Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis) is a beautiful annual flowering plant identified by its distinctive green bell-shaped blooms growing on tall stems. The plant is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region and has been cultivated since the 1500s for its ornamental value. 

Bells of Ireland grows up to 3 feet with small white blooms that appear evergreen. The plant is low maintenance and easy to care for. Moreover, you can grow it in containers indoors or outdoors in the garden. 

Here is a complete guide on how to grow Bells of Ireland.

Planting Bells Of Ireland

bells-of-ireland-in-sunlight

Choosing the right location to grow your plant is essential for sustained growth. Always go for a sunny spot while planting your Bells of Ireland.

Starting the seeds for the plant is a tedious process that requires great attention. A typical way to propagate the seeds is to collect them from drying flower heads and store them in a cool place or a freezer for the following spring season. 

The freezer mimics their cold natural environment helping the seeds sustain their dormancy period before growth.

Practice stratification to improve the germination rate of Bell of Ireland seeds. Stratification simulates the cold and warm environment seedlings endure outside until their dormancy is broken.

Placing the seeds in the freezer is referred to as cold stratification. For the best results with the freezer, sandwich the seeds between paper towels and moist coffee filters. 

Warm stratification involves placing the seeds in a specific temperature range of 20 – 29 degrees Celsius. 

Steps To Sowing Seeds

  1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 -48 hours. 
  2. Transfer the seeds to a damp paper towel and place them inside a plastic bag. 
  3. Set the seeds in a warm spot or a heat mat. Notice the seeds sprout within 12 -21 days. Thin them to about 12 inches apart if growing them together. 
  4. Invest in some seed trays to transfer the seedlings, carefully tucking the long root into the soil. Constantly water the seedlings and moisten the soil using a spray bottle to encourage continual growth. 
  5. Allow the seedlings to grow in the seed trays until they attain 2-3 sets of true leaves. 

Ideally, you want to start seed propagation 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. However, if living in a mild climate, you can sow the seeds directly during fall or early spring. 

Winter Sowing 

Moluccella-laevis

You could also winter sow your Bells of Ireland. Winter sowing is an alternative to the seed-starting method. It involves sowing seeds in winter without involving greenhouses, grow lights, or heat mats. 

Bells of Ireland are pretty hardy and can be planted in mild winter (fall) in USDA Hardiness Zones 2 to 11.

Winter sowing gives you a head start on the sprouting time, allowing your seedlings to be sturdy and ready by early spring. This also enables them to grow and mature before the summer heat sets in. 

Steps To Winter Sowing

  1. Find a plastic container and poke drainage holes at its bottom. Some suitable examples include vinegar jugs, soda bottles, or milk jugs. If the container is tall, you must cut it into two pieces to access the bottom. 
  2. Next, fill the container with a potting mix or soil and sprinkle seeds on the soil. 
  3. Cover the top of the container with a lid and secure it with duct tape. Ensure the container has vents for air to escape. 
  4. Place the containers in a safe space in your yard and wait for spring. 

Maintenance And Care

maintaining-Moluccella

Bells of Ireland plants usually thrive in almost all zones but struggle to survive in regions with hot and humid summers.

If you grow them in areas prone to high temperatures, use a shade cloth to help prolong their vigor. 

Another point of caution is that the plant is top-heavy and may topple if exposed to wind or heavy rainfall. You should also check the plant for legginess if growing them in partial shade. 

Some important tips include:

  • Grow compact varieties that are less prone to toppling.
  • Properly stake the blooming stalks.
  • Grow them inside a greenhouse or a sheltered area to keep stalks upright. 

External Factors Influencing Growth 

3ft-tall-Moluccella-laevis

As is applicable for any plant, these factors below influence the growth of Bells of Ireland.

Light 

Bells of Ireland prefer full sun with 6-8 hours of sunlight daily in dry and cold climates. If growing them outside their hardiness range, i.e., the warmer climates, give them more shade. 

Lack of exposure to the morning sun can make your plant grow leggy. 

Soil

Bells of Ireland are not fussy about the soil type— always go for well-draining soils with a neutral pH (6.5 -7.5). Avoid compacted soil which inhibits the growth of the taproot system. 

Boost the fertility of your soil by blending it with compost before sowing.

Fertilizer  

Bells of Ireland are not heavy feeders. A little composting or adding organic content goes a long way in promoting healthy growth. 

Avoid feeding the plants in hot and humid environments since this isn’t suited for nutrient uptake.  

Water And Humidity 

Bells of Ireland need plenty of water, especially at their most vulnerable stages— seeding and transplanting. Maintain a watering regime of 1 inch of water per week.  

The plants are prone to water-borne diseases— avoid spraying water on the foliage or from above; instead, use drip irrigation or soaker hoses. 

Bells of Ireland die back in fall and winter; cut back watering the remaining woody stems. Avoid keeping the plants in humid environments, whether indoors or outdoors, as it inhibits growth. 

Harvesting And Pruning

Harvesting is best done when the flowers are halfway open. This works best with a fresh arrangement of flowers. Conversely, cut the flowers when fully opened for dried cut flower arrangements.

A common pruning practice is removing dead flower heads, often called deadheading. This encourages new growth and prolongs the blooming period.  

Pests And Diseases

Bells of Ireland are susceptible to pests such as aphids and spider mites. These pests are notorious for sucking plant juices— leaving them distressed.

You can easily spot the aphids when they congregate on the leaves. Tightly woven webs and poops on the leaves indicate spider mites infestation.

Use natural and biological control methods to eliminate these pests.

Typical diseases in Bells of Ireland include leaf blight and crown rot. These diseases are best controlled by proper care and maintenance.

In crown rot, you may notice the plant wilting from the bottom up. Control the disease by disposing of the entire plant to prevent spread. 

Storage

Harvest your Bells of Ireland plants in late summer or early fall when the plant is fully matured. Tiny white flowers inside the “Bells” is an indicator of maturity.

Cut the stems down at the plant’s base, leaving a few leaves intact to help the plant re-establish itself. After harvesting, you can store or hang them upside down in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area to make them dry completely. 

Once the stems dry, remove the bells from the stem and store them in an airtight container. This can make your bells last for several weeks for floral arrangements and decorations. 

Conclusion

Moluccella_laevis_Labiatae_plant

Bells of Ireland is a beautiful garden ornamental with green blooming bells growing on tall stems. You want to adhere to all growth and care practices for continued growth and survival.

Propagating the seeds and doing the transplants can be quite a tall order. As a result, some gardeners prefer to grow them directly on the seed bed. Assess your local environment thoroughly to know what approach to use

As the plants mature, they become much more maintenance-free— giving you an endless supply of fresh and high-quality bells for bouquets and decorations.  

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