Creeping bellflower: How to fight the noxious weed spreading in Calgary yards

This pretty plant with nodding, bell-shaped flowers is insidiously taking over Calgary gardens, warns horticulturist John Duncan, who shares some tips on how to fight its spread.

'It took me four years of pulling to finally get it rid of it out of my yard,' says horticulturist

Creeping bellflower is an aggressive plant that can quickly spread through a garden, says John Duncan, a horticulturist with Greengate Garden Centres.

It's a pretty plant with nodding, bell-shaped flowers that is insidiously taking over Calgary gardens.

John Duncan, a horticulturist with Greengate Garden Centre, talked to the Calgary Eyeopener about the creeping bellflower. Here's part of that interview.

Q: Describe what creeping bellflower looks like.

A: It slowly takes over your garden by rhizomes [underground stems] but then it sends up these beautiful, tall, purpley-blue bell flowers mid- to late- season and then spreads seeds, plus the rhizomes, and just keeps going .. that's the creeping part.

Q: Why is it a noxious weed?

A: It's very hard to control because of that spreading habit it has …And it also spreads by people giving it to friends and family and continuing the spread of this beautiful, yet noxious weed.

Q: Do people plant it in their gardens?

A: They sure do because it's this beautiful blue flower and they love it. And suddenly they are going back to you and saying, 'I got this plant and it spreading, how do I get rid of it?' That's usually when I come in.

The creeping bellflower doesn't look like much when it's young, but pulling it out now will make a huge difference in the future. (Stefani Langenegger)

Q: What do you do?

A: It's a lot of pulling, no matter what you do. And anytime you break the root, another plant will start. You just got to keep up on it…. I know when I first bought my house, if I had realized that it was in my yard I probably wouldn't have bought it … It's an aggressive plant. It took me four years of pulling to finally get it rid of it out of my yard.

It's not native to Canada of course — it's from Europe and Asia — and it doesn't have any of its natural predators and things that can control it here. And we put it in beautiful, nice garden soil so it doesn't have to work hard at all.

Q: What if you are one of those people who like to spray stuff?

A: This is one of those plants where I don't have a problem with that … Round Up is probably the best thing that works for that. You are constantly spraying it or painting it on the leaves. Of course you don't want to kill the plants that you want to be in your flower bed.

Q: The City of Calgary deals with weeds like this, don't they?

A:  If someone actually tattles on you, they will give you a certain amount of time and otherwise they will come in and fine — and you'll have to pay for them to remove it from your garden.

Q: How do you dispose of it?

A:  You want to garbage it. You don't want to compost it…It will survive in the compost bin.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener