyana.
It's important to point out that the common name of "ladybells" is often used rather freely to refer to many flowers fitting this general appearance, some of which belong to the campanula family. It is also often used to describe another plant in the same genus called Adenophora liliifolia. They have similar growing requirements to bulleyana.
Providing ladybells have the right climate and a rich, moist soil, they tend to be low-maintenance plants that have a long bloom period. As well as in cottage garden settings, they are a great option for prairie, informal and woodland garden settings too. Their height and color make them an interesting choice at the back of borders or for growing up against walls and fencing.
|Scientific Name||Adenophora bulleyana|
|Common Name||Ladybells, Lady bells, false campanula|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||Up to 3 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Partial to full sun|
|Soil Type||Tolerant but prefers well-drained|
|Soil pH||Tolerates all|
|Bloom Time||Early summer|
|Flower Color||Pale violet blue|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA 3 to 7|
|Native Areas||Western China, Eurasia|
Ladybells are not particularly well suited for containers; but when planted in a suitable spot, they reward gardeners with reliable, beautiful blooms every year. Removing spent flowers keeps the plant looking neat, and the stalks may be cut back once the flowering period has ended.
Ladybells do well in partial to full sun. Morning sun is best. If the flowers get a bit droopy in late afternoon sunlight, give them a bit of extra water.
Ladybells are fairly tolerant of soil conditions, but they do need one that is moist and that has good drainage. They benefit from some mulch to help keep moisture levels consistent.
They will tend to flower more eagerly in soils rich in organic material, so if your ladybells aren't flowering as much as you'd like, try adding some compost, and avoid using mulches containing dye or applying herbicides near them.
While ladybells enjoy moist soil, it's important to avoid overwatering them. If there's a period of drought, give them more water, but otherwise, watering infrequently to complement regular rainfall should be fine.
Because these plants are lovers of rich soils, they will also generally appreciate being fed with fertilizer during their growing period, particularly if they are in a soil that is not quite so fertile naturally.
Some varieties of ladybells will spread by reseeding themselves. It's a good idea to remove the flower stalk before the plant goes to seed, if you want to prevent them from spreading throughout your garden.
Taller, well-established plants may also appreciate staking support, especially if they are not being cut right back at the end of their growing season.
These plants are fairly easy to propagate from seed or cuttings. Cold stratification is the best method for preparing seeds for spring planting. Once established, these plants don't particularly like to be moved, so dividing root clumps is not a recommended method of propagation. They spread slowly by runners and will eventually increase in size growing slightly wider at the base each year. They may also spread via seeds.