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Million Bells adds great color splash
If you’ve been reading this column and thinking I have a lot of favorite plants, you’re right. If you ask me for my favorites, my answer will depend on the season; some plants are more suitable than others at certain times of the year.
The new selections coming out each year make it even more difficult to have an absolute favorite flowering garden plant. But if there is one plant I have been the most impressed with over the last couple of years, it has to be Million Bells.
Million Bells is typically considered a flowering annual, but I have seen it overwinter on the coast. I’ve seen plantings that tolerated temperatures down to 23 degrees for a couple of nights and flowered again after the temperature rose.
Known botanically as Calibrachoa, Million Bells has been showing up at local garden centers since mid-March.
Gardeners will appreciate the bright splashes of color that Million Bells adds to the landscape. These plants’ dark green foliage really shows off the flower colors.
The plants will be completely covered by flowers that are up to an inch in diameter. Plants seem to produce a million flowers. To increase the number of flowers, pinch the stems back an inch or two. Trimming stem tips encourages lateral stem growth, which in turn develops more flowers.
The flowers are funnel shaped and very similar to petunias. But while petunias start to fade in the middle of the summer, Million Bells keeps going strong.
There are many different series of Million Bells. Colors include red, orange, yellow, and white. Many flowers have contrasting dark eyes.
A recent introduction is the CanCan series. These Million Bells are spectacular in a hanging basket, container or the landscape. The colors are bold and flashy and include rose star, terra cotta, apricot, mocha and strawberry. The well-branched plants will grow 10 to 15 inches tall and wide and form uniform mounds.
Million Bells should be grown in full sun for best flowering performance. The plants will tolerate the shade, but flower production is greatly reduced. When planting in the landscape, make sure the soil is well drained by amending with well-composted materials. Plant in raised or mounded landscape beds to ensure good drainage.
Keep the moisture consistent in the soil or potting media. To maintain flower production, feed Million Bells in containers or hanging baskets once a week with a water-soluble fertilizer. For landscape plantings, use a couple of tablespoons of a good, garden slow-release 14-14-14 fertilizer and sprinkle it around the base of each plant.
In the landscape, Million Bells likes an acidic pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Always have a soil test performed before trying to adjust the soil to get the correct balance.
Million Bells requires little maintenance beyond feeding and watering. It is not necessary to deadhead, as the plants are self-cleaning. If the plants get a little unruly, simply prune back to keep them neat.