Canterbury Bells: How to Grow Canterbury Bells
There has been an increasing desire of millennials to nurture and care for plants. You might have spotted plants in your friend’s room or even on Instagram. As millennials crave for new plants to add to their collection, here is a quick guide to becoming the latest plant mom to Canterbury Bells to give you the satisfaction!
Canterbury Bells are classic bell-shaped flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Canterbury Bells got their name ‘bells’ from their distinct bell-shaped flower, and ‘Canterbury’ from the famous bells of Canterbury Cathedral, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England. In 1597, the plant was introduced to gardeners in Britain.
From the 16th to the 17th centuries, Canterbury Bells were popularly known as Coventry Bells, but it was in the 1800’s when people started calling them Canterbury Bells. Aside from this, the species was also known as Coventry rapes, Cup and saucer, Mercury's violets, Fair-in-sight, Mariettes, Gingerbread bells, Lady's nightcap, and St. Thomas's bell.
In 1851, the species was featured in Joseph Breck’s book, The Flower Garden, illustrating the beauty of the flowers of Canterbury Bells. He described that the plant’s stems bear an abundance of blue, purple, rose, white or red inflated trumpets. To quote, the book termed the flower as ‘Venus’ Looking Glass.’
Commonly known as Canterbury Bells, Campanula medium is an herbaceous tall biennial plant with eye-catching flowers from the Campanulaceae Family. Its name came from the word Campanula, derived from the Latin word Campana that means little bells, which perfectly describes the beautiful racemes of Canterbury Bell flowers in shades of striking blue, pink, purple and white in an interesting cup-and-saucer shape that appears during the summer.
The genus Campanula is one of the most diverse genera that all share the common characteristic from which they derive their Latin name. It includes small, creeping species and towering perennials such as Canterbury Bells. The genus has an astounding 500 species all over Southern Europe, North America, Arctic, and some parts of Western Asia namely Japan and Korea. Indigenous to the Mediterranean climate of southern Europe, Canterbury Bells grow rarely in the hotter regions of the world due to their climatic condition requirements.
Facts About Canterbury Bells
Here is a short background about the classic beauty of Canterbury Bells.
The beautiful flowers of Canterbury Bells originated in southern Europe.
The plant thrives in rocky and bushy slopes of high alpine meadows and lowlands where there is partial shade to full sunlight. It also prefers a location with cool temperature. Canterbury Bells are commonly found under hoop houses in the West. The flowers appear from March through October.
To spot the Canterbury Bells in your local plant shop, here are the best descriptions!
The plant reaches up to 48 inches in height and 42 inches in spread, which can be achieved after a year. There are smaller varieties of Canterbury Bells that grow shorter than 18 inches in height.
The deciduous plant has simple green leaves with leaf arrangement that may be whorled or rosulate. It has a shape that may be elliptical to lanceolate leaves at the base that ranges from 5 to 6 inches long, and long, lanceolate, and sessile smaller upper leaves that are 3 to 4 inches. It has a serrate leaf margin. Plant hair is not present on any variety of Canterbury Bell.
The beautiful racemes of flowers bear striking and pastel colors including blue, pink, purple and white. The long-lasting and showy flowers bloom during the summer, and grow 1 to 3 inches in size. The flower has a bell, and cup-and-saucer shape with 4 to 5 fused petals. It then becomes a capsule fruit after blooming.
Color and Size
The flowers may be in blue, pink, purple or white color. The stem is color brown or copper. It appears in straight, erect form with hairy stem surface that grows 18 to 48 inches in height at maturity, and 12 to 42 inches in width.
Canterbury Bell Varieties
There are several varieties of Canterbury Bell. Here are the most iconic varieties that can satisfy your curiosity!
Campanula Medium 'Alba'
Also known as the white Canterbury Bells, Campanula medium ‘Alba’ has dainty, delicate spikes of large white bells. What sets it apart from other garden plants is its relatively fine texture with less refined foliage.
The variety grows about 30 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 24 inches. As a biennial plant, its life span is 2 years. It dies after flowering on its second year but worry not because the plant also tends to self-seed that makes the plant a permanent in your garden. Also, because of its self-seeding capability, it is recommended for several landscape applications like mass planting, general garden use and container planting.
Campanula Medium 'Bells of Holland'
The ‘Bells of Holland’ grows around 18 inches tall at maturity, making it the less tall variety of Canterbury Bells. It blooms with pastel shades of blue bell-shaped flowers from spring to fall. The trailing variety thrives in rocky slopes, making them great ground covers. Their size also makes them decorative in hanging baskets. This small variety prefers rich, well-drained soil with partial to full sun.
Campanula Medium 'Caerulea'
The variety is also known as willow bell that grows up to 36 inches at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. Its flowers bloom beautifully in large, bell-shaped flowers in shades of white to blue. It can be found mainly in open woods, shrubby slopes and mountain meadows of Europe and Asia. The variety is used best as borders and perfectly fits the cottage gardens.
