Calibrachoa Care (Million Bells)
Magic bells are not of natural origin, but a pure form of culture. The pretty balcony flowers, also known as Million Bells, form a separate genus (Calibrachoa) in the family of Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Because of their close relationship to the petunias they were formerly traded as one genus, but this has since been revised. The rise of the popular mini petunias, which began in the 1990s, was so rapid that experts feared they might outstrip the large-flowered petunias. Instead, today they bloom harmoniously side by side in the balcony boxes – in ever new colours.
Similar to their big brothers and sisters, the petunias, magic bells have a sweeping, herbaceous growth. When hanging, the shoots can grow up to 50 centimetres long. Nevertheless, the plant grows compactly inside, so that a closed flower carpet develops. Depending on the variety, the plants grow to 40 to 60 centimetres high and up to 30 centimetres wide.
The leaves of the magic bells are dark green and elliptical in shape. Foliage and stem are slightly sticky.
The countless small flowers of the magic bells are chalice-shaped and extremely colourful. The range of colours of the flowering Million Bells is growing every year. In addition to the classic pink, red and yellow tones, white and lime yellow varieties and bright orange also cause a furore and spread Mediterranean flair. The current varieties also score points with two-tone flowers, colour gradients and drawings and offer exciting combination possibilities for pots, Traffic lights and flower boxes. Magic bells bloom in rich abundance uninterruptedly until autumn.
After flowering, the fruit develops in the form of small, green seed capsules, which turn brownish during ripening.
Place the jewels for a rich flowering best in sunny locations. All-day sunny places are ideal, but they should not be too hot. Drought and poor air circulation make the plants susceptible to pests. Thanks to the zealous efforts of the growers, today’s magic bells are, unlike many petunias, largely rain and wind resistant.
The roots of the magic bell appreciate slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5, and the substrate should be loose and permeable
In order not to increase the acid environment of the potting soil of magic bells, one should water with lime-poor rainwater. Magic bells do not tolerate waterlogging, so it is important to water evenly, but not too much, and to ensure good drainage in the pot.
Magic bells have a high nutrient requirement. For fertilizing, either use slow release fertilizer or add some liquid fertilizer to the water every week. In both cases, you should only use special fertilizer for petunias – it is perfectly adapted to the needs of the small flower wonders.
A slight pruning every three to four weeks will encourage the mini-petunias to branch out continuously and to attach more flower buds. Unlike the classic petunias, magic bells do not need to be pruned. The small flowers dry out during flowering so that they are hardly noticeable. They are also quickly overgrown by the many new flowers that open every day.
Magic Bells are annual and not hardy, so every year in spring you simply stock up on the most beautiful new varieties.
Magic bells are suitable for hanging baskets, balcony boxes and plant combinations in larger tubs. Because of their good resistance, magic bells are also suitable as ground cover in the garden sunny locations. Since magic bells grow strongly, they also need strongly growing planting partners. Their big sisters, the petunias, as well as verbenas fit them very well. The sweet potato (Ipomoea) is suitable as a structural plant. Magic bells are also excellent as a lush, colourful underplanting of high stems.
The greatest trump of the magic bells is variety. Two-coloured varieties can be arranged in a particularly attractive way. For example, a white-red variety like ‘Calita Hip Hop‘ can be effectively staged with white verbena or low, white flowering baby‘s breath. Or you can pick up dark stripes in the flower with a dark foliage ornamental plant such as the sweet potato ‘Purple’ or the dark red African lamp-poaching grass ‘Rubrum’ (Pennisetum setaceum). But also alone or mixed together, magic bells and petunias with their abundance of flowers are great eye-catchers.
The best known are the multi-coloured varieties of the Celebration series. But the ‘Crackling Fire’ variety is also one of the classics among the balcony plants. It has bright orange flowers with fine yellow stripes and grows profusely and luxuriantly, it does not tolerate waterlogging. The magic bell ‘Calita Orange’ blooms abundantly and brightly. The ready-mixed varieties ‘Carnival’, ‘Magic Colours’ and ‘Petticoat’ come in many different colours. Breeders have also successfully crossed petunias and magic bells. The results are strong ‘Supercal’ varieties, for example ‘Neon Rose’ with medium sized flowers and non-sticky foliage. And of course there are also double flowering ‘Magic Bells’: The bright pink flowers of ‘MiniFamous Double Pink’ and the blue ‘MiniFamous Double Blue’ look like little works of art. The extraordinary variety Chamaeleon Double Pink Yellow’ changes the colour of its flowers and forms flowing colour gradients from yellow to pink.
If you want to increase the size of your magic bell carpet, you can simply propagate the plants in spring by cutting them or in autumn by sowing. Cuttings are best rooted in slightly moist petunia soil. The seeds can be sown in autumn from the faded flowers as soon as the small capsules turn from green to brown. Store the seed capsules over the winter in a warm and dry place. As soon as they are ripe, the capsules open and the seeds can be shaken out. The seeds are sown again from January onwards. To do this, place the magic bell seeds in permeable petunia soil and cover lightly. Then keep the soil moist and protect the sowing tray from drying out with cling film. After a few weeks you can prick the seedlings and let them grow in pots until May. As soon as the night frosts are over, the little magic bells can go outside. If you grow Magic Bells yourself, you can create colourful combinations of varieties individually by mixing the cuttings.
Diseases and pests
Sometimes magic bells are attacked by aphids and the whitefly. Both pests are best controlled with their natural enemies – ladybird larvae and ichneumon flies. In waterlogged conditions the leaves turn yellow and root rot threatens. If too much lime accumulates in the soil when watered with tap water, the leaves lighten up because the roots cannot absorb enough iron. Acute iron deficiency (chlorosis) can be treated with commercially available Remove iron fertilizers from the specialist shop. Special iron-rich petunia fertilizers, which are mixed into the water once a week, prevent a deficiency, as they keep the acidity of the soil low.
Frequently asked questions
What are magic bells?
Magic bells are annual balcony flowers, which due to their multitude of tiny flowers.
How long do magic bells bloom?
Magic bells bloom from May to October. If you want the balcony flower to become even bushier and more flowering, you should cut it back slightly every three to four weeks. By the way, it is not necessary to clean it out.
What goes well with magic bells?
Magic bells can be perfectly combined with petunias, verbena or sweet potatoes. Lamp-cleaner grass is also a suitable planting partner
- Growth height
- from 40.00cm to 60.00cm
- Growth width
- from 20.00cm to 30.00cm
- Growth characteristics
- Flower colour
- Flowering time (month)
- May to October
- Flower shape
- Single flower
- sunny to sunny
- Type of soil
- gravelly to loamy
- Soil Moisture
- fresh to moderately moist
- pH value
- mildly acidic to acidic
- Lime tolerance
- sensitive to lime
- Nutrient requirements
- Decorative or utility value
- Flower decoration
- Grave planting
- Garden style
- Flower garden
- Roof garden
- Potted garden
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.