Million Bells Plant: Profile and Caring Tips

Smita Pandit Jan 12, 2019
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Most gardening enthusiasts, especially those who love flowering plants, would agree that Million bells are a must-have in the garden. With their vivid colors and trailing habit, these are perfect for hanging baskets. Read ahead about Million Bells plant profile and caring tips.
The credit for introducing Million Bells goes to Dr. Yasuyuki Murakami and Dr. Kenichi Suzuki from Suntory Group. Upright blue and Upright Pink were the first cultivars to be introduced in the early 1990s.
Most of the Million Bells cultivars that are available in the market are hybrid cultivars created by the Suntory group. Wine, Tropical Delight, and Bouquet Amethyst are the three new colors that were introduced in 2013.
Suntory Holdings Co., a Japanese brewing and distilling company that was originally into breeding grapes, barley, yeast, etc., for producing whiskey, wine, and beer, ventured into flower breeding in the late 1980s.
They introduced cultivars of Million Bells, which are crosses or hybrids with the original Calibrachoa species. Grown as ornamental plants owing to their prolific flowering, Million Bells come in a variety of vibrant colors such as violet, blue, pink, red, magenta, bronze, yellow, and white.
Several hybrid varieties have been introduced,like trailing varieties (Trailing Red, Trailing White, Trailing Blue, Trailing Blue 09, Trailing Magenta, Trailing Pink, Trailing Yellow), mounding varieties (Wine, Tropical Delight, Brilliant Pink, Cosmos Pink, Crackling Fire, Lavender, Lavender Improved, Red Improved, Cherry Pink, Lime, Blue, White).
Apart from these, there are compact bouquets (Bouquet Yellow, Bouquet Deep Red, Bouquet White, Bouquet Amethyst, Bouquet Brilliant Pink, Bouquet Cream, and Bouquet Pink).

Million Bells Plant Profile

Calibrachoa is an evergreen, perennial flowering plant that belongs to the Solanaceae family. It is native to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. This perennial plant can survive winters in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11, but is grown as an annual in certain regions.
After the introduction of the "Million Bells" series, breeders have created new cultivars with features of original species like tolerance to heat, diseases, profuse flowering, improved looks, and colors. Some that have been introduced are Superbells, Can-Can, Colorburst, Cabaret, and MiniFamous. Here's a quick look at the properties of Calibrachoa plants.
Plant Type: Perennial, Annual
Light Requirement: Full sun
Watering: Watering to keep the soil moist; avoid overwatering
Soil: Well-drained soil with pH between 5.5 and 6
Bloom Season: Spring through frost
Bloom Color: Pink, yellow, purple, magenta, lavender, red, violet, blue, white, etc.
Foliage Color: Green
Growth Habit:Trailing, Mounding
Maintenance: Low-maintenance
Other Characteristics: Attracts hummingbirds
Often mistaken for petunias, Million Bells look like a smaller version of petunias. However, they come in a wide range of colors and are prolific bloomers. Owing to the striking resemblance to petunias, these flowers were initially called seaside petunia. As per Modern DNA marker analysis, Calibrachoa should be treated as a separate genus.
However, authorities such as the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Hortus Third have not yet recognized Calibrachoa as a separate genus. This might be the reason why these flowering plants are sometimes called Petunia Million Bells.
The popularity of Million bells has grown over the years, especially when using them as bedding plants. However, these are perfect for hanging baskets or containers. The height of the plant can vary, depending on growth habit. While some can attain a height of 10 and 15 inches, others grow up to 4 to 6 inches. Some grow up to 24 inches in width.

Million Bells Blooms

How to Care for Million Bells

If you are planning to include this flowering plant in your garden, you need to be aware about the conditions in which the plant will actually be a prolific bloomer, which is one of its most noteworthy characteristics. To be able to achieve that, here's what you need to do.

Light Requirements

This grows best in full sun. Million Bells do well if they get 6 hours full sun. It would be best to place the containers, window boxes, or hanging baskets in full sun. If it doesn't receive ample sunlight, the blooms will be less. The foliage color may be light green.

Moisture/Watering

You may water the plant generously in dry periods to ensure that the soil doesn't become dry. However, average watering will suffice. Refrain from excessive watering during winter. In case one goes on a watering spree, the soil might become soggy, which in turn might increase the possibility of root rot.
For Million Bells in hanging baskets or containers, the soil needs to be evenly moist. Make sure that you water thoroughly before and after applying the fertilizer.

Soil pH and Drainage

While growing any plant, one should make it a point to learn about the soil pH. Million Bells are likely to thrive in acidic soil, which has a pH below 6. In case the pH is higher, you can add acidic organic mulch (Pine needles) to lower the pH. The soil should also be well-drained, otherwise the likelihood of root rot increases.

Fertilizer

Use a slow release fertilizer while planting. The soil can be amended with compost. In the growing season, a liquid or soluble organic fertilizer can be used every two weeks. Yellowing of new, tender leaves should not be ignored. Use an organic fertilizer that will help maintain the pH of the soil. You can use fertilizers with the N:P:K ratio of 2:1:2.
Yellowing of the leaves could be a sign of iron deficiency. You could use an iron-rich fertilizer in such cases. Make sure that you apply the fertilizer as per the directions given on the label.

Pruning

There's a reason why this flowering plant is placed in the low-maintenance category. Deadheading, which refers to the removal of dead, spent flowers for promoting new growth, is not a requirement for this plant. This plant is self-cleaning, as the spent flowers drop on their own after the bloom season.
However, pinching Million Bells regularly will certainly help promote a compact growth habit. Trim the plant, especially when it is beginning to look dull. Remove dead, diseased foliage. Pinching the stem will encourage branching.

Plant Diseases

Million Bells are believed to be resistant to diseases. However, the plant can get affected by root rot. An aphid infestation could cause yellowing of the leaves. As aphids suck the plant's sap, the leaves start wilting.
The infestation could also lead to stunted growth. Therefore, check your plants on a regular basis. Spraying the plant with a strong stream of water can dislodge aphids from the plant. Using an organic insecticide would help in case of a heavy infestation.
A smaller version of petunias with added benefit of profuse flowering, Million Bells would be a welcome addition to any garden. To add, this plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Check out Calibrachoa cultivars or series that offer flowers of vibrant hues. If you are interested in big blooms, opt for Petchoas, a cross of Million Bells and petunias.