Bluebells, also known simply as bells, are pretty evergreen herbaceous plants, perfect for ornamental purposes both indoors and outdoors, thanks to their many uses. They can, in fact, be cultivated in pot, at home and on the terrace, in baskets hanging or falling down on a wall, but also planted directly in the garden in the open ground, to form colored bushes or luxuriant borders.
Bluebells are native to the temperate zones of Europe and Asia Minor and in Italy they can often be found growing wild both in the mountains and in the lowland meadows.
Bluebells belong to the family Campanulaceae and the genus campanula. The name derives from the Latin “campanula” and means “small bell”, due to the characteristic shape of its flowers.
Bluebells are rustic annual or perennial herbaceous plants, depending on the variety, and may have an erect stem or a drooping, creeping or climbing posture, depending on the use.
They have stems of variable length, which can be of a few cm in the dwarf species up to 60 cm in the upholstered or climbing ones.
The leaves are lanceolate or roundish, with toothed margin of a nice bright green color.
Depending on the variety, they flower from May to September and have typical bell-shaped flowers, facing downwards, usually in shades of blue or lilac, but there are also some yellow, red or pink cultivars.
There are about 300 varieties of bluebells.
Generally speaking, bluebells are divided into two categories, mixed border bluebells, with a height of more than 30 cm and dwarf or low bluebells.
The most common and cultivated varieties are:
- campanula portensghiana, an evergreen variety that develops dense, not very tall tufts with dark green leaves and small purple-blue flowers, which bloom throughout the spring and part of the summer. It is much used in the borders but also as a single plant, and needs a lot of space, because it develops very quickly and clings to the trunks of other plants or to supports.
- campanula persicifolia, the tallest variety, which can reach the height of 1 m, with hanging and cup-shaped flowers, long even 5 cm, of blue, blue or white color.
- campanula grandiflora, annual or perennial plant, up to 60 cm tall, with alternate, oval or lanceolate, intense green leaves. It blooms from June to October with star-shaped flowers much bigger than those of the normal bluebells, seen that they reach the 4-5 cm of diameter, of blue, lilac, white or pink color.
- Campanula carpatica, reaches a maximum height of 60 cm and blooms in summer, showing bright green leaves and blue, lilac, purple or white flowers.
- campanula garganica, it does not exceed 15 cm in height and has a covering posture and abundant flowering in summer and purple and blue flowers, with small petals.
- campanula medium, also known as Tuscan campanula, is a spontaneous species with very large flowers, in shades of blue. Numerous hybrids have been created from it, whose colors vary between white and pink.
- campanula isophylla, also a spontaneous species typical of northern Italy, very small, does not reach 20 cm, has rounded leaves and flowers in late spring and throughout the summer, with delicate lilac and blue flowers. Several hybrids have been made from this species, such as Alba and Kristal, characterized by large white flowers, or the ‘Mayi’ variety with mauve flowers and slightly hairy grey-green leaves.
- Campanula pyramidalis, with a maximum height of 30 cm and characteristic blue flowers gathered like panicles.
Bluebells: Care and Cultivation
Almost all varieties of bluebells are easy to grow, have no particular needs and grow effectively both in pots and in the garden, in the middle of the ground.
Bluebells love sunlight, but not direct sunlight and prefer a semi-shaded position.
They want a temperature between 13° and 17° C, they do not fear the cold and resist up to 7 °C.
Bluebells don’t have any particular soil requirements, as long as it is rich in calcium and not acid. It’s fine to add a good draining layer of gravel or pumice stone to the universal soil to favor water drainage and avoid radical rotting.
Watering must be constant, leaving the mould always humid, but avoiding water stagnations in the saucer. The general line, the bluebells are to be watered every 10 days, depending on the climate and in winter the irrigations are to be reduced.
The apical shoots must be pruned regularly to give the plant a compact and harmonious appearance and encourage the growth of new shoots.
Dry and damaged parts must also be cut off and all these operations must be carried out with sharp, clean tools to prevent damage to the plant or the onset of disease.
To ensure a clean cut of dry and damaged parts, or even to prune apical shoots, always try to use suitable gardening tools such as garden shears or scissors.
Bluebells: Diseases and Pests
Bluebells are very hardy plants and are unlikely to be attacked by pests.
The problems that could occur would depend more on bad care and could be:
- The leaves wither. It means that watering is too little and you have to remove the damaged parts and provide water more regularly.
- The plant does not flower. There is probably root rot and you have to repot the plant by removing the rotting roots.
- The leaves turn yellow. The plant has been attacked by the red spider and you need to increase the humidity with water mist to prevent the parasite from reproducing and then administer a specific insecticide.
The name of the bellflower comes from the shape of its flowers, which are waving with the wind.
Precisely because of this characteristic, the flower is also nicknamed “bell of the dead” and legend has it that whoever hears the ringing of a bell, is destined to die within a short time.
But the bell also has positive meanings and symbolizes perseverance and hope, thanks to its ability to grow in inaccessible places.