How to Identify and Remove Creeping Bellflower

Creeping bellflower is a perennial weed that can quickly take over gardens and lawns. Identifying and removing this aggressive invader takes some work, but is necessary to reclaim your landscape. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to identify and remove creeping bellflower.

What is Creeping Bellflower?

Creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) is an herbaceous perennial in the Campanula family. It is native to Europe and Western Asia but has become an invasive weed in North America. Other common names for creeping bellflower include rover bellflower, European bellflower, and creeping bluebell.

Some key identification features of creeping bellflower include:

  • Deep violet-blue bell-shaped flowers that bloom in summer. Flowers grow individually on long stalks.
  • Dense patches of dark green, toothed, heart-shaped leaves along creeping rhizomes.
  • An extensive root system with spreading rhizomes that can grow very deep in the soil.
  • Grows 1-4 feet tall on branched, erect stems.
  • Spreads rapidly through rhizomes and self-seeding.

Why is Creeping Bellflower Problematic?

Creeping bellflower is classified as a noxious weed in several U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Here’s why it poses issues:

  • Aggressive spread – The extensive underground rhizomes spread widely and make creeping bellflower very difficult to control. It monopolizes soil nutrients, moisture, and space.
  • Dense growth – Creeping bellflower forms very dense clumps and mats of vegetation that smother out desirable lawn grasses and garden plants.
  • Hard to remove – The deeply penetrating roots and rhizomes make manual removal challenging. Plants will resprout readily after removal attempts.
  • Self-seeds – A single plant can produce 15,000+ seeds that scatter and spread infestations.

How to Identify Creeping Bellflower

Learning how to identify creeping bellflower is important for controlling infestations. Here are the key identification features:

Leaf Shape and Texture

  • Leaves are dark green and heart or spade shaped. They have serrated, toothed edges.
  • Leaves have a coarse texture and are arranged alternately along square stems.


  • Violet-blue bell-shaped flowers with five flared lobes.
  • Flowers are approximately 1 inch long and grow on long stalks individually.
  • Blooms appear in summer.

Root System

  • Thick, white rhizomes spread aggressively underground. Rhizomes can grow 6 feet deep.
  • Fibrous roots also grow from the stems.
  • Difficult to dig or pull up entirely. Any remnants left can resprout.

How Creeping Bellflower Spreads

Creeping bellflower spreads in several ways:


  • The most prolific method is through underground rhizomes which continuously creep outward in all directions.
  • Rhizome fragments break off easily and root to colonize new areas.


  • Each plant produces thousands of tiny seeds that disperse via wind, water, animals, and contaminated soil.
  • Seeds can remain viable in soil for up to 6 years.

Human Activity

  • People unintentionally spread creeping bellflower by moving contaminated soil and plant materials.
  • It has escaped from home gardens into natural areas.

Where Does Creeping Bellflower Grow?

Creeping bellflower can adapt to many environments but prefers:

  • Moist, nutrient-rich soils in full sun to part shade. Grows well along roadsides, ditches, and waterways.
  • Lawns, gardens, parks, old homesteads, neglected areas.
  • Forest edges, meadows, riparian areas, agricultural land.
  • Disturbed sites like tilled fields, construction areas, trail edges.
  • Sandy, clay, gravelly, or rocky soils. Tolerates poor soils.

How to Remove and Control Creeping Bellflower

Getting rid of established creeping bellflower can be very difficult. Here are some management options:

Manual Removal

  • Use a shovel, pickaxe, or digging knife to try removing the entire root system. This is labor intensive.
  • Repeatedly dig or pull plants out by hand to exhaust the root system over time.
  • Remove any plants or roots you miss repeatedly to prevent regrowth.
  • Dispose of plants offsite – do not compost.


  • Cover areas thickly with mulch, tarps, or landscape fabric to block light and smother plants. Leave covered for 1-2 growing seasons.


  • Systemic herbicide applications directly to plants or roots can be effective. Glyphosate or triclopyr are options.
  • Re-treat regrowth. It may take years to fully kill stands.

Competitive Plantings

  • Establish dense plantings of aggressive native groundcovers or grasses to outcompete creeping bellflower.


  • Learn to identify creeping bellflower and avoid introducing it to your property.
  • Clean equipment, footwear, clothing after working in infested areas to prevent spread.
  • Monitor areas at risk and remove new plants immediately. Early detection is key.

FAQs About Creeping Bellflower

What is the best herbicide for creeping bellflower?

Systemic broadleaf herbicides with glyphosate or triclopyr work best. Spot treat infestations and re-treat as needed. Combining mowing/digging with herbicide treatments is most effective.

Does burning kill creeping bellflower?

No, fire does not kill the extensive underground root system. Burning can actually worsen infestations by damaging desirable competing plants. Do not attempt to burn creeping bellflower.

What time of year is best to remove creeping bellflower?

It’s best to dig out plants or treat with herbicide in spring or fall when they are actively growing and vulnerable. Avoid spreading seeds in summer.

Does vinegar kill creeping bellflower?

Regular household vinegar is not strong enough to kill creeping bellflower. High concentrations of stronger horticultural vinegar may damage above-ground growth but not the roots.

Will creeping bellflower come back after removing it?

Yes, it will likely regrow from any remaining roots or rhizomes left in the soil. Persistence is needed to exhaust the root reserves. Monitor for new growth.

How long does it take to get rid of creeping bellflower?

It typically takes at least 1-3 years to fully eradicate an established creeping bellflower infestation, sometimes longer. Be patient and persistent.


Creeping bellflower is a challenging invasive weed to control. Identifying infestations early and preventing spread is critical. Be prepared for a multi-year battle to remove established stands through persistent digging, herbicide treatments, and vigilant monitoring. Consistent effort is needed to stop creeping bellflower from invading landscapes and crowding out desirable plants. With determination and the right approach, it is possible to get rid of this aggressive perennial weed.