2009-05-22 / Beauty in the Backyard

Welcome carefree Calibrachoa

smell flowers
By Arlene Marturano marturanoa@yahoo.com

Homeowners seek carefree, dependable, colorful, long- lasting flowering annuals to staff specific areas of the garden.

One prodigious performer from spring until hard frost is Calibrachoa commonly called "seashore petunia," "trailing petunia," or "Million Bells."

The floriferous plant, a native of South America and a chromosome cousin of the petunia, was once considered a variety of petunia.

Both reside in the Solanaceae family, famed for its vegetables and flowers. Based on DNA evidence, the genus Calibrachoa has been classified as separate from Petunia since 1990.

In 1988 a large Japanese company, Suntory Ltd., collected wild specimens of Calibrachoa in South America and started an intensive breeding program which led to the introduction of "Million Bells" to the gardening public in 1997.

On first glance at the garden center, Calibrachoa may be mistaken for petunias. Upon close inspection some differences appear: Calibrachoa trumpets are petite and leaves are not sticky.

At home in the garden, you will observe that the flowers are self- cleaning, more abundant than petunias, and maintain top appearance in the heat and drought of summer.

The more sunlight, the more flowers from spring through fall. The more sunlight, the more flowers from spring through fall. The annual grows in hardiness zones 3- 11 but acts as a perennial in zones 9- 11.

Gardeners use this lowgrowing trailing plant with small trumpet flowers in front of beds, as a ground cover, throughout rock gardens, in patio pots and window boxes. The mounding and cascading growth habit makes it a popular pick for hanging baskets.

The plant reaches a height of 6"- 10" with a spread of 24"- 36."

Coming in a variety of colors makes for ease in merging with existing perennials. New vibrant color choices are added each year with the present array including purple, magenta, pink, rose, crimson, tangerine, terra cotta, white, and yellow.

Full sun is needed to produce each plant's potential for hundreds of blossoms. If planted in the ground, a fertile welldrained soil with a pH near or below 6.0 is ideal. Calibrachoa is a heavy feeder and should receive Osmocote or liquid fertilizer.

Deep Crimson Calibrachoa Deep Crimson Calibrachoa The plant is a good nectar producer attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Pest problems are minimal. Aphids, leaf miners, and thrips can be managed with insecticidal soap. Overwatering can contribute to root rot.

The Calibrachoa hybrids available to the public are patented plants. It is illegal to propagate patented plants. However, propagation is possible by cuttings or division. No commercial seed is available, and garden plants do not usually produce seed.

Trial this nonstop bloomer in your home garden this summer. Calibrachoas are available in the annual section of most garden centers in Columbia.

The cascading growth habit is ideal for hanging baskets. The cascading growth habit is ideal for hanging baskets.

Return to top