What Is Creeping Bellflower: Tips On Removing Creeping Bellflower In Gardens

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Exactly what is the problem with creeping bellflower in gardens? Known as Campanula rapunculoides in botanical parlance, and unlike its more tame Campanula garden cousin, this lovely little plant with the pretty purple blooms is actually a burly thug that can create absolute havoc for unsuspecting gardeners. If it’s too late and this invader has already taken over your landscape, read on to learn about removing creeping bellflowers.

What is Creeping Bellflower?

Creeping bellflower is a perennial that thrives in moist soil but tolerates nearly any soil and either sun or shade. The plant is easily identified by its heart-shaped leaves and stalks of drooping, bell-shaped blooms of lavender-blue.

It sounds innocent, but an extensive root system turns any attempt at creeping bellflower eradication into a major challenge. If that’s not enough, creeping bellflower also regenerates by seed.

How to Get Rid of Creeping Bellflower

Creeping bellflower eradication without toxic chemicals is always worth a try, and a sturdy shovel is your best weapon. Dig the plant out, but be sure to dig at least 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) deep and several inches around the plant. If you leave any tiny chunks of the tuber-like roots, the plant will regrow.

You may be able to get the upper hand by smothering the plant, which is generally possible only if creeping bellflower is limited to small patches. Cover the patch with several layers of newspaper, then top the paper with a generous layer of soil and mulch. Deprived of light, the plant will eventually die.

Pulling is generally ineffective, although you may prevent reseeding. You may get the shallow, thread-like roots, but the plant will quickly rebound and send out new growth from the deeper roots. Mow or deadhead creeping bellflower consistently to prevent reseeding.

If all else fails, creeping bellflower in gardens may warrant careful application of herbicides. Don’t waste your money on 2,4-D because creeping bellflower tends to be resistant to that chemical. Products containing glyphosate may be effective, especially in lawns, but keep in mind that the chemical kills any broad-leaved plant it touches. If this is a concern, apply glyphosate carefully to the leaves with a brush or sponge.

Otherwise, spray the product directly on the plant. University of Minnesota Extension says that late spring and early fall are the best times to apply glyphosate. Choose a warm, windy day when no rain is expected for at least 24 hours. You may need to reapply every week to 10 days until the roots no longer send up new growth.

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