2018 is the Year of the Calibrachoa according to the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit green industry group based out of Chicago.  Each year, the NGB touts an underutilized or novel plant that has big potential in the garden world and this year is no different.  If you’re wondering about the name, you may have heard the term “Million Bells”, which was the name given as they arrived from Japan in the 90’s, but due to extensive breeding efforts, many, many new cultivars have burst upon the scene and found favor with the U.S. buying public.


Why so popular?  Well, people tend to like plants that feature lots of color and are easy to care for….and that’s what calibrachoa offer.  Much like their “big brother”, the petunia, they originate from approximately 28 wild species, mostly in Latin and Central America.  Their native territory is characterized by rocky scree and cliff edges, which accounts for their preference for well drained soils and adaptability to the well-drained soils of the average patio planter or hanging basket.


Planted by themselves or with other full sun plants, calibrachoa fit well into the renowned theme of Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers named by Steve Silk of Fine Gardening magazine. In fact, unlike many others, calibrachoa can fit the bill in any of the 3 categories, though they serve best as thrillers and spillers as they gently cascade over the side of a pot.  According to the NGB, other names that you might recognize at the garden center include Superbells®, MiniFamous®, Cabaret®, Callie®, Million Bells®, Cruze®, Aloha Kona, Can-Can®, Noa™ and Calipetite®.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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