White blooms of bells of Ireland flowers

A Complete Guide on How to Grow the Whimsical Bells of Ireland Flowers

The bells of Ireland flowers are probably the first to emerge in a series of trendy green flowers, as they have been around since the 16th century. The flower got their name from their shape which, together with their green color, symbolizes luck. This made them become an Irish symbol, although the plant isn’t actually native to Ireland.

Bells of Ireland growing in a field

General info on the bells of Ireland flowers

The bells of Ireland flowers belong to the family of the Lamiaceae, and the genus Moluccella laevis. The name of Moluccella comes from the Molucca Islands, the place initially regarded as their origin, while laevis is a reference to the smooth parts of the plant.

Appearance

The purpose of the flowers is mainly ornamental, just like many other plants in the same family. Their calices are used in flower arrangements, both fresh and dried. Given the connection to Ireland, you can see them often in decorations for St. Patrick’s Day. Also, since they represent luck, they are often incorporated in wedding bouquets.

The bells of Ireland flowers are easily recognizable from their appearance. They have tall stems, reaching 2 or 3 feet, covered in big bell-shaped calyces. Many people mistake the bells for the flowers of the plant, when they are actually leaves. The real flowers are hidden underneath the bells, and are colored in pink or in white.

Origin

Judging by their name, you would say the bells of Ireland flowers come from Ireland. However, this name is only related to their green appearance and luck symbolism. Others might say they come from the Molucca Islands, just like their scientific name says. This is, again, wrong. The plants originate from the Caucasus area, Turkey, and Syria.

Where do the plants grow?

The bells of Ireland flowers can grow mostly anywhere, but they mostly prefer colder areas. To thrive, they need to grow in a place with partial to full sunlight, and like dryness. However, they can also cope with a cooler summer. Hotter summers with a lot of humidity might affect the plant’s development.

What to know before planting

Before you plant the flowers, you first have to know where they thrive better and how to care for the future plant. You need to pick the suitable soil and the best position in your garden, and know how to help the flowers grow.

Before planting, you need to know if your soil suits the plant you have chosen. Fortunately, bells of Ireland are not so picky. You can plant them in any average garden soil, as long as the spot you choose has good drainage. Also, pick a place in the garden where the plant will get as much sun as possible.

They are tall plants, so you should place them somewhere at the back of the garden, where they can serve as background. Also, they can grow anywhere, meaning that they can tolerate mostly any plants around them. However, tulips are their most preferred companions.

Start the planting process

You can plant the seeds directly outdoors

You can either plant the bells of Ireland flowers directly outside in your garden, or you can start in a pot in a warmer place indoors, and then move them outside. If you choose the outdoors option, you should start sometime in early spring, but after the last frosting event. Also, don’t forget to put some fertilizer in the soil before planting.

They have moderate tolerance to frost, and even the earliest seeds can escape frost damage. However, in case the soil freezes suddenly, the plants are unlikely to survive. This is why you should make sure you pick the planting moment after the last frost event has passed. To make sure everything is fine, you should start planting only after the soil is easy to dig.

You can plant the seeds in a pot and keep them inside until spring arrives

If you live in a colder climate but want to make sure your flowers will survive, you can choose the indoors option. You can plant the seeds in a pot while it’s still winter. Then, you can easily transfer them into the soil while it’s still relatively cold outside.

If your climate is a little warmer, you can even plant the seeds outside during fall. The winter won’t be as harsh, and it will actually be better for the seeds to grow in a cooler soil. This exposure to cold increases the success rate of the germination, as it gets the seeds used to natural conditions. You can even keep the seeds in the refrigerator for a week before planting them.

After planting

Feeding

After you have put the seeds in the soil, do not cover them. They require a lot of light, and cutting it off from them will prevent the bells of Ireland flowers from growing. The germination process is quite slow, and it ends about 25 or 35 days after planting.

Once germination is over, you can start feeding the plants. Supply them with organic fertilizer on a regular basis. Also, to propel their growth, add some liquid fertilizer as well. This should offer them all the nutrients they need.

Watering

The bells of Ireland flowers need a lot of moisture. Therefore, make sure you water them regularly. They love a moist soil, but it still needs a patch of land with good drainage. To avoid overwatering, it’s better to use a soaker hose.

Be really careful, as too much water is their greatest enemy. The bells might suffer greatly if they get exposed to too much rain. Also, extreme wind as another great risk factor. Therefore, make sure you keep them at shelter. The place where you should plant them requires a lot of sunlight, but it should also keep them safe from extreme phenomena.

Harvesting and replanting

If you want to turn the bells of Ireland flowers into decorations, you should first decide what kind of arrangements you like. You can either use them fresh or dried. If you want the bells fresh, you should start harvesting when half of them are open on a stem.

To dry the bells, you should wait until all of them open, and then do the harvesting. The flowers start blooming in spring, and they keep doing it until fall. However, the blooms reach their peak in mid- to late summer. This is the perfect moment to harvest the bells for drying. After picking them up, hang them upside down in a dry and aerated space, at a warm temperature.

Once you have removed the flowers, the plant won’t bloom again. This means you can remove it from the soil without fear of disturbing it. However, make sure the seeds have matured first. These plants are self-sowing so, at some point after maturation, the seeds should start scattering. In other words, you don’t have to replant them.

Bells of Ireland in a garden

How to use the bells of Ireland flowers in decorations

Bells of Ireland are most often dried and added as a nice touch in flower arrangements. Given their connection to luck and their green color, they are often found in the decorations prepared for St. Patrick’s Day. However, they can be inserted in any kind of flower bouquet or garland. They are also a common find in wedding bouquets.

They make the most suitable combinations with magenta flowers or with those the color of wine. Among their ‘best friends’, there are zinnias of the Purple Prince strain, celosia of red velvet color, and the globe amaranth.

There’s one last important thing you should keep in mind. Before harvesting, make sure you protect your hands. The stems of the bells of Ireland flowers are covered in tiny thorns that are extremely sharp. Wear some protective gloves and pick up only the calices. The thorny stems would make your arrangements too spiky.

Why it’s better to dry the flowers

The bells of Ireland flowers dry easily, and can successfully be combined with any kind of fresh flower. These flowers have a pale lime green color. You can get creative when creating your arrangements, but they look best combined with bright blooms.

Your choice of fresh or dried flowers depends on the purpose of your arrangements. If you want something that lasts a little more, pick the dried ones. They are long-lasting and maintain their beauty for a longer period of time.

Fresh bells of Ireland flowers can also last in a bouquet for about two weeks. However, after a shorter period of time, they lose their bright green color, altering the beauty of your arrangement. The dried ones are much better at keeping their color.

Conclusion

Bells of Ireland flowers are one of the most unique decorative plants you could find. They hide their blooms in a leafy green shelter, tricking everyone into thinking these are actually the flowers. Their bright hues can refresh any flower arrangement and, if it wasn’t enough, they might also bring good luck. These plants don’t ask for much, and you can effortlessly cultivate them in your garden.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3.

Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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