Ladybells to Grace Your Garden

lovely blue flowers

lovely blue flowers


Adenophora is a plant I tried due to the recommendations of the White Flower Farm catalogue. Also commonly called “Ladybells”, an apt appellation due to its graceful lavender blue bells on slender stems, I have enjoyed this long blooming flowering perennial for many years in my garden.

The plant, Adenophora confusa of the family Campanulaceae is originally from Central Europe to Siberia, hardy in USDA zones 3-8. Cold doesn’t faze it, so it is definitely a cold climate choice.
It grows to a height of approximately 36 inches with a spread of 12 inches

[The look]

Beginning about Midsummer, Adenophora blooms with lavender-blue, small, bell-shaped flowers.
They are said to have fragrance, but it must be very light because I hadn’t noticed it. I’ll have to check more closely.The leaves are lance-shaped loosely arrayed along tall, hairy stems.
They spread by underground stems, and some think they are invasive, but that is not at all what I have found in my own garden. These tall bell flowers have stayed put, and been satisfyingly persistent without any real care. Their look is especially natural in a wild partly shaded garden, where they blend beautifully with ferns and Siberian iris. I originally placed them next to my little pond, and then beneath some viburnum shrubs. I like them best under a tree with other garden plants like the Siberian iris.

Some complain that they flop, but mine are supported by weaving among the iris foliage and the asters, so I hadn’t noticed that as a problem.

[The needs]

Grow in full sun or partial shade, with moist, but well-drained soil. Adenophora appreciates organic matter in the soil. Adding compost or manure will give that to them, and you can fertilize with a complete organic fertilizer in spring, if you wish, but I didn’t give them any particular care like that.

Deadhead to prolong bloom time and prevent plant from seeding, especially if you have conditions particularly to its liking. After second flush of flowers in august, you can cut plants down to the basal foliage.

[To propagate]

Sow seeds in late winter indoors, or outside when seed is ripe. Take basal cuttings in late spring; division is not recommended due to deep roots.

In a wild garden setting

In a wild garden setting

[Good companions]

Try Ladybells with Siberian iris, Michaelmas asters, ferns, lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), and Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. Near Hostas, especailly a golden one like ‘August Moon’, with woodland strawberries at its feet, it is quite at home. Perennial geraniums, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’, Astrantia major, and the Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ grass would be lovely together. That would be a partly shaded woodland garden; but for a more cultivated garden bed, daylilies in soft pastels, or strong oranges would look well.

[Fun Facts]

This is a better choice than Campanula for southern gardens.

Deer resistant.

Good cut flower.

This plant would be a good addition to a Cottage Garden, woodland, or a blue color theme garden.