An unusual tender annual, grown for its impressive tall spikes of green calyces (bells). They make great cut flowers, and can be dried for longer-lasting arrangements.
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiate family)
Botanical Name: Moluccella
Common Names: Bells of Ireland, Irish bell flower, shell-flower
Foliage: Deciduous, toothed, ovate green leaves.
Flowers: Tall flower spikes, lined with insignificant white flowers, each cupped within light-green, bell-like calyces. Often fragrant.
Flowering Period: Summer.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Best in full sun, will tolerate some shade. Grow in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Type: Half-hardy Annual.
Origin: Europe, Asia.
Hardiness: Half-hardy in the UK. Protect from frost.
Grow in a well-drained, rich loam, in a sheltered sunny spot.
Bells of Ireland plants are rarely available in the bedding section of garden centres but they are easily grown from seed.
Popular with flower arrangers. The flower spikes can also be successfully dried for indoor decoration. If drying, cut the flower-spikes as soon as all the bells have fully developed. Hang the stalks upside down in a dark, dry and warm location. They should be fully dry within 2 to 3 weeks.
Water regularly during dry weather.
To improve flowering, apply an all-purpose flowering plant food (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks, or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilize.
Once flowers have died back, pull up and discard plants to the compost heap.
Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.
Generally pest and disease free.
Sow seeds in greenhouse or propagator at 12-20°C in March or early April. Pick out, pot on and harden-off before planting out in May, once all danger of frost has passed. They can also be sown outside where they are to flower in early May, in a well prepared light warm soil.
Moluccella laevis is a popular form with decorative olive-green bells. Height to 2ft (60cm), spread to 2.5ft (75cm). For sale at Crocus.