Need info on growing calibrachoa (Million Bells)

idixierose(z8b Coastal SC)September 6, 2005

When should calibrachoa be cut back? Or should the plant just be allowed to grow all season?

I planted four lush calibrachoa plants back in May at the edge of my raised rose beds. They grew well and were beautiful spilling over the edge of the brick wall. By mid-July, they were huge -- about 3-4' wide. Since the plants were still healthy and vigorous, I decided to give them a trim to keep them from becoming too overgrown. I was hoping to have the calibrachoa reinvigorated and looking great through the fall.

About a week after their haircuts, each plant began to lose leaves and look like it was dying.

I had this same experience the year before when I cut back some extremely overgrown, woody calibrachoa in hanging baskets. That, I could understand. I figured I'd let them go too long. I figured that it was probably better to cut them back before they became woody. Now I'm wishing I hadn't cut them at all.

Both times, the plants sulked after being cut back and died within 6 weeks.

Can anyone recommend a few in-depth articles about how to cultivate Calibrachoas, please.

I have read that calibrachoa are sensitive to being over watered and that they like sharp drainage and like to be on the dry side. So I purposefully planted my most recent calibrachoa along a brick wall at the edge of my rose garden. I watered the calibrachoa every other day until they became established, then I watered them less often. They grew happily until I cut them back.

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I had that same experience this year. A beautiful, lush, red million bells that I cut back about a month ago is now the sorriest looking thing I've ever seen. Brown, dried up leaves and stems. It's in a pot and was doing very well. Now I've relegated it to the back. In my zone it probably won't recover before the first frost sets in.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 9:29PM
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I have no proof but am basing this on observation the last two years. Certain strains of them seem to do much better than others with pruning, and certain strains do much better with just plain old growth and vigour.

I grew the Callie line this year and had to prune back baskets twice. The variegated ones (along the same lines as terra cotta) came bouncing back as strong as ever. The pendulous blue ones were great as well. The red ones never seemed to get off the ground. I had the same experience with differences last year when I grew the million bells line in that some whole lots did better than others.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 9:47PM
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Had one plant overwinter in a hanging basket. It was leggy. Cut it back in early spring. It is doing fine.

Have 2 others. One in a big clay pot. The terra-cotta colored flowers go real good with my tan/yellow coleus. See no need to cut back. The other (a stunning red) is planted in a big plastic sombrero type pot (I think the "pot" is actually some sort of telephone company property used to carry wire or's definitely not horticultural, or it wasn't before I customized it). The "pot" is deep and wide. The million bells are planted with black dragon coleus. I used a soil mixture composed of potting soil, vermiculite & perlite so this pot stays wet. The million bells is growing quite well. Again, see no need to cut back.

BONUS container growing combination: try black dragon coleus with tricolor amaranth. Very sharp!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 2:58PM
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I have my million bells in a pot with a trailing petunia (not wave). I have the terra cotta kind. I haven't done anything with them. They've been blooming like crazy all summer. The trailing petunias I have pinched here and there thru out the summer and they are doing beautiful too. I have some million bells(not the terra cotta) in another pot which I've also pinched back here and there thru out the summer. They done better when I do this. I never trim all of them at once. Too much of a shock to me! LOL! I've found when I pinch just some of them every couple of weeks, they look much better to me.
Deep Roots, I've been having the 'Black Dragon' coleus in some pots and in the gardens for several years now and I have to say it's my favorite coleus. It never fades in the hot sun and it just fills out so well and fast. I have most of mine in areas that get at least 8 hrs of sun (mostly morning) and it is great!


    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 5:12AM
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ImaHockeyMom(SW Mich--Zone 5)

I had chosen million bells / calibrachoa b/c I understood that it likes to get a little dry (these were hanging baskets in full sun), which fit in well with my ability (or lack thereof!) to water everything 1-2x/day every day.

Well, I learned that mine really DON'T like to get too dry -- there seems to be a very fine line between just dry enough and too dry. Next year I'll be planting them with moisture crystals for a little extra insurance. I thinned out the dead stuff (not a complete haircut, just trimming here and there) and they did bounce back with new growth and more blooms.

I also found a HUGE difference between colors, even in the same line. I had three whites and three pinks alternating in front of the picture window, all getting the same exact light, wind, water, food, etc. My whites got really scraggly, but the pinks did just fine!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 12:51PM
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I bouht a beautiful huge 2 tone purple, and 2 tone pink all same basket. Most beautiful thing I have ever seen for about a month. It is still blooming but the blooms are not as many or as big, and it is very leggy and lots of dead leaves. What am I doing wrong? I planted it in miricle grow soil and water every day. Please help I want my plant back. I never got to take a picture. Thank You, Paula

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 7:49PM
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Thanks for the information. I have also been having problems with these plants. I find that the whites seem to do better, but could not work out why they seem to suddenly die. I think that the root ball needs to be moist as the ones that have died have all been dry when I pulled them out, so even though I watered them they had dried out. I will try the pinching method for pruning to see if that makes a difference, although I have trimmed some with shears and they have grown fine in the garden. I have replaced about 6 to 8 plants in my garden that have suddenly died for no reason.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 1:02AM
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