Bells of Ireland Care: Growing Moluccella laevis

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Bells of Ireland is a classic summer-blooming plant, making it a perfect addition to your summer flower garden.

It’s simple to grow and has a sweet, vanilla-like scent. If you’re more adventurous, growing from Bells of Ireland seeds will give you the opportunity to enjoy this flower throughout its life cycle.

Let’s learn how to care for this gorgeous shellflower!

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Quick Care

Bells of Ireland is a great beginner flower to try in your ornamental garden
Bells of Ireland is a great beginner flower to try in your ornamental garden. Source: sarowen
Scientific Name:Moluccella laevis
Common Name(s):Bells of Ireland, shellflower
Family: Lamiaceae
Origin:Turkey, Syria and Caucasus
Height & Spread:3.5′ tall and 1′ wide
Sun:Full sun
Soil:Well-draining garden soil
Spacing12″ apart
Water:Moderately moist at all times
Pests & Diseases:Leaf blight, crown rot, aphids, spider mites

Also known as shell flowers, Irish bell flowers have been in cultivation since the 16th century. Florists seem to love them due to how long they last in an arrangement, so you’ve probably seen these in a wedding flower arrangement before. On St. Patrick’s Day, you might also find these in bouquets at a flower shop.

Botanically known as Moluccella laevis, these plants are self-seeding, half-hardy annuals. Its scientific name refers to the Molucca islands that were once deemed as their place of origin. However, it was later found that Irish bell flowers are native to Turkey, Syria, and Caucasus.

They produces pale green to emerald green funnel-shaped bells along green stems in summer. Belonging to the mint family, you can be use the cut flowers in fresh and dried flower arrangements.

Bells of Ireland Care

Moluccella laevis flowers close-up
Moluccella laevis flowers close-up. Source: sarowen

Bells of Ireland grow well in cooler climates, so if you live in a moderate and lesser humid region, it’s an ideal plant for your summer flower garden.

Light & Temperature

It prefers full sun if possible, but only if that means it’s not exposed to too much heat and humidity. If you’re growing this in a warmer climate, I recommend planting in in an area of your garden that gets some shade cover from the hottest parts of the day.

Water

Moluccella laevis enjoys a moderate amount of water, but be sure to avoid overwatering. During the growing season, give it around 1″ of water per week. If you’re not sure when to water, poke a finger into the soil and see if it’s dry to 1-2″ inches. If so, you’re clear to give it another drink.

To make your life easier, put it on automated drip irrigation so it’s evenly moist all of the time.

Soil

Choose a planting site with good drainage and at least average soil. It doesn’t need extremely rich soil to do well. If you’re planting into native soil, work compost into the first 6-8″ of soil to improve it a bit before planting in.

Fertilizer

You can always mix in some organic fertilizer into your planting site before transplanting, but if you want to fertilize your plants throughout their growth, make sure to give them a drench throughout the summer.

I recommend an organic liquid plant feed to support their growth during their most prolific blooming phase.

Propagation

Growing Bells of Ireland from seed is the easiest way to propagate this gorgeous flower. Here’s a simple process:

  • Chill your seeds in the freezer before sowing to improve germination.
  • Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your region.
  • Transplant after your last frost when the ground is workable.

If you want a more hands-off approach, just let some of your flowers go to seed and they’ll naturally self-sow next season.

Pruning

There are no particular pruning needs for bells of Ireland plant as it is not an aggressive grower. However, if you don’t want the plant to exceed a certain height, or find the plant getting bushier than you like, you can always use gardening scissors to trim it down.

Harvesting

Once the green bells start showing up on the stems, you know it’s time to harvest for cut flowers. Remove all of the leaves from the lower part of the stem, as they’re older and likely to yellow quickly after harvesting. They’ll last up to two weeks in a vase in good conditions, so enjoy your bells!

Problems

Bells of Ireland plant is resistant to most diseases and pests. You may face some common problems that are discussed underneath.

Diseases and Growing Problems

If you see a yellowish halo appearing on the leaves, making them turn brown, it means your plant has developed leaf blight. The only way to get rid of this is to remove the affected part before the rest of the plant and garden gets infected.

Crown rot is when the plants wilt and die back at the soil line. Remove the affected plant and avoid growing it in the same place. Have the soil inspected before you start growing bells of Ireland in that area.

Pests

Aphids are most likely to start feeding on the undersides of the leaves. This makes them quite difficult to notice and you only locate them when they have damaged enough of your plant to hamper its growth. You need to remain vigilant, scanning the undersides every so often to keep a watchful eye.

If it is, wash the leaves by insecticidal soap or use a strong spray.

Little spider mites can suck your plant’s juices and replace chlorophyll with toxins. This will cause your plant to have a lacy, webbed appearance and yellow leaves. Use a hot pepper wax or high-quality insecticidal soap to deal with mites.

FAQs

Q. When do Bells of Ireland flowers appear?

A. Throughout the summer, with August being the most prolific month for flowers.

Q. Is Bells of Ireland deer resistant?

A. Yes! It’s both deer and rabbit resistant.

Q. Is Bells of Ireland actually from Ireland?

A. No, the plant is not from Ireland but is Turkey, Syria and Caucasus native. It is called Bells of Ireland for its color and the lucky symbolism of the bell shape.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener

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