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Seek and destroy: Beware the creeping bellflower, the attractive and invasive garden guest you can’t get rid of

CALGARY —
The creeping bellflower plant can take over yards and suck the life out of more desirable plants in a short period of time because it is extremely invasive. It’s now blooming and about to seed. Horticulturalist John Ostrowdun says now is a good time to get the word out to all Calgarians – gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

Ostrowdun says the plant’s pretty appearance may trick some into believe it is harmless, “People give it to their friends, because it’s a beautiful perennial, which is why it spreads as fast as it does. And once you get it, it’s quite hard to get rid of.”

According to Ostrowdun once you have creeping bellflower in your garden, getting rid of it may not be easy, “It’s a lot of manual labor, a lot of chemical treatment, and then just keeping up on it,” he said. “I know in my own yard, when I first bought my house it took me a good five years of hard work to get it, where it’s now manageable. It still pops up once in a while, I still periodically find it in my yard and I just remove it right away when I see it.”

Creeping Bellflower or campanula rapunculoides is a low-growing clumped foliage in spring and grows to one metre tall flowering spike in early summer.  The plant’s leaves are heart-shaped in early stage and become more lance-shaped, tooth-edged and coarse textured as they mature. 

The flowers are purple-blue, two-to-three centimetres long nodding bells and blooms begin on the plants lower stem.

According to the city of Calgary pest management website,” Once established, creeping bellflower is very difficult to remove as even the smallest tiny root fragments can grow entirely new plants. It also spreads very easily as each stem produces up to 15,000 seeds. Creeping bellflower is also resistant to some herbicides.

Creeping bellflower is also known as garden bluebell, rover bellflower, purple bell, garden harebell, creeping campanula, creeping bluebell.”

Ostrowdun said if you enjoy the look of this plant but not the way it’s been taking over your yard, you do have some alternatives to consider, “(There are) some campanula that aren’t as aggressive but look like this, things like delphiniums work really well, penstemons work really well, if you like that same look.”  So there are quite a few options you can use in the garden to replace that plant that you may enjoy.


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