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How to Grow: Million Bells
full sun, part sun
Bloom Period and Seasonal Color
Early summer to fall in almost any color of the rainbow such as blue, pink, red, yellow, white, lilac, purple, orange, striped and bi-colors.
Mature Height x Spread
6 to 8 inches x 1 to 2 feet
attracts beneficials, attracts hummingbirds, drought tolerant, deer resistant
Calibrochoa or million bells are a mini version of the traditional petunia that has really caught on as an annual flower in the last 10 years. Like petunias, there is a wide range of flower colors of this cascading plant. The flowers often have contrasting throat colors or stripes making them an attractive choice for containers, hanging baskets, and annual ground covers. The flowers are single or double petaled, smaller than regular petunias and don’t need deadheading. The plants tend to get less spindly and need less cutting back. For me, they seem more manageable than petunias. They will bloom their heads off in full sun and, less so, in part sun. Once established, they are drought tolerant and butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the colorful flowers.
Where, When and How to Plant
Million bells are only available as transplants from local garden centers. Grow million bells in spring after all danger of frost has past in containers or the ground. To make a full container, plant 2 to 3 plants per 12-inch pot. In the ground space them 12 to 18 inches apart to allow for spreading. Grow million bells in full sun on well-drained, compost-amended, fertile soil.
Since these are hybrid plants that are bred to bloom, keep them well fed by fertilizing every 2 weeks with an organic liquid fertilizer, such as fish emulsion. This will help keep them in flower. Keep plants well watered and mulch around plants on the ground to maintain the soil moisture levels and keep weed away.
Regional Advice and Care
Grow million bells as container plants. They need little care other than water and fertilizing. They start blooming early in the season, which is great in our short summer climate. Keep plant foliage misted during dry periods to prevent spider mite infestations. Spray plants with insecticidal soap if you notice leaf stippling and webbing from these mites.
Companion Planting and Design
Plant different varieties of million bells together in the ground or in container, mixing and matching contrasting and complimentary colors. Grow million bells with tall annuals, such as salvia and geraniums, in containers. Since there is such as variety of flower colors, there’s often a variety that blends well with almost any annual and perennial flower.
‘Superbells Series’ features strong tailing plants in a wide variety of colors including striped and bi-colors. One of the most striking is ‘Lemon Slice’ with its combination of white and yellow stripes. ‘Cabaret’ and ‘MiniFamous’ are two series that feature early blooming plants is a wide range of colors. ‘Can-Can Mocha’ in the ‘Cabaret Series’ features creamy flowers with a chocolate-purple throat. The ‘MiniFamous’ series also has double flowered blooms in colors such as blush, blue, pink and yellow.
Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.