Bell-shaped flowers grace gardens with fairytale charm. They may be tiny blossoms, peeping shyly from beneath protective foliage, or large, bold clusters of blooms cascading from the branches of stately trees. Bells from humble to haughty adorn bulb plants, shrubs and perennials of all types. Gardeners can use these ornamental plants to indulge their whimsical streaks with a spring-to-fall procession of cheery, colorful bells.
Southern catalpa's (Catalpa bignonioides) bell-shaped flowers occur in clusters of 10 to 20 springtime blooms. The fragrant, white bells sport yellow-splotched, purple-striped throats. They give way to elongated brown seedpods. The 25- to 40-foot high and wide tree's branches of heart-shaped, pale green leaves also provide summer shade. The white lantern tree's (Crinodendron patagua) slender branches have oval, leathery green leaves and summer stalks of small, white bell blooms. This Chilean native's waxy, 3/4-inch flowers produce clumps of long-lasting red berries. Partial shade and moist, well-drained soil suits both trees.
Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) pairs early spring, white bell-shaped flowers with three seasons of appealing foliage. Its new leaves emerge bronze in spring before brightening to lime green and maturing into deep green. Its fragrant blooms unfurl from cascading clusters of pale green or reddish green buds.The buds form during the previous summer, and add to pieris' winter interest. This broadleaved evergreen needs good drainage, partial to full shade and moist soil. Yellow bells (Tecoma stans) is a native tropical shrub. In mild winter climates, it produces several yearly flushes of fragrant yellow bell flowers. The mature shrub stands 20 feet high, with drooping branches of tapering green leaves. Tecoma requires a sunny, fertile well-drained spot.
Perennials bring spring-to-fall bells to your garden. Start the year with Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica), a shade-loving 12-to 24-inch perennial with arching stems of blue-green, oval leaves. The pale pink buds along its stem branches open into delicate clusters of tiny, bell-shaped blue flowers. Mass this perennial for eye-catching spring displays. Spotted bellflower (Campanula maculatum) brightens moist, well-drained soils with clumps of 5-inch green leaves and summer-long, white or pink purple-spotted bell flowers. The 2-inch blooms cluster on arching stems. Shrubby yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata) has 3-to 4-foot, upright purple stems of maplelike, green foliage. It helps ring out the garden year with summer and autumn clusters of yellow bells. They crown its upper branches. This perennial flourishes in shade and well-drained, moist soil.
Checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris) colors April gardens with lavender-, white-, brown- and gray-mottled bells. The variegated, 2-to 3-inch blooms open atop 15-inch, nodding stems. Checkered lily's long, grassy leaves die back following the bloom. This is a bulb for partial shade and well-drained, rich soil.
- University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Catalpa Bignonioides
- California State Polytechnic University: Crinodendron Patagua: Lily of the Valley Tree
- Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center for Home Gardening: Tecoma Stans
- Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center for Home Gardening: Mertensia Virginica
- Missouri Botanical Garden Kemper Center for Home Gardening: Campanula Punctata
- Photo Credit fritillaria image by Soja Andrzej from Fotolia.com
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