#YouShouldNOTGrowThis: The creeping bellflower

CBC gardening columnist Lyndon Penner explains why you should kill, kill, kill creeping bellflower. The only way to remove this pretty weed is with dynamite, says Lyndon Penner

Lyndon Penner shares his disdain for this invasive garden weed

Let's talk creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides).

You've seen this plant. It grows 1-3 ft. tall and produces pretty, light purple flowers on tall spikes over a long period in summer. It is native to Siberia and was brought over to North America as a garden plant by some of the first European settlers. They thought it had so many attributes. It was hardy, disease resistant, and adaptable — but that was the problem. It was too well suited to life here.

I have abandoned all fantasies of killing it and now work merely on controlling it.- Lyndon Penner

Firstly, it can grow in sun or shade. It can handle rich or poor soil and can handle both drought and poor drainage. It has no pest or disease issues. Even deer won't eat it. It produces long, narrow tubers very deep under the ground that can stay dormant for long periods, just waiting for the right time to spring up again. It produces wire-thin, creeping rhizomes that infiltrate the surrounding area at an alarming rate. The plant can also produce up to 15 000 seeds in a summer, all of which grow and are easily distributed by the wind.

Creeping bellflower is "more permanent than a tattoo" according to Lyndon Penner

It is the worst weed ever. Creeping bellflower happily romps through the lawn, finds its way under sidewalks and grows in every back alley in every neighbourhood on the Canadian prairies. Any yard that is abandoned or neglected quickly becomes host to great multitudes of this plants.

How to get rid of it

Herbicides have very little effect on the creeping bellflower. The Calgary Zoo has been trying to kill it for over 20 years if that gives you some indication of its tenaciousness. I have abandoned all fantasies of killing it and now work merely on controlling it.

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)

The only way to control it is with constant removal of the shoots and growth as they appear, and judiciously cutting the flowers and seed heads off of any plants that dare grow in your neighbourhood or alley. I have wandered right into people's yards to cut the flowers off. Once an old lady came out of the house to yell at me because I was "wrecking her flowers" and I said if she wanted to put them in a bouquet in her kitchen she could, but otherwise it was coming out. She threatened to phone the police. I kid you not. She was four doors down from me and I was not having this nuisance plant propagating itself hither and yon on my watch!

Anyway, that's a tale for another time but suffice to say, creeping bellflower, you should not grow this.

What is your most hated weed? Want to share your pictures? Show us on Twitter @CBCSask or Facebook and use the hashtags #YouShouldGrowThis and #YouShouldDoThis.


Lyndon Penner


Lyndon is a gardening expert and columnist with CBC. Follow him on Twitter at @CBCgardener.


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