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Molucella laevis. Wikimedia
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Molucella laevis
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Molucella laevis

The light green bells, pale white or pinkish flowers and pale green foliage make this a flower arranger's dream

Denise Bush

Malaga

Friday, 15 March 2024, 15:18

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Native to the Mediterranean, Molucella laevis is an annual plant belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It has the characteristic square stems of that family but stands out with its unusual bell-shaped flowers. Commonly called bell's of Ireland and shell flower, Molucella (sometimes spelt Moluccella in some catalogues) is a genus with only three species: M. laevis, M. olgae and M. spinosa.

It is best grown as an annual as around July, when the heat becomes extreme, it will die and is unlikely to come back the following year. However it is fast growing and seed sown in spring should be blooming within 100 days.

The light green bells, pale white or pinkish flowers and pale green foliage make this a flower arranger's dream. It needs a spot that gets some shade in summer afternoons and the soil should be moderately rich and free-draining. Molucella laevis is not drought hardy and needs frequent watering. A layer of mulch around the base will help to prevent loss of moisture.

It makes a lovely statement for a border or a container and the unusual hooded flowers attract bees and other pollinating insects.

Deadheading and removal of dry stems prolongs flowering and also prevents the development of prickly thorns that it grows as it matures.

Depending on the location, it should reach between 75 and 90cm tall. The stems are fairly rigid but may need staking in exposed areas.

Propagation is from seed and can be a bit hit and miss. Storing the seeds in the freezer and then soaking in tepid water for 24 hours might increase the germination rate.

Another way to help the seeds to sprout is to place them on a damp paper towel and keep it somewhere warm. They should germinate within a few days and can be planted into small pots.

Don't plant out until the seedlings have at least two pairs of leaves and the risk of cold weather has passed.

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