You’ve seen the Calibrachoa plant, a tender perennial commonly known as “Million Bells.”
You’ve enjoyed this plant in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, filling garden beds, containers, and hanging baskets with bright, vibrant trailing flowers, screaming… Look, Look, Look!
They are perennial, evergreen, and short-lived, miniature-looking trailing petunia plants. They only grow about 2″-9″ inches tall, and they develop beautiful, colorful blooms until frost.
Calibrachoa Quick Care Tips
- Botanical Tips: Botanical Name: Calibrachoa
- Common Name(s): Million Bells, Mini Petunia
- Synonyms: N/A
- Pronunciation: ca-libra-KO-a
- Family & Origin: Solanaceae family, native to South America, specifically Chile, Peru, and Southern Brazil
- Growability: Easy to grow
- Grow Zone: USDA zones 9-11
- Size: 6-15 inches tall and wide
- Flowering: Blooms from spring until the first light frost
- Light: Full sun to partial shade with a minimum of 6 hours daily
- Humidity: High humidity
- Temperature: Thrives in warm temperatures and can tolerate some cold
- Soil: Well-draining soil
- Water: Keep soil moist but not waterlogged; allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry
- Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 weeks or solid granular slow-release plant fertilizer once a month
- Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and fungal diseases like black root rot, Pythium, phytophthora
- Propagation: Can be propagated by stem cuttings
- Plant Uses: Great for hanging baskets, window boxes, containers, garden beds, and as colorful ornaments, ground cover, or bedding plants
Where Did The Calibrachoa Come From?
Calibrachoa million bells are native to South America, specifically Chile, Peru, and southern Brazil. The plant is named after Antonio de la Cal y Bracho, a 19th-century pharmacologist.
Since that time, Calibrachoa plants gained the name “Million Bells” due to their production of hundreds of bell-like small petunia-like blooms.
They come in various flower colors like violet, blue, pink, yellow, magenta, white, etc.
Calibrachoa million bells are a must for your summer gardens!
Million Bells grows in full sun as a tender perennial in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. In colder zones, the plant grows as an annual.
The leaves are thick, fleshy, and somewhat sticky structured. Moreover, the Calibrachoa flowers generally crawl over their stems, which are 6″-15″ inches long.
The stems resemble trailing petunia plants with five-eared lobes and yellow throats.
The million-bell miniature petunia-like flowers grow about an inch in length and produce no fruits or seeds. Flowers simply fall off after their blooming period.
Using Calibrachoa In The Garden And Landscape
The calibrachoa plant forms excellent colorful ornaments for gardens. They also make wonderful bedding plants and gorgeous hanging baskets.
These prolific bloomers look like miniature petunias on steroids. This makes them real show-stoppers with their abundance of bell-like flowers and semi-trailing habits.
They are popular in garden design for use as blooming containers or colorful hanging baskets and window boxes.
Calibrachoa blooms also attract beneficial insects and pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, to your garden.
They are pretty heat and drought-tolerant. For best blooms, do not allow Calibrachoa to dry out.
They make great flowering plant additions used alone or as part of hanging baskets or planter window boxes as their long stems spill and cascade over the pots or containers.
Moreover, calibrachoas make excellent companions for taller plants, such as large petunias, geraniums, purple fountain grass, salvias, and Persian Shield.
Moreover, unlike petunia flowers, they do not produce seeds and stop blooming.
Instead, they keep on blooming until the environment freezes. You can pinch them off if you are fond of bushy shrubs.
Bloom time for Million Bells flowers runs from spring all the way through fall. They need a sunny spot and can be used in combination with other plants.
If you have never tried them, put them on your “Must Plant” list this year.
Purchase Calibrachoa plants at your local garden center in spring and begin planting them out after the last frost.
Calibrachoa Care Requirements
Million bells Calibrachoa care is minimal. Fairly moist soil and dry temperatures with regular fertilizing are primary care needs for Calibrachoa.
Full Sun Plants – Million Bells are considered to be full sun plants. They can do best when placed in direct full sun for at least 6 hours daily.
If Calibrachoa million bells do not get enough light or are planted in partial shade, they may look tired, the bloom will decrease, and the plants will begin to stretch.
This indicates that the plant needs to be moved to a location where it gets at least 4-6 hours of direct and filtered sun daily.
Its critical photoperiod requirement may differ from one variety to another.
For the Minifamous Yellow Lilac Star, MiniFamous Lemon, and Million Bells terra cotta, uniform flowering requires 11 hours of sunlight exposure daily.
On the other hand, MiniFamous White Pink Star and Superbells Pink need somewhere in between 11 or 12-hour critical photoperiod.
Lastly, the Million Bells group with the varieties Superbells White, Superbells Red, and Million Bells Trailing White will require around 13 hours of daylight.
Fertilizer Needs – Lighting is important to a bright, eye-popping color display the Calibrochoa provides. But fertilizer is also very important.
Heavy blooming the entire summer means heavy demands on plant nutrition.
