Family

Campanulaceae

What is it?

Summer flowering woodland perennial with tall spike of large blue flowers.

Size

Height: 1.2m. Spread: 0.5m. 

Where to grow

Woodland garden or border in shade or semi-shade.

Distribution Map

Blue dots: native occurrences
Red dots: introductions
© BSBI & BRC, reproduced with permission

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This is a bold perennial for a woodland or lightly shaded border that provides a splash of colour just when most woodland flowers are fading.

As the name suggests, this can be quite an imposing plant when conditions suit. It forms a clump of unbranched stems clothed in broad leaves that are toothed along their edges. The bluish-purple flowers are borne from the upper parts of the stems; they often start out upright, then face outwards and finally hang down before fading. They’re large, tubular and flare at their mouths into five pointed petals. Not all the flowers open at once so the flowering period is extended over several weeks. Plants spread readily to form colonies in woodland and shady borders. A superb white variety, ‘Alba’, looks excellent in shade, while ‘Gloaming’ has dark centres to the flowers and ‘Macrantha’ has large, tubular flowers in dark purple.

In the wild, Giant Bellflower prefers damp woodland, shaded riversides and hedgerows, especially on lime-rich or neutral soils. It’s most frequent in northern England, the midlands and the Welsh borders, and lowland areas of southern and eastern Scotland. It has declined in some parts, especially southern England, through changes in woodland management. It often occurs as a garden escape.

Plants readily available from garden centres and nurseries and can be planted in autumn or spring. Choose a lightly shaded spot with moist soil if you can, although they will grow in dry shade, and also in full sun if the soil is damp. Plants can be raised from seed sown in autumn or clumps can be split in early spring.