Phacelia campanularia, known for its vibrant blue blooms was much loved by Vita Sackville-West, which should be enough commendation for anybody. The gentian-blue blue cup-like flowers are borne over velvety, dark green, scalloped-edged leaves in loose rosettes, the foliage is usually outlined or blushed in red. The flowers are held clear of the pretty foliage to create a carpet of opulent cobalt blue.
Commonly known as the California Bluebell, this native to the deserts of California is a super easy-to-grow annual that blooms just eight weeks after sowing. The seeds germinate at low temperatures, they need only be sown directly outdoors into lightly disturbed soil in spring or autumn. Plant them in a position that receives full sun in well-draining soil.
With an autumn sowing Phacelia campanularia can bloom as early as February or March, otherwise sown in spring they will bloom from May or June. They will often continue booming for the whole season, although very hot weather may curtail flowering. An extra sowing in summer is a wise insurance for blooms later in the season when temperatures cool.
Phacelia campanularia grows to around 30cm (12in) in height and about 15cm (6in) wide. It prefers a sunny position in well-drained soil, but is tolerant of cold temperatures and is suited to most soils. It does well in poor soils and makes an excellent container plant. It attracts many beneficial insects to the garden and is perfect for sowing into any gaps in your borders for almost instant colour.
Most striking when sown in mass, sown in large patches it will quickly make a mat of gentian-blue. The flowers are one of Mother Nature's most extravagant shades of blue.
Sowing: Sow direct in September to May.
The seedlings of Phacelia campanularia resent root disturbance so it is better to sow seeds directly outdoors where they are to flower. If you do wish to sow into indoors in pots or trays and then to transplant them, make sure the containers are large enough to minimise root disturbance.
The plants do best in an open sunny open site as the blooms do not open in shade but will grow in most soils.
Prepare the ground well and rake to a fine tilth before sowing. If sowing more than one annual in the same bed, mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label. Sow seeds in short drills 1mm (1/8th in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Seeds germinate in two to four weeks at temperatures of around 10 to 14°C (50 to 55°F). The seedlings will appear in rows a few weeks after planting and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily. Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 10 to 15cm (4 to 6 in) apart.
Alternatively, leave them to grow as small clumps, of 4 to 6 plants every 30cm (12in) or so. Keep the compost slightly moist, but not wet at all times especially in warm temperatures.
Even though it is a desert wildflower, fondest of poor light soil, it doesn't mind rainfall in temperate climates, it will grow taller and bloom longer in well-draining soil that gets a bit of watering during spring.
In areas with wet winter environments It isn't apt to reseed itself, but it will be a vigorous annual for its one year.
Feeding is rarely needed but water well if there are prolonged periods of drought. Remove spent flowers to encourage prolific blooming. At the end of the season, if required, leave a few plants to die down and self-seed. Others can be pulled up and composted.
Cottage/Informal Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Flower Borders and Beds, Container Gardening. Bees and Butterflies.
Phacelia campanularia makes an excellent companion plant and is a wonderful source of nectar attracting bees and butterflies to your garden or allotment.
Phacelia campanularia is native to the south-eastern deserts of California, its native range is within the borders of California, in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and is most commonly found along roadsides and in sandy desert washes.
It has long been included in wildflower seed mixes and has taken advantage of the opportunity to extend its range and has naturalised in many areas of the American southwest. Worldwide this pretty annual flower is commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant and it can be found growing in gardens and elsewhere as an introduced species.
Phacelia campanularia is a species of flowering plant in the waterleaf family, Hydrophyllaceae. The anthocyanin pigment phacelianin was isolated from the flowers of this species and is involved in the formation of their blue colour.
The genus name Phacelia has its root in the Greek 'phakelos' (or phacelos), meaning fascicle. In Botany this term means 'a bundle or cluster of branches or leaves', and refers to the way the flowers of this genus cluster on their stems.
The species name campanularia means 'with bell-shaped flowers', like the genus Campanula, the bellflower. The word ‘campanula' is from around 1630's, from Late Latin,campana, originally meant 'a metal vessel made in Campania,' the region around Naples.
Phacelia campanularia, pronounced Fa-CEL-ee-a cam-pan-u-LAR-ee-a, is known by the common names desert bells, California bluebell, Desert scorpionweed and Desert Canturbury bells.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 1,800 Seeds Family Hydrophyllaceae Genus Phacelia Species campanularia Common Name California Bluebell Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Gentian-blue blue cup-like flowers Position Full sun for best flowering Soil Will grow in most soils. Time to Sow Sow in autumn to early summer. Germination 2 to 3 weeks at around 12 to 15°C (54 to 59°F).