Forecasters are predicting a long, hot summer. If we’re looking at a dry summer, too, that’ll also mean plenty of blazingly bright days. Luckily, you can still turn a deck or patio into a lush oasis despite the hot + dry + bright equation. One answer is wildly popular Calibrachoa hybrids, commonly known as million bells and trademarked SuperBells. Here’s some info about these big-bang-for-your-buck plants. But first, tackling that equation:
Hot: Many of this year’s calibrachoa hybrids are heat tolerant as well as being prolific bloomers.
Dry: OK, you’re not going to get away with neglecting this plant. But you don’t need to hover over this plant with a watering can, either. First, stay away from terracotta, wood and fibreglass planters, all of which, to varying degrees, allow water to evaporate faster than metal or plastic containers. Metal is also a no-no because, if you’re not careful, the planter will heat up in the sun and bake your plants. The same goes for black plastic. When your container is situated in direct sunlight, white or very light-coloured plastic is your best bet.
Make sure your container has drainage holes–Calibrachoa hybrids will thrive if they’re in soil with good drainage. Now here’s the part that’s great during a long, hot summer: You don’t need to keep a container of calibrachoas moist all the time. You actually want the top half of the soil to dry out first before watering again. Watering too heavily can promote root rot.
Bright: Basic art theory tells you that if you want something to stand out when it’s surrounded by a bright, light area (like a sun-soaked patio, for instance), choose colours that contrast i.e. darker, richer tones. This year, I’m loving the rich purples of Calibrachoa hybrid Superbells® Double Lavender. It’s a Canadian Exclusive from Proven Winners.
Calibrachoas in general are good choices for a container because they blend well with other plants rather than overtaking a mixed container. Having said that, a single variety of calibrachoa in a planter can look gorgeous as well. They bloom steadily from planting to hard frost with a trailing habit that naturally spills over the lip of your container. They love the sun and will attract hummingbirds. What’s not to love?
Keep this prolific bloomer well fed with a water soluble fertilizer. Aim for feeding your container three or four times from spring to fall. Alternate an all-purpose container fertilizer with a bloom fertilizer.
For an eye-popping container combo, add a ‘Sunny Alexis’ African Daisy (Osteospermum hybrid)–another Proven Winners Canadian Exclusive. Use the daisy as your “thriller”, planting it in the centre of the pot. Then surround it with three Superbells Double Lavenders. The daisy will grow a little taller than the spilling calibrachoas to add height as well as an extra pop of electric colour. Both plants have the same light and watering requirements so they’ll happily play together.
The daisy needs no dead-heading. Neither does calibrachoa, but if they start to look tired and ‘leggy’ by the middle of the summer, give them a trim and they should bounce back with vigour (and even more blooms) once again.