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Flowering Million Bells Are Low Maintenance Petunia Look-alikes

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Flowering Million Bells Are Low Maintenance Petunia Look-alikes

Million Bells Flowers Don't Require Deadheading.

Photo © flickr user Care_SMC

Would you like an annual flower that blooms nonstop without the need for deadheading? How about one that spills gracefully over the sides of your containers and hanging baskets, but has a dense trailing habit rather than a spindly one? Million bells plants fit this description, and they attract hummingbirds and butterflies to boot.

Your grandmother probably didn’t grow million bells, but not because they didn’t exist. Petunias and million bells were exported from South America to Europe in the 1800’s. Petunias ruled until 1997, when Proven Winners licensed the up-and-coming million bells from its breeder, Sunstory Ltd.

Latin Name:

Genus Calibrachoa, Family Solanaceae

Common Names:

Million Bells, Trailing Petunia

Zone:

Million bells plants are tender perennials hardy in zones 9-11, but most gardeners treat them as annuals.

Size:

3-12 inches tall, spread up to 2 feet

Exposure:

Million bells flower best in full sun. Bright dappled shade or afternoon shade are second choice placements in the garden, but may turn your “million bells” into “thousand bells.”

Bloom Period:

Spring through frost

Description:

Million bells flowers are approximately one inch across, and many sport veining or colorful throats that contrast with the primary petal color. Million bells foliage is bright green, oval-shaped, and compact.

Planting:

Million bells are hybrid plants that are vegetatively propagated, so you must grow these from plants rather than seed. To get the most from your million bells:
  • Plant in garden soil amended with humus or compost
  • Space plants to allow for spread; about 18 inches apart
  • Cover soil with organic mulch to retain moisture

Maintenance:

Unlike petunias, million bells don’t suffer from the dreaded tobacco budworm. Plants under proper culture rarely suffer from problems, as long as you:
  • Keep plants evenly moist; soil surface should not dry out
  • Fertilize every two weeks throughout the growing season with a liquid flower fertilizer
  • Keep plants from becoming heat stressed, which tempts spider mites. Practice cultural control by misting plants with water daily.

Design Tips:

Their trailing habit, low maintenance, and prolific blooms make million bells excellent candidates for containers and hanging baskets. Million bells are also somewhat drought tolerant, so you can include them in the rock garden. If you use million bells as a ground cover, keep in mind that they seldom spread more than two feet, so plant enough to ensure adequate coverage.

Varieties:

  • Crackling Fire: Dark neon orange flowers marbled with yellow
  • Tangerine: Cheerful clear orange flowers with red veining
  • Terra Cotta: Yellow flecked with red
  • Trailing Sky Blue: Bright lavender-blue flowers with green throats
  • Cherry Pink: Hot pink flowers with yellow throats are a hummingbird beacon

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