Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on February 7, 2000. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
New Million Bells Promises Rewards
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Every once in awhile a plant comes along in which I wish I could buy stock. It would be investing in a plant like you do the Blue Chip stocks. A new plant this spring that is almost guaranteed to make big bucks is called Million Bells Terra Cotta.
Before I tell you more about Terra Cotta, I want you to think back about yellow petunias from the past. Your first thought may be "ooh yuck!" All of the yellow petunias from the past have been pastels, giving a bleached look at best; there have been no saturated colors.
Million Bells is not a petunia, it is a calibrachoa. It is related to the petunia and the flowers resemble petunias. In the market we have three series of calibrachoas; Million Bells which comes in an upright and trailing version, Liricashowers which are trailing and Colorburst that are upright.
There are hot colors in each series, but for now only Million Bells has the Terra Cotta. Terra Cotta brings a rich, golden-yellow color to the world of petunia-like flowers. If the deep golden yellow isn't enough, the flowers also have brush strokes of a rusty red in the throat. My guess is this plant will literally leap off the shelf and will be in short supply this year.
Plant Terra Cotta or any other calibrachoa in well-prepared beds mixed with 3 to 4 inches of a good organic compost or landscape planting mix. Add a slow-release fertilizer during preparation. Apply pine bark mulch to retard weed growth, keep soil cool and prevent moisture loss through evaporation.
These are very sun-loving plants and their growth habit makes them suitable for the landscape or containers. Whether you buy Million Bells, Liricashowers or Colorburst, the number of flowers produced give an incredible look in a container, basket or window box.
The Terra Cotta also works well in mixed planters and baskets, which are becoming the rage everywhere. Place yours boldly with purple lantanas, or Homestead Purple or Biloxi Blue verbena. They would also combine with the rusty orange colors found in Dreamland zinnias or some of the sun coleus. You can create a combination that will warrant taking a picture.
Last year I placed 10-inch baskets of Million Bells Trailing Blue and Cherry Pink in some ornate pottery and they looked exceptional for over three months.
One thing I have learned about growing these plants in containers is that we really need to keep them watered and fed during this time of unbelievable flower production. I would recommend feeding with something like a water-soluble 20-20-20 with minor nutrients every other week during the growing season.
The trailing types respond well to cutting back, which generates more growth and blooms. They also have exhibited some good tolerance to cold temperatures.
Whether you are lucky enough to get Terra Cotta or perhaps buy one of the others, I believe you will enjoy the colors available. Most are offered with the two-toned throats. Million Bells will be available in cherry pink, terra cotta, trailing blue, trailing pink, trailing white and trailing yellow.
Liricashowers will be available in blush white, pink, rose and blue. Colorburst will be available in violet, rose, red and cherry. We may find it difficult to buy stock in these plants, but fortunately for us gardeners, we can invest in months of color for our homes by choosing some of these this spring when they become available.