A group of easy to grow, early-flowering, hardy annuals and perennials. Flowers usually appear within 7 to 8 weeks after sowing. Attractive to insects and loved by Bee Keepers.
Family: Boraginaceae (borage family)
Botanical Name: Phacelia
Common Names: California bluebell, desert bluebells, fiddleneck.
Foliage: Deciduous, rounded or pinnately divided, green leaves.
Flowers: Clusters of tubular or bell-shaped flowers. In shades of blue, white or yellow (depending on variety).
Flowering Period: Summer (June to July, if sown in April).
Soil: Well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Any pH. Dislikes waterlogged conditions.
Conditions: Best in full sun. Plant in a west or south facing aspect. Suitable for exposed sites.
Habit: Bushy, branching.
Type: Hardy Annual.
Origin: North and South America
Hardiness: Hardy throughout the UK (usually dies back after flowering at the end of the season).
Easy to grow from seed. Grow in a light well-drained soil, in a warm sunny position.
Most effective when planted in large drifts. Suitable for meadows, wildlife areas and informal gardens.
The flowers are loved by pollinating insects, particularly P. tanacetifolia, which is often cultivated by bee-keepers. The cut flowers also last well in water.
A useful plant for newly dug ground or as a quick infill. P. tanacetifolia can also be treated as a green manure, which can be dug-in to help enrich the soil.
No pruning necessary.
Generally pest and disease free.
Broadcast seed directly over prepared ground in early April. Thin seedlings to a spacing of around 6in (15cm). Can be sown in succession to extend flowering period.
Self seeds readily if conditions are good. Flowers are often produced again in the autumn by self-sown seedlings.
Phacelia tanacetifolia is a tall, divided hairy-leaved form, with spikes of fragrant lavender-blue flowers from July onwards. Ideal for prairie planting and loved by Bee Keepers. Height to 2ft (60cm), spread 1ft (30cm). For sale at Crocus.
Phacelia campanularia (California bluebell) is a useful low growing garden species with fragrant dark green rounded leaves and blue bell-shaped flowers in summer. Suitable for the border or rock garden. Height to 10in (24cm). Available at Chiltern Seeds.
Phacelia viscida is an attractive low growing hardy annual with intense blue flowers from late spring to early summer. Height to 18in (45cm). Cultivar 'Tropical Surf' bears azure-blue blooms with white lacy centres. Ideal for borders or containers. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.