Molluca laevis 'Bells of Ireland' in bloom.
image by Boronian/Wikimedia.org
Bells of Ireland, known botanically as "molucella laevis," are tall, flowering, annual plants known for the chartreuse, bell-shaped calyx that surrounds its tiny white flower. They are widely grown in beds, borders, containers and cutting gardens as well as commercially for the floral trade. Bells of Ireland seeds can be sown directly into garden soil in the fall or early spring for late-summer to early-fall bloom.
Select an exposure with full sun to partial daily shade for your Bells of Ireland stand. Prepare a well-tilled and easy draining soil bed for your flowers. You don't need to amend your soil unless it is very poor and lacking in nutrients, as bells will thrive in neutral soil of moderate quality. Smooth the surface of the tilled soil slightly with your hand to create an effective sowing surface.
Sow your bells seeds over the prepared garden soil, pressing them gently down onto the soil with the flat palm of your hand to make good contact with the soil but not bury them. Allow the seeds to remain uncovered as they need direct sunlight for germination.
Water gently with a garden sprayer on a light mist or rain setting in order to not displace or bury the sown seed. Monitor the seed bed carefully to ensure an evenly moist soil is maintained through germination and throughout the growing season.
Provide stakes or supports for the tall and sometimes heavy blooms to keep them upright in the garden. Due to the number of flower spikes that grow from each plant, sturdy metal caging can be more effective than multiples of individual stakes.
Harvest your Bells of Ireland blooms at their peak beauty for cut flower arrangements in the home or for gifts. Dry the fresh-cut blooms by hanging them individually upside down for a few weeks in a dimly lit and cool location with fresh air flow. When dried, they will keep a paler greenish hue for a few weeks or months and then fade to a light tan color.
Allow the flower spikes to dry on the plant in the garden through the fall and then capture the seed and store it or allow it to self-sow into the soil in preparation for next year's growth.