Million Bells Calibrachoa-Grow a Million Smiles!
The Million Bells® flower is a registered trademarked series, but as a whole, the calibrachoa is also commonly called million bells and has been likened to a tiny petunia on steroids. In fact, one is often mistaken for the other, but once you grow the prolific calibrachoa, all confusion will end. They literally burst upon the scene, making a huge, colorful and happy splash regardless of where you plant them, as long as they have the benefit of plenty of food and water.
Perfectly at home in containers, along borders or in beds, Million Bells spill out and over to create magnificent displays of blooming color. In warmer climates they have even been known to blossom right through the winter months!
Calibrachoa absolutely thrives in acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6. At this pH level you will see the unqualified best performance in terms of growth, the number of blooms and the rich color of both the blossoms and the foliage. If you are unsure of your soil pH, an inexpensive soil tester can solve that problem and simple soil amendments can either raise or lower the pH of your soil. If your pH needs to be increased, you can try a layer of organic mulch or apply a limestone based soil amendment, such as Espoma’s Organic Traditions Garden Lime. If you need to lower the pH of your soil, you can use sulfur, which takes a little time to convert, or High Yield Aluminum Sulfate, which will result in a pH decrease as soon as it dissolves into the soil.
Million Bells Calibrachoa plants love the heat and perform very well in fully sunny beds, but will tolerate partially shaded areas with at least 4 hours of full sun daily. They also don’t like wet feet, though they need to be kept moist, so they should be planted where soil drains well or in a container that has adequate drainage. You can mulch to retain moisture or utilize a soil conditioner, such as Jungle Flora, which will not only enrich your soil, making it more water-retentive, but will also perform double duty as a source of natural nutrients.
When transplanting your Million Bells flowers, the top of the soil the plant is shipped in should be level with the top of the soil in your bed or container. Dig a hole that is about twice as wide and an inch deeper than the original pot, then put enough loosened soil in the bottom of the hole to bring the pot level with the soil it is being planted into. Then, simply squeeze gently to loosen the soil and roots from the shipping pot, turning it upside down in your palm and allowing the plant to dangle between your fingers. Set the pot aside and gently place the calibrachoa plant, in its original soil, into the hole you’ve prepared. Double-check that the depth is right and then push the soil back into the hole, gently tamping it down as you go. Water really well.
When planting in a bed, you should plant them between 12 and 15-inches apart if a mounding variety and 18 to 20-inches if they are a trailing variety. This will allow for plenty of room for growth while enabling the plants to fill the bed completely. When planting in a container you will want 3 or 4 plants for every 10 to 12-inches of container width. This will result in a well-rounded, full container that will overflow with sumptuous blossoms and foliage. In a bed, some gardeners prefer to use mulch in order to retain moisture, but as the Million Bells series has a well-defined growth habit, they will fill in, creating shade beneath their foliage that retains moisture and will inhibit weed growth. Hanging or tall standing containers will show Million Bells off to perfection. Pinching early on will encourage fuller growth and more blossoms, but deadheading is not needed. Million Bells is self-cleaning and will bloom non-stop from April through October…and sometimes longer!
As is the case with any rapidly growing, prolifically blooming plant, they will look their best when properly fed. Regular feeding with a liquid fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer over longer intervals will ensure healthy blossoms and vibrant color all season. Use Jobe’s Organic Container & Bedding Plants Fertilizer Spikes in your flower bed or baskets!
We hope this has answered all of your questions about how to plant and care for your Million Bells Calibrachoa, but in the event that you have further questions, you are invited to contact our Master Gardener, Karen.