Campanula Medium 'Calycanthema'
Also commonly known as Cup and Saucer Mix, the variety has enormous calyxes and resembles a saucer and flowers shaped as cup, making the cup look like it is sitting on a saucer. It bears a colorful mix of violet, white, or blue with each large flower surrounded by a calyx of the same color as the petals. It grows up to 36 inches at maturity, making it best used as borders.
Campanula Medium 'Champion Blue (dark flowers)
The Champion Blue variety has a plant height of 24 inches at maturity and 18 inches in spread. It produces slightly smaller, sturdy, dark blue florets and produce more blooms per stem than other varieties. This characteristic creates more color impact that works best in bouquets and garden beds.
Campanula Medium 'Champion Lavender' (light purple flowers)
The Champion Lavender Canterbury Bell grows up to 36 inches upon maturity, with a spread of 12 inches. The variety suits the home garden best, as it works well as a center plant surrounded by smaller plants. Its pastel coloured lavender or light purple flowers also wonderfully work well in romantic field bouquets. Tight cut blooms open and develop well in water too.
Campanula Medium 'Champion Pink' (pink flowers)
Like Champion Blue, Campanula medium Champion Pink produces slightly smaller, sturdy, pink florets and produces more blooms per stem than other varieties. What sets Champion Series apart from other varieties are its short cultivation period of 8 months, wonderful flowers, impressive uniformity, and high productivity. The very floriferous variety grows up to 24 inches at maturity, and 18 inches in spread. It is ideal for bouquets, flower beds and borders.
Campanula Medium 'Chelsea Pink' (pink flowers)
The attractive Campanula medium Chelsea Pink grows up to 48 inches upon maturity with a spread of 42 inches. Its pink flowers that bloom during late spring through mid-summer are perfect for borders, containers, and pots.
Campanula Medium 'Muse Rose'
The Campanula medium Muse Rose may be in beautiful white, violet, lavender, or dark blue flowers. It was launched in Holland in 2004 as part of the Muse series of the species. Its shape resembles the typical Canterbury Bells.
Campanula Medium 'Rosea'
The large-belled pink campanula is Campanula Medium Rosea. It grows up to 36 inches at maturity and 18 inches in spread. It is perfect for borders and garden beds.
Campanula Medium 'Russian Pink'
The Campanula medium Russian pink belongs to the smaller varieties of Campanula that grows 12 inches at maturity. It gives attractive pastel pink cup-shaped blooms that are perfect for beds and borders.
How to Grow Canterbury Bells
Consistency is fundamental to the Canterbury Bell’s seed germination. So, do not miss out on the following!
Canterbury bells cannot grow without soil. Soil provides the basic needs of the plant including support, nutrients, and a network of water and air to the plant's roots. Canterbury Bells grow on moist but well-drained sand, clay, chalk, or loam soil. They grow on soil with any pH level. It is advisable to grow the plants at least 12 inches away from one another to ensure that the plants get complete nutrients from the soil and get enough sunlight. A garden soil would be perfect to grow Canterbury Bell seedlings. It is also important to consider a spot where there is good drainage. For best results, Canterbury Bells can be planted in a greenhouse with good ventilation.
Water helps the plant transport and distribute important nutrients throughout its body. It is always important to water Canterbury Bells about three to four times per week to ensure nutrient absorption and keep the soil consistently moist, especially throughout the summer. Always remember that during germination, never allow the soil to dry as this will inhibit the growth. Provide supplemental watering when needed, and water the seeds slowly and lightly.
Light directly influences plant growth as it is the original source of energy for plant photosynthesis. It affects the manufacture of plant food, plant development and flowering. It is important to consider lighting conditions when picking the right location for Canterbury Bells. The species is a long-day-response-plant and prefers to be exposed to full sunlight, especially for winter flowering.
Growing in a shelter with partial shade produces weak stems. The location of the plant may be either of the following: 6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day; direct sunlight for less than 6 hours; or shade through upper canopy all day. You may place the plant in your plant box, plant container, or even under a tree. If you want to grow them indoors, make sure to place them in pots for easy transport to a spot with full sunlight during daytime.
Temperature & Humidity
Humidity is the amount of water vapour in the air. Temperature and humidity levels promote photosynthesis, high yields, and generative growth. Canterbury Bells thrive in places with cool temperatures and low humidity levels. Specifically, a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit promotes germination of the Canterbury Bell seeds within two to three weeks.
Canterbury Bell plants need to be fertilized since most soil types do not provide the essential and complete nutrients required for optimum growth. By fertilizing, it is ensured that the plants will be healthy. Canterbury bells plant is not a heavy feeder. To fertilize, application of a water-soluble liquid fertilizer containing a well-balanced calcium nitrate-based feed can be done every two weeks during the winter to late spring. It is also important to hose down the soil thoroughly afterward to make sure that the fertilizer gets into the roots, then to the whole plant.
