Wildflower Wednesday: Harebell

Wildflower Wednesday is a monthly appreciation of wildflowers hosted by Gail of Clay and Limestone on the fourth Wednesday of every month. (Admittedly, as I write this it is actually Tuesday night, but I don’t think I will have time for blogging tomorrow.) This month I want to recognize Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia L.), a bellflower native to North America and an excellent choice for the front of the border in a dry, sunny spot.

Harebell, Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Harebell with Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Campanula means little bell, and all members of the genus have bell-shaped flowers. According to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, the common name is believed to come from an association of this plant with witches, who in certain circles are believed to turn themselves into hares. Look, if you can’t believe Ladybird Johnson, who can you believe? It is definitely not called harebell because hares like to eat it. As far as I have seen, this flower is pretty much left alone by rabbits. (Rabbits are the same as hares, aren’t they?)

Harebell has small but profuse dangling blue flowers from June through September. If blooming stops or the plant gets too untidy, it should be cut back. It may have a second flush of blooms later in fall. Bees like the flowers, and reportedly hummingbirds do as well, though I have never seen this.

Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia
Harebell Closeup

This is a plant that is content in dry, thin soils. It also does fine in more fertile soils with medium moisture. Harebell likes full sun, but tolerates some shade.

As noted earlier, this is a good candidate for the front of the border, growing about one foot tall with a bushy habit. Harebell forms a clump, but does not run and I have not noticed any tendency to self-sow. In the right conditions it is a very easy plant.

Consider Harebell as an alternative to the Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpatica), an excellent plant from Europe but far more common in American gardens.

44 Comments on “Wildflower Wednesday: Harebell”

  1. I’m not sure why I don’t use this Campanula but I do love the combo with the coreopsis, a main stay in my garden and in my designs. I’ll have to add this harebell to my plant list, those dainty purple flowers will work well with many plants.

  2. Interestingly C. Rotundifolia is known around the world as Harebell, yet is known here in the UK as the Scottish Bluebell.
    Our folklore surrounding this plant is of fairies and witches. The witches are said to drink the Milk which then turns them into hares. Another common name over here for it is Milk Herb!
    A northern hemisphere native I had in my old garden but sadly doesn’t do well in the garden is now have.

  3. How interesting that you are writing about Campanula rotundifolia!
    I come from Norway and there this plant is called bluebell (or the Norwegian name for bluebell which is blåklokke), it is native to Norway and it grows everywhere, both wild and in people’s gardens. There are three variety depending on how far north it grows, C. rotundifolia ssp. rotundifolia, C. rotundifolia ssp. groenlandica and C. rotundifolia ssp. Gieseckiana.

    When I moved to Britain I saw mentioned bluebells everywhere, but they looked nothing like I was used to seeing. It took a while to understand that the British bluebell is a completely different plant, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and to add to the confusion there is also the Spanish bluebell here, Hyacinthoides hispanica. As Angie is saying, the Norwegian bluebell is also called the Scottish bluebell in Scotland.
    I’d love to have one in my garden but I don’t think it would like the London climate 🙂

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