The harebell brings lightness and the blue of the summer sky into the garden. The wild shrub proves to be wonderfully easy to care for.
Profile of harebell:
Scientific name: Campanula rotundifolia
Plant family: bellflower family (Campanulaceae)
Other names: American harebell, Scottish bluebell, bluebell of Scotland, lady’s thimble, meadowbell, round-leaved bellflower
Sowing time: March to June
Planting time: spring
Flowering period: June to September
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, lime sensitive, low in nutrients
These information are for temperate climate!
Use as spice herb: salad, decoration
Use in: flower meadows, group planting, planters, overgrowing, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-37 °C / -35 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of harebell
Plant order, origin and occurrence of harebell
The harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) is one of over 500 bellflower species. It grows on poor, lime-poor meadows, along paths and forest edges as well as in light forests. The summer flower from the bellflower family (Campanulaceae) can be found there from Europe to Far Eastern Russia. They are seen blooming less and less frequently, probably because really nutrient-poor locations for wild flowers have become rare.
Characteristics of harebell
As a wild plant, the harebell grows strongly and quickly forms extensive carpets over underground runners. In addition, it pushes its roots up to 120 centimeters (4 ft) deep into the ground, enabling it to draw water from deeper layers of the ground. Its upright, dainty stems grow 20 to 50 centimeters (8 to 20 in)high. They are round and glabrous, covered only at the base with a fine bloom (fluff).
The kidney-shaped to roundish heart-shaped basal leaves wither until the flowering time and are hardly recognizable. Then the hairless, entire-edged leaves catch the eye, which are evenly arranged along the stem. These are narrowly linear at the top and lanceolate further down. With their fresh green they form a pretty background for the flowers.
The strong violet-blue bell-shaped blossoms of the harebell shine out from afar even from the most colorful flower meadow. The special shape of the flower can be found in the botanical name Campanula (Latin for “bell”). While in Campanula rotundifolia the calyxes of the flowers are divided into five broad tips, the calyxes of other bellflower species open wider. The long-stemmed flowers appear from June to September in loose, richly flowered racemes. A yellow stylus protrudes from each flower. It serves as a guide and support for insects, especially for many wild bee species, which eagerly swarm around this bellflower and literally dive into the calyxes. The caterpillars of some butterflies have also specialized in bellflowers and feed on their flowers and leaves.
The harebell forms roundish capsule fruits after flowering. The numerous yellow-brown seeds trickle out through small holes when touched or blown by wind.
Harebell – cultivation and care
The harebell thrives in sunny places and also in the light shade of tall trees.
A permeable, nutrient-poor and lime-poor garden soil invites the harebell to stay permanently. The wild flower soon disappears from very nutrient-rich soils. Heavy, loamy soil also slows down its urge to spread.
Plant 11 to 15 young plants per square meter (10 sq ft) and keep a distance of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in) between them. In smaller (3 to 5 plants) or larger groups (10 to 20 plants) the delicate bellflower looks most beautiful. You can also sow them from March to June. To do so, mix the fine seeds with sand and spread the mixture broadly or in rows; 20 centimeters (8 in) apart. Do not cover the seeds with soil. Press them only slightly and keep the seeds moist.
Care / Watering / Fertilization
The harebell is undemanding and hardy. Because it seeds itself strongly, the stems may be cut off before the seeds ripen. Pruning also promotes new blooming. Many nature gardeners like to let the perennial overgrow without pruning and let it wander through the garden, which it does with enthusiasm, especially on light soils. In spring, all dry stems are cut off close to the ground. The plant then sprouts again from the rhizomes. On dry days it is recommended to water, no fertilization is necessary.
In March, April you can dig out the perennial with a spade and divide its roots. Then you can plant the pieces back into the ground. Stolon (root runners) can also be easily cut off and used elsewhere.
Campanula rotundifolia reproduces via seeds and root runners.
Diseases and pests
The harebell is insensitive to plant diseases and pests.
The harebell is hardy down to -37 °C / -35 °F. There is no need for any type of winter protection.
Use in the garden
The harebell fits wonderfully into every natural garden, in natural rock gardens, on wildflower meadows and extensively planted roofs. It also fits perfectly into perennial beds. It joins the prostrate speedwell (Veronica prostrata), lemon thyme (Thymus pulegioides) and grasses. With meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) or branched St Bernard’s-lily (Anthericum ramosum), with red valerian (Centranthus ruber) or cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma), harmonious combinations are created. Balcony gardeners can place the perennial in flower boxes and pots, where it will stay for several years.
Did you know that you can eat freshly sprouted leaves and also the flowers? The green adds spice to salads, the flowers an appetizing splash of color on the plate.
In addition to the blue-flowered species, there are also white-flowered varieties, for example the variety ‘White Gem’.