How to Grow: Bells of Ireland
Updated: Feb 28
Last season at the Athol Farmers Market, I had many conversations with local flower enthusiasts who wanted to know the trick to growing Bells of Ireland. They sure have a reputation for being difficult to start from seed!
I love their unique shape and how they 'up the status' of a market bouquet, and a bonus is that they're long-lasting in a vase. Although most cut flowers don't have a scent, which I find interesting considering it's our first instinct to sniff any flower we come across, an added allure to these green beauties is their light sweet fragrance.
With all that they offer, they require a little prep and knowledge to germinate. Like with many things in life, there are several approaches, and after three seasons of trial and error, I finally figured out the method that guaranteed 90% germination for me.
First, it's essential to start with fresh seed, especially if you're a grower and rely on consistent crops, but even if you're a hobby flower gardener, it's disappointing when you have no germination.
Gather these supplies:
-Freezer baggies(I use gallon-sized but I'm sure you can make other sizes work for you) -Seedling mix and trays
If you're in zones 5 or 6, you'll want to start them in mid-March. Evenly sprinkle the seeds onto half of the paper towel. Generously spray the entire paper towel with water, then fold the towel over the top of the seeds. Put the paper towel into the baggie and then in the freezer for about a week. That's correct, in the freezer!
Bells of Ireland have a tough seed coat, and this extreme cold stratification helps to prepare it better for germination.
Pull the baggie out of the freezer in about a week and put it in a well-lit window, or as I prefer, on a thermostat-controlled heat mat under grow lights at 65 degrees. The latter is more efficient and quicker due to the controlled environment, but the window has worked just as well for me.
You can expect seeds to sprout between 12-21 days.
Seeds generally don't sprout simultaneously, but once you see green in the baggie, pull those little guys out before the root gets too long and intertwines with the paper towel.
Close the baggie, put the seeds back under the light, and wait for more to germinate!
Next, you'll want to have your seedling trays set up and ready. Grab yourself a pair of tweezers. Secure the end of the sprout tail in the tweezers and sink the sprout into the dirt! Honestly, it's easy peasy. Give them a day or two; the little sprouts will straighten up and thrive. From this point, you can transplant them into your garden 6-8 weeks after, so mark your calendars!
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
~Bells of Ireland generally don't like to have their roots disturbed, so be sure to transplant before the roots get too bound.
~If you let them go to seed in your garden, they'll likely reseed well enough.
~Bells have spikes hidden under the leaves, so if you plan to cut for vase arrangements, be aware!
~They're considered cool-season flowers and tend to die off in extreme summer heat. Here in North Idaho, where the summers are dry and hot, I've found planting in part shade better suits them.
Once established in the garden, they like a weekly feeding of fish fertilizer at the soil level.
These attract so many pollinators, and my flower beds are always abuzz!
Bells of Ireland do not originate from Ireland but are native to Turkey and eastern Asia.
They're deer resistant!
Scientific name: Moluccella laevis
Days to maturity: 90-110 days
Days to germination: 12-21 days
Light Preference: Sun/Part Shade
Plant spacing: 10-12"
Vase life: 7-10 days
Happy Planting! Questions and Comments are always appreciated!