February 18, 2016

Bells of Ireland

Always a standout among garden plants, bells of Ireland sports green, bell-shape calyxes on long, stringy stems. The showy calyxes aren’t the outer whorl of this annual’s true flowers, which are tiny, white, and often fragrant. Gro… mostly as a cut flower, bells of Ireland also makes a stunning accent plant in a mixed border or in a container garden.

genus name
  • Moluccella laevis
light
  • Sun
plant type
height
  • 1 to 3 feet
width
  • 12 to 18 inches
flower color
foliage color
season features
propagation

Growing Cut Flowers

Bells of Ireland lasts for a long time after being cut. Its beautiful green calyxes also dry extremely well; if left on the plant, they turn a light beige. If you plan to use bells of Ireland in arrangements, wear gloves to cut the stems to protect yourself from the sharp thorns. For fresh arrangements, cut the stems when half of the calyxes have opened. For dried arrangements, wait until all the calyxes have opened before cutting.

Find tips on creating flower arrangements from your garden here!

How to Grow Bells of Ireland

This annual does best in regions with cool summer climates. For best results, plant it in full sun. You may need to stake it once it's grown to prevent flopping, even in a sunny location. (Or choose a dwarf variety.) This annual needs well-drained soil that remains evenly moist at all times. It can't tolerate  soggy soil or standing water. In poor soil, you may need to feed bells of Ireland regularly to help it develop taller spikes and larger flowers.

Sow seeds directly into the garden a few weeks before your region's last frost date. In climates with mild winters, sow seeds in the fall. In either climate, simply sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil so they get the light they need to germinate. You can also start the seed indoors using a seedling heat mat and grow light, but this plant forms a tap root that you need to avoid disturbing when you move seedlings out into the garden.

Check out our list of the easiest annuals to grow from seed.

If you plan to use bells of Ireland in flower arrangements, sow lots of seeds as this plant will not bloom again once it has been cut. Consider leaving some plants with spent flowers in the garden to facilitate reseeding.

Plant Bells of Ireland With:

If you have a hot, baked spot, lantana is your answer. This hardworking plant not only thrives with little moisture and in full, unyielding sun, it does so with ease. In fact, lantana is a flower that seems to have it all: It produces an abundance of brightly colored flowers all summer and fall, and it's a magnet for butterflies (hummingbirds like it, too). It's easy to grow and a great choice for containers. Plus, if you have a sunny spot indoors, you can grow it as a charming indoor plant. In frost-free climates (Zones 9-11), it's a great perennial groundcover, as well.

Big, beautiful, and old-fashioned, sunflowers fit into every garden. Plant breeders have been hard at work producing a wide variety of plants, from those that grow 12 feet tall to compact selections that stand only 3 feet. The color range is wide, too, with almost every shade of yellow, orange, and red.

Want fast color for just pennies? Plant zinnias! A packet of seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of shapes and colors -- even green! And it will happen in just weeks. There are dwarf types of zinnias, tall types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, multicolor, special seed blends for cutting, special blends for attracting butterflies, and more.Zinnias are so highly attractive to butterflies that you can count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. But to attract the most, plant lots of tall, red or hot pink zinnias in a large patch. 'Big Red' is especially nice for this, and the flowers are outstanding, excellent for cutting. Zinnias grow quickly from seed sown right in the ground and do best in full sun with dry to well-drained soil.


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