How to Grow the Delicate Harebell

Photo Credit: Steve Redman (MORA), Public domain.

Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, is delicate, attractive, and graceful. Each plant produces an abundance of purple bell-shaped flowers. Harebell is a tiny wildflower that only reaches a height of about one foot, and it is native to many of the dry grasslands and partially shaded forests of North America. Its bell-shaped, deep bluish-purple flowers bloom from June through September and are grouped at the tips of numerous stalks. The flowers have little aroma, yet butterflies frequently come to them. Campanula rotundifolia is a wonderful addition to the rock garden because it does well in arid, poor soil.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Campanula rotundifolia

Botanical Family: Campanulaceae

Also Called: Bluebell, bellflower, lady’s thimble and dead men’s bells

En français: Campanule à feuilles rondes

Colour:

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Dry to moderate

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

They are pollinated by hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The leaves are eaten by some people raw in salads or in smoothies.

It goes by a variety of different names including bluebell, bellflower, lady’s thimble and dead men’s bells. It was used in the manufacture of blue dye for tartans.

Appearance

Early summer brings harebell blooms, which frequently return in the fall. Bell-shaped blue-violet flowers droop on thin, wispy stalks that can reach a height of 12 inches. Harebell is a small hardy plant, even if it appears frail. It thrives in dry, sandy, and gravelly soils and is extremely drought tolerant, making it an excellent choice for rock, dry gardens, and partially shaded slopes.

A “circumpolar” natural species called harebell can be seen flourishing all around the Northern Hemisphere. According to legend, witches utilized the herb to change themselves into hares, hence the name. Other common names include Witches Thimble and Bluebell Bellflower.

Where to Plant Harebell

As always, where the plant grows in nature is a clue for where to plant and use the plant in our gardens. In nature, find harebells in fields, rocky outcrops and sunny borders.

Harebell is a great candidate to be planted in moist shaded areas of rock gardens, and among cottage and wildlife gardens. It is also effective in lightly shaded woodland areas where plants can be left alone to naturalize. It is best to mass them in large groups. They thrive in dry grassy areas, on edges of forests, and rocky, sandy soils along shorelines.

Plant Harebells with spiderwort, roses, and grasses, among others.

This beautiful flower is a perennial that flowers from summer to fall. Some say it spreads quickly, but compared to some other quickly spreading garden plants, it seems rather tame.

Harebell with its purple flowers
Gorgeous Harebell with its purple flowers

Propagating Campanula rotundifolia

Harebells self-sow easily and quickly. Brown seeds will emerge a few days after the seed pods turn green and full. Harvest the seeds just before they explode out of the pods and store them in a paper bag to ripen.

To plant by seed, simply scatter the seeds on top of the soil and cover with a thin layer of soil. When the weather warms up enough in the spring, your seeds will sprout.

You can also divide the plant into two using the stems. To do this, remove the leaves at the lower part of the stem and place them in the soil. Cover it with a healthy layer of earth (about 1.5-2″), and keep the top of the plant vertical. New roots will emerge from the stem at which point you can remove them from the original plant.

Caring for Harebell

These bright blooms are simple to care for and don’t take much effort. Harebells prefer cool summer climates and require consistent and even moisture. Deadheading is only seldom required to promote additional blooming. The harebell doesn’t need a lot of water or fertilizer because they do well in poor, well-draining soil conditions. Put them in a sunny spot, possibly in a rock garden, and give them deep, infrequent waterings.

Water

The bellflower has to be watered frequently, just like any other plant. More watering should be given to high bell blooms. The bellflower needs enough water, especially during the main growth and flowering periods; the soil should be kept moist.

Soil

Soil that drains well is essential for harebell growth. Root rot can result from consistently damp soil. Like many other colorful perennials, the harebell grows well in dry, sandy, poor soil. They enhance rock gardens beautifully.

Light

Planting the harebell in full sun to partial shade is best for it. Consider a harebell’s natural habitat when deciding where to place it, and make an effort to replicate that environment. It’s important to keep in mind that the harebell grows well in areas like meadows, rocky mountain slopes, open forests, and the edges of beaches.

Fertilizer

The bell flower’s structure and the flowering process can be strengthened by including regular fertilizer. The plants receive fertilization either every two weeks or once a month, depending on their size and rate of growth.

Temperature and Humidity

Despite its delicate appearance, the harebell is winter-hardy and enjoys chilly to moderate summers. Thus it thrives in northern regions. These cold-hardy plants don’t do well in regions with extremely hot, muggy summers since extreme heat are tough on them.

Pruning Campanule à feuilles rondes

Removing seed pods before they mature will undoubtedly aid in controlling their propagation. Simply pinch off the wilted and dead flowers to extend the flowering period. While pruning, remove any shoots that appear weak or are growing in the wrong direction. This encourages the plant’s energy to be directed toward the other shoots.

The best time to prune for shape and growth is at the end of spring, and definitely before the start of fall. Remove any shoots that appear frail or are growing in the wrong direction when trimming. This will encourage the plant to direct its energy toward new shoots rather than the original ones. Some people choose to remove wilted flowers during the blooming season in order to extend the flowering period. Furthermore, deadheading the blossoms will prevent this plant from self-seeding.

Flowers

When the lovely blue flowers are in bloom, they put on a spectacular display from June to September. The flowers are bell-shaped, as the name implies, and can grow to be about half an inch long. Blooms at the stalk’s apex can be seen singly or in small groups. These are very appealing to pollinators.

Uses and Companions

Harebells blend in with any natural garden, natural rock garden, wildflower meadow, or densely planted roof. It also works well in perennial flower beds. It’s a good match for grasses, lemon thyme, and prostrate speedwell. Harebell pairs well with meadow sage, branched St. Bernard’s lily, crimson valerian, and cushion spurge. The perennial can be planted in flower boxes and pots on balconies and will last for several years.

Problems

Your plant may have crown rot if the bottom leaves start to rot or turn yellow. Crown rot can be brought on by overwatering. If at all possible, improve the airflow around your plant, and before watering it, make sure the soil is not already saturated. The plant will recover its health, but it will take some time if it is discovered in time.

Other

There are no known harebell diseases or pests.

Medicinal Uses

It is said that the Cree used a compress made from the roots to speed healing and reduce swelling or bleeding from cuts or abrasions. It is also said that to some tribes, it was known as “blue rain flower” and it was believed that it would rain if picked.

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