CALIBRACHOA: Million bells
Calibrachoas were introduced to the gardening public in the 1990s by Japanese breeders. The original parents were found growing in rocky coastal areas and thus were called seaside petunias. In the 21st century garden, Calibrachoa have become the new "it" spiller for hanging baskets, window boxes and pots. They are less fussy than their cousin Petunia and more versatile than Verbena. Give Calibrachoa a little fertilizer and water and poof! Beautiful blooms in mid spring, right through the heat of the summer into the cool nights of late autumn. They even look great in partially shaded areas, so they are perfect for that spot that only gets a few hours of afternoon sun. The amazing selection of flower color and size is sure to offer a winning combination for almost any setting. Brightly colored varieties attract hummingbirds as well!
Breeders continue to work with Calibrachoa to turn out dazzling new color combinations, uniform well-branched plants and mounding or trailing varieties.
There are at least eight different series which makes the selection is a bit overwhelming. Most of us choose a Calibrachoa based on color. There some other basic characteristics such as growth habit and vigor that can also influence deciding on a variety. We have done our best to highlight unique characteristics. Different varieties tend to be available at different points in the season. Generally you can find a primary color of a Calibrachoa May through July.
Here we have simplified a few terms to help make choosing varieties easier.
Here we are defining the shape and height of the plant
Mounding and/or semi-trailing
The majority of varieties fit in this category. They tend to grow 8-12" tall. They are great for the filler or spiller layer of the basket because they form a nice rounded mound that will gently spill over the edge of a container.
These varieties have a mounding shape and generally grow 6-10" tall spreading 12-15" wide. These offer a tidier effect for the filler or spiller part of a container.
Minifamous Compact offers all the primary colors in this form. Some other varieties include Colorburst Chocolate (pictured: MiniFamous Compact Red calibrachoa)
These varieties grow no taller than 3" and have trailing in the variety name. These varieties are especially good for spilling over the edges of containers. Colors are limited to blue, pink, sky blue and white.
This technically means a measure increase of plant growth. For simplification we will have the vigor of Calibrachoa varieties refer to the spread.
Most varieties fit in this category and spread 15-18". They are great for 10-14" baskets & containers, window boxes and a variety of other situations.
A handful of varieties can spread 24"+. These are especially good for large "city baskets" and seasonal groundcovers . A few varieties include: Superbells Miss Lilac, Yellow Chiffon (pictured here)
On going breeding has offered a dazzling array of flower patterns in Calibrachoa. Here we have identified the most common types available.
A ring of contrasting color surrounding the throat. There are many varieties available such as Superbells Cherry Blossom, Coralberry Punch and Sweet Tart, Noa Almond Blossom and Orange eye.
Implies that the flower veins are a contrasting color. Some varieties include Callie White Rose Vein, Cabaret Mocha and Strawberry, and Superbells Trailing Lilac Mist (pictured left).
Flowers have a contrasting vein color that bleeds into the petals. Varieties include Callie Star Coral, Rose and Pink
Similar to painted, but often has crisper definition. Superbells Cherry Star is the only variety with this patterning so far.
Flowers are streaked with two different colors. Varieties include Million Bells Crackling fire and Terra Cotta, and Voodoo.
Flowers have a second layer of petals filling the throat. The MiniFamous Doubles come in pink, magenta, orange, amethyst and lemon yellow. Small ½ - ¾ " flowers are very prolific.
Common Name: Million bells, mini petunia
Origin: 25 species from South America (southern Brazil, Peru and Chile)..
Culture: Calibrachoa are generally annuals here (USDA zone 8) perennial zones 9-11. They thrive in full to part sun, fertile, well drained soil. They tolerate light frost.
Maintenance: Easy care annuals. Water when soil is mostly dry and fertilize three to four times through the growing season (alternate with an all purpose and bloom fertilizers) to promote maximum growth and blooms. You can also mix a time release fertilizer in the soil at planting time that will activate when the weather warms up. Calibrachoa can be overwintered in a garage or other sheltered location. With heavy pruning, repotting and fertilizing they may look good for a second year.
Pest and Disease: Aphids and petunia bud worm are the most common insect issues. Powdery mildew can affect plants late in the season..