To keep Calibrachoa plants, strong fertilize every other week with a liquid fertilizer and once per month if you’re fertilizing with a solid granular slow-release fertilizer.
Many growers add granular fertilizer with more phosphorus (second fertilizer number) to the soil when planting Million Bells initially.
After 6 weeks of blooming and the solid food has run out, apply liquid plant fertilizer every 10-14 days.
Fertilization, in short, is the key to blooming your caliberachoa well throughout the growing season.
Soil – Calibrachoa prefers very well-drained soils. Most garden soils do not have the best drainage. This is why Calibrachoa is normally found growing in containers.
Use good quality potting soil in your containers, with excellent drainage. For soil guidelines, check out this article.
Water Requirements – Calibrachoa needs a generous amount of water for “soaking” the roots. However, allow the soil to dry out before the next watering cycle.
When watering, water the soil thoroughly and allow the top 1-2 inches of soil to dry before watering again. Soggy soil leads to plants rotting.
Grooming For More Million Bells Calibrachoa Flowers – When plants start looking tired or non-vibrant, it signals for trimming.
Trim your calibrachoa up (1-4 inches) in mid-summer time. This process is not complicated. Trim Calibrachoa plants to a neat and tidy status.
This temporarily reduces the blooming for a week or two but picks up quickly as trimming stimulates root growth, resulting in fuller, bushy plants.
There is no requirement to deadheading calibrachoa. They are a self-cleaning plant.
Spent Calibrachoa flowers automatically drop, following another batch to bloom. But, it is advised to pinch once in a while for a compact growth habit.
Pests and Disease – Pests and diseases are rare with Calibrachoa. However, they can have issues with Pythium and the disease Phytophthora.
Insects and aphids can cause problems and completely destroy plant stems. Check with your local garden center or extension agent to control solutions.
Million bells may also acquire the black root rot disease, a problem caused by Thielaviopsis basicola. This fungus affects a wide range of plants.
Many gardeners claim black root rot took out a huge portion of their crops, reducing their yield exponentially.
Symptoms may appear the same as iron deficiency, including uneven heights, black areas on roots, yellow leaves, and stunting growth of roots and foliage.
Propagating Calibrachoa From Cuttings
As markets mostly sell Calibrachoa hybrids, you need to propagate them in ways other than seeds.
Let us take a look at the steps of starting calibrachoa plants from cuttings.
1. Cuttings – Early spring is the best time for taking calibrachoa cuttings. Take cuttings early in the morning to prevent moisture loss and before the temperatures get hot and the sun is at its highest.
Using a sharp utility knife, take 3″ inch-tip cuttings. Cut tips can be covered with a moist towel to prevent moisture loss. Short-growing varieties may be cut very close to the ground.
2. Soil and Pots – Using 3-inch pots filled with a moistened (not wet) starter mix of 1:1 peat moss and perlite.
3. Preparation – Remove bottom leaves prior to sticking cuttings. Roots develop around the removed leaf nodes. Dip cuttings in a rooting hormone to stimulate the rooting process.
4. Sticking & Humidity – Make three holes in each pot with a pencil and insert the one cutting in each hole. Firm the soil around each cutting to make it stand upright.
Humidity is an important factor for successful rooting. High humidity improves the chances greatly. Place the bottom cut of an empty plastic soda bottle over the pot.
The pot needs good filtered light, like a kitchen window, but no direct sunlight. Remove the cover once the cutting begins to grow.
NOTE: Companies like Suntory and Proven Winners always introduce new varieties with interesting names and collections like “Can Can.”
The close relationship between the Calibrachoa and Petunia has resulted in a new hybrid cross between the two called the “petchoa.” We’ll expect to see more of this hybrid in the future!
Million Bells Propagation Mistakes To Avoid
1. Select the right variety of calibrachoa. There are many colors, and they make great combo pots. Propagate one variety and label the pot. This makes creating a mono basket much easier.
2. The schedule of cutting and potting is extremely important. At retail stores, you might see overgrown garden plants and pots.
Please avoid buying these as the plant is very simple, quick to grow, and should not be started very early. Schedule it early in spring to make it last until winter.
(Personally, I like to buy overgrown plants to propagate!)
3. Avoid excess moisture in the early few days of rooting. The cut stem is weak and thin, and extra plugging will damage it.
4. Warm temperatures of roughly around 70° degrees Fahrenheit is favorable for the propagation of Calibrachoa, especially for the first few weeks.
5. Pinching the liners after rooting helps further root development. The cuttings must be moist and soft when you pinch. Hardened cuttings will not branch properly.
Calibrachoa Superbells Lemon Slice
What makes Superbells® Lemon Slice so unique is its bicolor pattern of white and bright yellow never seen in a Calibrachoa.
Calibrachoa plants are very easy plants to grow and maintain. They need well-drained soil that has a balanced (neutral) pH and lots of sunny and water-soluble fertilizer.
Millions Bells flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, making them a good addition to your garden.
They also serve as great hanging basket plants, thanks to the habits of their trailing stems, low maintenance requirements, and lovely blooms.