Plant propagation or growing plants from seeds requires skill. Canterbury Bell is one of the plants that does not require too much time, skill, and effort in propagating. Propagating Canterbury Bells is easy, and the best way to grow them is to start them by seed. This can be done by placing the Canterbury Bells seeds into seedling trays or in a nursery area of the garden. The area must be filled with moist loamy soil, especially in the late winter. A spray of water is enough to make the soil moist. The seeds grow best with a consistent temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And it takes 3 to 4 weeks for the seedling to emerge.
Aside from sowing seeds, other propagation methods include basal cuttings and division. Basal cutting means cutting a new growth that shoots up at the mother plant’s edges, then planting the cuttings into moist soil. It is important keep the pruners cleaned in between each cut to avoid the plant cuttings from getting fungal and bacterial disease.
This propagation method should be done in early spring to make sure that the stem has matured already. Another propagation method is division, where the plant is broken up into two parts. Both parts get half of each organ. This is only done to mature Canterbury plants where all organs have fully developed. This method is commonly used by gardeners to multiply the number of plants in their garden. Most perennials are also best divided to keep them healthy.
Pruning prevents plants from pests, damage, and irregular growth. It is a practice of cutting specific portions of a plant that are dead and dying due to lack of sunlight, pests, or diseases. Pruning allows room for new growth and protects the whole plant. Canterbury bells require light pruning during the summer to keep the plant on producing its beautiful flowers.
The process includes removing dead and diseased foliage with pruning shears and disinfecting the tools between cuts with 10 percent bleach solution. The disinfecting bleach solution can be made with one-part bleach to nine parts water. It is also important to constantly remove the flowers as they fade to encourage the plant to continue flowering.
Transplanting is a planting and landscaping technique that provides several benefits. It minimizes weed pressure and allows the plant to harden. There are two ways of transplanting. First is single-stem production, which is easier and faster. It is a recommended way for greenhouse production. The second way is multi-stem production. This is best for outdoors or in a cold frame. For single-stem production, it is recommended to support the plant to avoid damage during windy periods.
When transplanting, timing and location are vital. For Canterbury Bell seedlings, it is important to move the plants during their first year or mid-spring to a sunny area. Suggested locations include flower beds and borders, garden, or a window where the plants can receive light the most.
Transplanting after care is crucial. The seedlings may droop after transplant but that is completely normal. Make sure to help the plants to recover by supplying enough amount of water. Making a weak sugary solution with plain sugar mixed with water helps speed up the recovery process of Canterbury Bell plants from transplanting.
Pests and Disease Problems
Pests and diseases are inevitable, but there are solutions if your Canterbury Bell plants get any of these. Canterbury bells are soft-stemmed flowers, making them vulnerable to the growth of bacteria that can block the stem. There are cases when Canterbury Bells get powdery mildews and rust diseases which can be alleviated by pruning. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can be found on young leaves as raised blister-like spots causing the leaves to curl.
It then develops to having white to gray powdery growth on the upper surface of infected leaves. This disease infects the flower buds with white mildew, preventing it from blooming. Opposite to powdery mildew, rust disease can be seen on mature plants where white, slightly raised spots on the undersides of leaves and on stems can be seen. After a while, these spots become reddish-orange spore masses causing the leaves to deform. To treat these diseases, sulfur or copper-based fungicides can be applied. The fungicide can be applied at around 7 to 10 day intervals.
Occasional visitors may include slugs, nails, vine weevils, spider mites and aphids. To remedy this, it is important to provide support on the plant by staking it.
Uses of Canterbury Bells
Canterbury bells is more than just a beauty in your garden. It has numerous uses from its roots to flowers. Green and pale blue dyes can be obtained from its colorful petals. Its edible parts include young shoots which may be eaten raw or cooked, and root which should be eaten cooked. To date, there is no known medical use of the herb yet but, it is widely used as a flavor in landscaping and known to add class and hue to bouquets. Its individual blooms can be used in corsages and its long stems are perfect for large designs in church or reception. It also has a good vase life of 11 to 15 days that is perfect for side table decoration. In addition, beekeepers may also use the Canterbury Bells for making honey.
Canterbury Bells have earned their own spot in every home in the West. They add a classic touch with their elegant bell-shaped flowers. Although there are some other plants that are also available in the market to take care of, Canterbury Bells are quite unique because they bring class, meaning and color at the same time. They also give you several options from the wide variety of flowers. According to florists, Canterbury Bells are said to mean ‘gratitude’. Anyone can be grateful for having Canterbury Bells as the newest plant into their plant collection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Canterbury Bells edible?
Sure, it is! The edible parts of the Canterbury Bell include young shoots which may be eaten raw or cooked. Its roots can also be steamed and eaten. Up to the present, there are no popular recipes that have been developed for the Canterbury Bells yet, but you can make your own!
Do Canterbury bells come back every year?
No. Canterbury bells are biennial. This means it takes two years to grow from seed and produce flowers only once in their lifetime. The first year is its vegetative state, while the second year is its flowering state, then eventually dies. Hence, they come every other year.
How long do Canterbury bells live?
Canterbury bells have a life span of two years, but most of its varieties self-seed, thus it permanently stays in your garden!